Wine can take you to more places than one might be able to imagine. The taste in itself sheds light on its origin in terms of culture, agriculture and preferences of the locals there. And if you pursue a career as a wine sommelier, you may find yourself travelling all over the world, besides brief moments of alcohol-fuelled bliss at the dinner table.
Just ask Ronald Kamiyama, who has been in this industry since 2009.
Even though he actually graduated with a bachelors of science in psychology, specific to human-computer interaction, his dedication and skill to the craft speak for themselves. Beginning his journey in New York and now based in Singapore with the Cicheti Group, Kamiyama's passion has found an industry where he can flourish.
What sparked your interest in wine and led you to pursue your career as a sommelier?
My first serious wine gig was while working at Bar Boulud, New York, under Head Sommelier, Michael Madrigale. He was regarded as one of the top wine figures in the United States. Daily, at Bar Boulud, Mike would open a premium, large format bottle of wine and pour this by the glass. This gave me the opportunity to taste a variety of different wines and geek out in my studies. As time continued, my passion for wine grew together with my love for the industry.
Which aspect of your career do you enjoy and find the most fulfilling?
The greatest joy in hospitality is putting a smile on everyone that walks into your place. Learning about your guests and forming a long-lasting relationship.
How did you go about curating the wine selection together with Chef Aun's menu?
Chef Aun is always happy and excited to share with me his creative dishes. Before a dish goes onto his menus, I would have the privilege to taste them. When I taste a dish, I think of what I would, personally, like to drink together with the different types of flavours. With this, I consider the dish’s provenance as well as the restaurants’ demographics.
I ask myself the following questions: Who are the guests that are coming to join us? What do they enjoy drinking? How can I provide them with something memorable? How can I contribute to the present and future of the wine industry in Singapore?
The list goes on. A well curated list takes a lot of work and thus, our wine lists will forever keep evolving.
Besides the drink itself, do you think atmosphere and mood play a part when drinking wine?
Absolutely! The right playlist, the vibe, the people surrounding you and the décor – they each contribute to creating the right setting for enjoying the best glass of anything. And of
course not forgetting the art! Liling herself is a bit of an art collector, and she’s lined our walls with some of the most amazing artworks from crazy talented artists across Southeast Asia – each with a story to tell. Our latest addition is a painting by Indonesian artist Budi Agung Kuswara (Kabul) titled Nenek Moyangku Seorang Pelaut. You have to ask her about why and how she fell in love with the piece – there’s a bit of an homage to our very own Chef Aun in there.
Having travelled extensively, share with us how wine preferences might reveal the personalities of the different cities you have been to.
Although the cities are very different, wine preferences tend to be quite the same in all parts of the world. For me, it all depended on the person or the place I worked for. Some
prefer classic famous labels, others prefer the undiscovered jewels or unicorn wines, then there are those who look for value. Some were adventurous and open to new flavours, others just want something easy and more approachable.
Every place I’ve worked for had the same types of wine drinkers, and because of this, every wine list I curate must accommodate everyone.
The older and more experienced I get, the more difficult this question gets. I’ve been awed by wines from all parts of the world, in almost every region. To say that one is better than the other would be unfair. Each of us have completely different preferences, in terms of flavour, and it’s largely based on how we were raised culturally. I base my preference on aromas and balance of flavour.
I love wines that remind me of ballerinas – elegant but at the same time powerful.
The more you taste, the more you understand what I mean by this.