Santa Clara-based sommelier Angie An knows a thing or two about wine. She’s spent her career in that world,  first as a sommelier at Alexander’s Steakhouse, then in wine distribution and retail. Today, she’s carved out a niche as a bilingual sommelier selling luxury wines to Chinese collectors and other buyers through her site, Angiesomm.com, and pushing to make wine more fun and less snobby via TikTok and Instagram.

We caught up with her recently to hear more.

Q. Tell me about your background as a sommelier. How did that begin?

A. It wasn’t on my radar that a sommelier was even a career. When I was in college, working at Alexander’s Steakhouse, I fell in love with wine. We got a Michelin star, and that was the start. At the time, there were no Chinese-speaking advanced or master sommeliers. It became a passion of mine; I wanted to be one of the first. For the longest time, my parents would be like, “When are you going to stop being a bartender and get a real job?” They didn’t quite understand the whole concept — until I passed my advanced-level sommelier exam in 2010.

Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa: Bjorn at $85 and La Sirena at $200. An sells luxury wines through her wine resale company, Angie Somm, while promoting education and inclusion surrounding wine through her social media. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

Q. Why did you leave the restaurant industry?

A. As glamorous, fun and exciting as the restaurant industry is, it does take a toll on you the older you get to have to work nights, weekends and holidays. I transitioned into working with a California distributor, Regal, owned by Jackson Family Wines (and) later with K&L Wine Merchant. In 2015, the idea of angiesomm.com was born. Collecting wine for the Asian and especially the Chinese community is a very up-and-coming thing. I realized there’s a huge underserved market. I provide hopefully a little bit of comfort, because I’m bilingual.

Q. Can you walk me through the process of becoming an advanced sommelier? I know there are introductory classes first …

A. The intro is a fun and welcoming program. The certified portion is when it becomes more geared toward serious professional people. The advanced level gets a little tougher. It used to be five days with a theory exam, a service portion and a tasting portion. I was very fortunate to pass it on my first try. You have to pass all three parts in one go, and the passing rate was around 10 percent at the time.

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Q. And master sommelier?

A. I was working on becoming a master sommelier, but there are a couple of personal reasons I decided not to pursue it. The somm community has been under a lot of scrutiny in the last few years. The culture of the master sommeliers for the longest time was a very heavily male-dominated area, and it was a bit exclusive. In the last few years, there were a lot of allegations that came out related to sexual harassment. Even though I was lucky to have never been harassed — my mentors have been extremely respectful — I wasn’t surprised that happened. I was warned as I was going through the process that I might not want to be alone with certain people.

At the end of the day, wine is my passion, but you have to have a work-life balance. I’ve seen so many sommeliers, so many close friends, try for years to pass the exam. It’s not like the bar exam or the MCAT — just because you pass, it doesn’t magically propel your career or your pay to a certain level.

Angie An's luxury wine resale company, Angie Somm, also offers affordable wines such as this $20 bottle of sparkling moscato from Italy, Caudrina Romano Dogliotti 'La Selvatica.' (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)
Angie An’s luxury wine resale company, Angie Somm, also offers affordable wines such as this $20 bottle of sparkling moscato from Italy, Caudrina Romano Dogliotti ‘La Selvatica.’ (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

Q. How has that level of knowledge and expertise changed your experiences with wine?

A. Sometimes it’s harder to enjoy wine — or any beverage. For a while, especially right after the test, you find yourself swirling everything, even when you’re drinking water. Every wine you drink, you’re trying to analyze it.

Q. You’ve done some social media posts about wine from an educational perspective and offered wine suggestions at pretty reasonable price points. How does that fit with your work in the luxury wine world?

A. When I first started, I experienced a bit of the snobbiness and exclusiveness of the wine world. I told myself that that’s never someone I wanted to be. Nowadays, I almost exclusively sell very high-end Burgundy, Bordeaux and imported wines, but I don’t want to be someone who is like, “Oh, if you can’t afford the $300 to $600 bottle of wine, then your opinion or your palate is not valid.” I want to make sure it is very approachable.

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My way to stand out is to let people know who I am and share what I’ve learned, hopefully in a way that is  somewhat entertaining and not intimidating. Even if you don’t buy wines from me, I hope you learn something that makes you excited to try wine.

Q. What trends have you noticed in the wine world lately?

A. The biggest challenge now for us in the wine industry is that among millennials, there’s a drop in not just wine consumption but alcohol consumption as a whole.

I am very torn on that issue. At the end of 2020, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I started to read into the effects of alcohol and how it actually increases the chance of breast cancer. So I get what the younger millennials and Gen Z are talking about, when they say they want to lower their (alcohol) consumption.

In Europe, the culture is not about getting wasted, it’s about the art of wine pairings, slow living and everything in moderation. I’m watching and thinking about how I can participate in and advocate for a good lifestyle that includes wine as part of sitting down with family, avoiding devices for three or four hour and eating slowly.

Q. What do you think about the Bay Area’s wine scene?



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