There’s an unspoken assumption that the world of wine can be pretentious, but not in Jeff Yant’s world. The seasoned sommelier who previously worked at Cache and Table 28 has a view of wine that is cultured, yet modest, and believes it’s always best paired with good conversation and company.
In an open interview with Yant, we chat about his sommelier journey and get an inside look at wines from his personal collection.
How did you get started as a sommelier, and how did you learn?
JY: I needed to make a living to supplement my wine habit, so I studied and became a sommelier after a friend of mine told me he would give me a job once I was certified. Matt Lyle owned Lulav at the time and took a chance and gave me my start. I was able to really explore the world of wine and grow when Rush Harding gave me an opportunity to head the wine program at Cache. I was there until COVID hit.
What's your favorite wine?
JY: My all-time favorite wine would be 1997 Cos d’Estronel.
Which vineyard would you recommend to locals?
JY: For a great time, I would visit Rusty Tractor Vineyard. The staff is knowledgeable and will make you feel right at home.
What is the oldest wine you've tasted, and what was it like?
JY: I have tasted ports from the 1870s and they ran the gamut from sublime to terrible. The ones that hadn’t turned were just beyond description. The others were not drinkable.
What are your tips for menu pairing?
JY: I try to pair wines and food based on local tastes and my customers’ tastes. There is some science involved, but mostly I believe you eat and drink what you like. I just try to expand and enhance the experience.
Can you describe the greatest wine experience you've ever had?
JY: The highlight of my experiences would be the time I got to spend time with Heidi Barrett. She is one of the greatest winemakers around, in my opinion. She is famous for the wine Screaming Eagle. She was just a delight to visit with, and I ended up feeling like I had known her forever. Just a nice and humble lady.
What’s your favorite wine accessory?
JY: This is a little out there, but my favorite wine accessory is a light green corkscrew. My grandson gave it to me as a present when he was about 6. We always made fun of the color chartreuse — he pronounced it “char-puce.” That is one of my most-prized possessions.
What are your favorite restaurants in Little Rock?
JY: I enjoy dining out, but it is really hard to pick a favorite restaurant. Depending on the evening, we go to Cache, Table 28 or Red Moon Tavern. They happen to be great places to eat, and the food these chefs prepare is, I think, the best in town.
► Modus Operandi Collection: 2011 Chêne d’ Aberdeen
"This wine is a true limited edition. The 2011 vintage produced 300 bottles. Jason Moore makes the wine and ages it in a barrel made from the oldest tree harvested that year. The oak for this vintage was over 400 years old."
► 1990 Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
"This wine is produced by the Dunn family. The grapes are from Howell Mountain and the valley floor. The low altitude grapes give the wine approachability at an early date. The mountain grapes give the wine character and a distinct flavor."
► 1998 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
"This wine is produced by David and Tim Duncan. The wine is a silky representation of valley fruit that is easy to drink and a crowd favorite."
► 2016 Bond Melbury Napa Valley Red Wine
"This wine is produced by Bill Harlen. It first was made public in 1997. It comes from small plots of land that Bill identifies as comparable to Grand Cru Estates in France. It has developed a cult following."
To request a private wine tasting event with Yant, email firstname.lastname@example.org.