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Five-time nominee Mike Bernardo was in Portugal in late February, vinho verde-ing it up with previous Sommeliers of the Year Terry Threlfall and Sebastien Le Goff who-no kidding-nearly bought him a bridesmaid dress. Bemoaning his chronic also-rans, the cheerful and widely loved Bernardo was steeling himself for these upcoming awards. Many felt he was overdue, given his lofty stature in the firmament of our wine- and food-obsessed town.
Bernardo finally has his bragging rights. Scotland was the first stop in his wine career, at Edinburgh’s Balmoral hotel with its Michelin-starred restaurant, then the tony Atrium, where he learned at the side of a French sommelier, buying and serving fine European wines. Skip ahead to the West Coast, where the Ontario native lands a plum gig at Vij’s, learning the complex interactions of wine and Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala’s intricate Indian fusion. He says it takes a “crazy palate to comprehend spices and wine,” but for 13 years he’s done just that, in a way that has brought international exposure to the art of marrying fine wines and ethnic cuisine.
Not bad for a down-to-earth guy who once wavered between pursuing water sports and wine and loves barbecue potato chips with top-drawer off-dry riesling.