Cover Yulia Ezhikova, sommelier at Embla (Photo: David Holmberg)

Embla's sommelier reveals the producer that changed the way she thought about wine, her current casual wine crush, and the bottles she loves to recommend to guests

Our By The Glass series invites sommeliers and experts in the world of wine to share some inspiration for your next pour.

From Sake Central to Shady Acres to Brut, sommelier Yulia Ezhikova thought her next career move would involve opening her own wine bar. It's still her ultimate goal, but for now you'll find her looking after the wine programme at chef Jim Löfdahl’s fine dining restaurant Embla. That's when she's not blind tasting wines in the confines of her own home as she studies for the VIA Italian Wine Ambassador exam. Here, she shares her most memorable pour, that special something, and what's in her cellar right now.

An early (in your career) wine that made you go ‘Wow! (I want to be a somm)’

One of the first wine tastings I ever did was on a trip to Australia in 2010. Even though Ray Nadeson was just getting used to being a full-time winemaker at Lethbridge in Victoria, his wines were already electric—and so was his passion. It may not have been immediately apparent, but looking back, it was that early afternoon in rainy Geelong that forever changed the way I think about wine.

Most memorable pour

Peter Lauer Sekt 1984. This zero dosage riesling from Mosel’s Saar is by far the oldest sparkling wine I’ve ever tried (it’s even two years older than me!). Deep golden in a glass, it tastes of dried apples, lemon peel, toasted hazelnuts, salt and smoke. It’s incredible what flavour intensity and steely acidity can be turned into when they’re kissed by time.

Tipple for a Tuesday

My current casual wine crush is Frank Cornelissen Susucaru Rosso. A field blend of predominantly nerello mascalese and a few other indigenous grape varieties from Sicily, this is an easy drinking minimal intervention wine that has both bright red fruit character and signature minerality—the hallmark of the best wines from the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily.

Sun, sea and …

Jacques de Klerk Reverie Chenin Blanc. This textural, but lean white wine with bright citrus fruit flavour, followed by salinity and bitterness, is reminiscent of a well-made gin and tonic, and is just as refreshing on a hot sunny day.

Wine of the moment

I miss traveling, so I’ve been craving teleportation somewhere different. Battisto Belvisi’s wines are so exotic that they can do that in an instant. His Abbazia San Giorgio versions of skin contact Zibibbo are bursting with flavours of grapefruit, yellow plum, frangipani flowers, bush undergrowth and honey—one sip, and I’m suddenly on the island of Pantelleria in the South of Italy, sun-kissed, windswept and careless. Thank God these come in magnums!

What you wish a customer would order (so you can taste it—for taint, of course)

I have one bottle of Cedric Bouchard’s “Roses de Jeanne” Val de Vilaine 2013 left in the cellar, and I can never get enough of this unique Blanc de Noir grower champagne from Aube. Cedric was one of the first producers to go against the blending tradition established in the region. Instead, he created an unapologetically singular wine—made from one variety, one vintage and one tiny vineyard plot. There’s so much depth to his wines that it’s always a joy to taste them (strictly for taint, of course!).

What you love to recommend to guests

A Northern Rhone syrah, such as Jean-Luc Jamet’s “Cote-Rotie Terrasses” 2016. The polar opposite to the oppressively heavy expressions of the grape that were popular a decade ago, syrahs in Cote-Rotie are herbaceous, earthy and whispery soft, never failing to surprise even an exclusively red Burgundy fan.

A special something

I’m always in search of niche, forgotten expressions of traditional winemaking from different parts of the world, and a recent addition to my list, Bodegas Menade “Adorado” 1967, hits the spot. An ode to what white wine used to be in the mountains of Rueda in Spain a century ago, this is a rare fortified blend of verdejo and palomino aged in a sherry-inspired solera system dating back to 1967.

Bottle to bring to a dinner party

I’m convinced you can never go wrong with a bottle of champagne. Bonus points if it’s by a grower producer! Often reduced to a pre-dinner pour, great champagnes are actually some of the most gastronomic wines out there and can carry you through the night from appetisers to steak with ease.

What’s in your cellar?

A few things, but Lopez de Heredia’s “Vina Tondonia” Gran Reserva Rosado 2011 can easily stay there for years to come. This iconic wine from Rioja is made in the same traditional manner as the winery's famous whites and reds. Aged four years in old barrels and another six in bottle, there’s nothing frivolous about this rosé. Flamed orange zest, dried berries, cedar trees, nuts, withered herbs, earth and salt—it’s remarkably alive and structured and will only continue to evolve with more time in the cellar.

Last glass

Alexandre Bain’s Pouilly-Fumé 2012. This stunning sauvignon blanc from biodynamic vineyards in the Central Loire Valley has the power to change the way you think about this grape variety forever. Alexandre picks his grapes much later than most producers in the region, creating wines that are worlds apart from the classic style in the area—more vibrant, rich and aromatic. With zero sulfur dioxide added and no fining or filtration, it’s impressive how well this wine drinks a whole decade later.

If not wine, then what?

A cup of single origin hot chocolate from Half and Half café downstairs from my apartment. It’s important to watch your alcohol intake in my line of work.

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