Sommelier Nadine Brown was born and raised along the sunny shores of Jamaica and Puerto Rico, where drinks like rum and coffee played an important part in the culture, but ironically for the future sommelier, wine was almost absent. Before she caught the wine bug, Brown’s calling took her to the mainland U.S. where she earned a bachelors degree in social work at Wheelock College in Boston, and went on to work with emotionally disturbed children for several years. Brown moved south to Washington DC to take a break from social work and began hostessing at Bistro Bis. Brown found the energy on the floor addictive and never looked back, learning front of the house from the ground up and working as hostess, server, banquet captain, office manager and floor manager. It was here that one of Brown’s first managers sparked an interest in wine. After four years, Brown moved on to work at other venues, including Signatures, Butterfield 9, 701, and Ten Penh.
While studying for her degree with the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, Brown continued to gain practical experience, attending tastings and seminars and reading anything and everything she could on the subject. She became a student of the grape in its historical context as well, studying the origins of wine dating back to the Turks, Romans, and British, even taking a French class at the USDA in order to assist her pronunciation.
Brown’s work with fine wine drew her to fine foods, including one especially memorable meal at Charlie Palmer’s Aureole in New York. When she heard news that Palmer was opening a venue in DC, she didn’t hesitate to apply. At Charlie Palmer Steakhouse, as one of only five women in the area to run a wine program, Brown matched then-chef Bryan Voltaggio’s cuisine with sophisticated American wines. Some of her favorite matches include an inky Russian River Syrah with Voltaggio’s slow-braised short ribs, and a sparkling rose with a simple, seared foie gras. Brown enjoys the challenge of introducing patrons to the restaurant’s high quality, all-American wines and veering guests whose preferences lie with Old World wines towards an American bottle comparable in quality and taste. In 2006, her palate earned her a StarChefs.com D.C. Rising Star Sommelier Award.
While continuing to pursue her Master Sommelier Course and head up the wine program at Charlie Palmer Brown seeks to share her knowledge with plans to record CD’s teaching the pronunciation of wines, grapes, regions and more.