The Blue Ridge Mountain Club has always valued High Country living and a sense of community above all else. It’s no surprise that they expect newcomers to do the same. Fortunately, Joshua Purdy fit right in.
After growing up in the Ozark Mountains, Purdy eventually relocated to the Blue Ridge Mountains to work at Artisanal. His love of the mountains—and the people that populated them—led him to put down permanent roots by becoming the new sommelier at BRMC and further elevate the experience at this one-of-a-kind, North Carolina mountain destination.
Purdy talks to us about his new role and his plans for the food and wine program at Lookout Grill and Jasper House.
You’re a level two sommelier. Can you tell us what that means?
The Court of Masters has four different levels of certification for sommeliers… The Level Two certification is all self-study. Not only do you have to pass a theory test, but you must also pass a Service Test in which a Master Sommelier is verbally quizzing you…You must also use the Deductive Wine Tasting Method to identify four wines by sight, smell and taste.
You must identify the varietal of grape, region of the world that it’s from and the wine’s age. It’s my goal to become a Master Sommelier by the time I’m 40.
When you first started, BRMC offered 35 different wines. Now, they offer over 150. How do you select new wines?
One of the first things I learned as a sommelier is that when making a wine list, it’s not about what I personally enjoy, it’s about what the customer enjoys. At BRMC, I had to slowly learn the residents’ palates and add wines accordingly. Of course, I sprinkled in a few of my favorite obscure wines, in hopes of turning some residents onto new selections.
What do you think surprises people most about the experience of getting an “expert” wine pairing?
Matching the acidity, body and complexity of the wine to the dish is important, but keeping people near their comfort zone is just as important. If someone tells me they hate big bold red wines, then the last thing I want to do is give them a Napa Valley Cabernet, even if I think that’s the best option for their bone-in ribeye. With a perfect pairing, the guest will experience wine and a dish that complement each other to enhance their overall experience.
What would you tell someone who isn’t very adventurous when it comes to wine, or even thinks they don’t enjoy wine at all?
I feel like there’s always a wine that someone can appreciate. I’ve found it’s best to ask someone what they don’t like about wine first. Then, it’s easier to pinpoint what the person might enjoy.
I also use wine as ingredients in cocktails. Making a rendition of a New York Sour is often a good way to get a whisky cocktail drinker to enjoy Cabernet or a heavier red wine.
What should new guests know about the wine pairings at the Lookout Grill and Jasper House?
We’re completing a new release of the menu and are working on new combinations with the culinary team in anticipation of the peak summer season.