Earlier this month, Michel Richard CITRONELLE in Santa Barbara closed their doors in favor of a new concept called Fresco's. For me, this is a very sad turn of events. I relate it to finding out your childhood home has been leveled. I spent 3 years as Sommelier at CITRONELLE, and for me, it was the most intensive and fascinating span of my wine career. It's not that the restaurant was the best restaurant (it was quite good to be sure) it just provided me with a forum to learn a great deal about wine. We had a 500 bottle California/ French list, so, I was well versed in the old school vs. new school dichotomy. It also taught me just about everything I would ever need to know about how buyers feel about distributors and salespeople, and provided me with cue on how not to be that guy. I dealt with an ass of a French chef that makes Gordon Ramsey look like royalty (Felicien Cueff, I curse you wherever you are, enjoying your strange fetish), and a prince of a celebrity chef, who was mostly occupied by his top notch D.C. venture by the same name. I served wine to many celebs, including Julia Child, and I had to throw coked-up dotcom-ers out of a winemaker dinner. Let’s face it, restaurant life generally sucks, long hours for no pay, but, It was where my Career found it’s voice. It was the springboard for everything that would happen professionally from that point forward.
I still stay in touch with some of the good people that I worked with there, and have likely forever lost touch with many others. I have had meaningful wine jobs before this experience, and certainly since, but this span was an epiphany. The first moment I began to succeed and excel. It was the time I built relationships in this business that continue on to this day. It was the time that I fell in love with Santa Barbara wine country. Although I am sad that the Restaurant no longer exists, I know that I will always think back to those days and situations, and continue to learn from the past.