Meet Laura Koffer, Advanced Sommelier
On a sunny afternoon at the La Crema Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard, we sat down with Advanced Sommelier, Laura Koffer, to chat life, wine and becoming a somm.
Originally from New York, Laura first found herself intrigued with wine in her early twenties as a student in college. Like most students during the holidays, she’d return home from school, get together with friends and open a few bottles of wine over the kitchen table, catching up for hours exchanging stories and reminiscing over memories.
“It didn’t matter what we were drinking, we just enjoyed spending that time together. [Wine] was always what I truly gravitated towards as far as a beverage, and not knowing anything about it, just really enjoying it and enjoying what it brought out of people–it was just always celebratory.”
Soon after college, Laura followed a then boyfriend to Hawaii and found herself working in restaurants. Fortunate enough to have amazing mentors, she became completely enamored with wine, sake and beverage.
“When I saw [my mentor] tear into a wine list after work, it was just impressive to me that someone could decipher all these names and places and grapes, and have all this information. I was hooked, I wanted to be that person.”
After two years in Hawaii, Laura went to the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley where she decided the hospitality and wine industries would be her career path in life. When she made the decision, instead of being confronted with naysayers or skeptics, her friends and family were truly excited and in awe of how much knowledge and work goes into becoming a sommelier.
“My mother, who’s an attorney in New York State for 30 years, said if she could do it all over she would’ve kept waiting tables. Because she sees the fun that I do and the great times that have when I see people at their best.”
In total, Laura has worked in restaurants for about eight years and has reveled in the experience it’s provided her. Not every restaurant requires a sommelier, so having the opportunity to work as a server and a manager has honed her ability to manage staff, guests, and ultimately become a well-rounded restaurant professional. But her role as a sommelier allows her to share her passion and excitement about wine with her guests in order to guide them on an incredible journey with their meal through wine.
“I love explaining things to people. Me getting excited about a wine or beverage gets my guests excited about the choice they’re going to make, and, of course help them feel at ease with their decision.”
Laura understands the wine list is still very intimidating, and she herself still finds things about wine a bit daunting too. Her role is to constantly be tasting, learning and pushing herself out of her comfort zone to not only help guide her guests, but to educate her staff.
“If I can help that person or those people find what they’re comfortable with, or maybe push them a little bit beyond what they’re comfortable with and facilitate an experience, that’s my role. Being humble and respecting the journey, and everyone’s own journey in wherever they’re at with wine, is part of my job in the restaurant.”
Now in the throes of working towards becoming a Master Sommelier, she returns home after rigorous days on the floor to study, immersing herself in every aspect of wine from wines styles to geography, history, geology and terroir. While tasting wine now has become more academic, her personal taste gravitates towards Burgundian styles of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Though regardless of style, all wines with a sense of place, terroir and a story are what truly capture her heart and palate.
“I’ve gotten to see a large amount of the world through the lens of wine, so I think that’s been the best part. And being able to share that with my guests daily and the staff I work with is so rewarding. So it only seems like it’s going to get better.”
~ Laura Koffer, Sommelier