Sommelier Tammie Ruesenberg of OLIVES at Bellagio - Biography
Las Vegas, NV
The route from ski bum to sommelier may not seem a direct one, but it certainly worked for Tammie Ruesenberg. She grew up in Colorado; her first experience with the restaurant industry came at age 14, as a busgirl. After college, she got a job as a server at Keystone Ranch with an eye toward being close to the ski slopes. Along with getting in some great skiing, she also got bitten by the wine bug.
Eventually her interest in wine took her across the country: “I worked for a distribution company; It was a great education. Then the Country Vineyard distributors in Virginia. I worked at Bertolinis (in Las Vegas). Once Bellagio opened, I came over as a server; I’ve been there ever since.”
Tammie enjoys the challenge that Olives offers. “Olives’ food is very complicated – so many layers of flavors, it’s all over the place. As far as trying to pair wine with food, it’s a huge challenge, but we do well with it.” She tries to balance their wines by the glass between evergreens like Cabernet and Chardonnay and wines more specifically suited to the menu. Offering great wines in their by the glass program makes it even easier to match wines with individual menu items. While her guests seem most accustomed to New World wines, Tammie has made more room on the winelist for Mediterranean offerings, again because of their suitability with their food.
It’s not just working at Olives that Tammie likes, it’s working at Olives in Las Vegas. “Las Vegas is a cool market. People like to know about wine.” She also enjoys having like-minded peers nearby: “Las Vegas sommeliers are not too competitive. There is a lot of camaraderie.” But it does put some pressure on her to make her program standout. She wants to make people feel comfortable with choosing wine, and to think about pairings as fun, but not the be-all end-all of a dining experience. Her guests appreciate her fun attitude; she says, “I have ongoing email dialogues with guests who have come in and tried the wines.”
Tammie and her husband Tom have three boys, Remy, Rayce, and Ryder, aged 15, 10, and 9, respectively.