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Behind the Scenes: Matt Bradford of Canoe and Newly Opened Cellar Door

Wine director Matt Bradford begins a new venture with the opening of Canoe’s Cellar Door fine wine shop. Bradford is excited for this opportunity to give guests more access to wines, much how he developed the wine lists for the past seven years at Canoe. He shares how time management, professionalism and goal setting are important skills he has developed.

MattBradfordGive a glimpse into the life of a wine director. Is it all that people imagine it to be?
I think everyone thinks that a wine director just stands around and drinks wine all the time, but it is a lot more than that. It involves doing physical inventory, hitting sales goals, managing a staff, and balancing my own hours of studying for sommelier exams. While I am sampling wines every day, I have to make the most out of my time with distributor meetings. I teach my sommeliers to taste what matters, which are wines that are relevant to the shop or restaurant.

You said there is not a defined sommelier job because you have to take on management roles as well. Explain your typical day at Canoe.
Having kids, I am up early to spend some family time at home. Early in the morning is when I study to improve my wine education.
Once I get to work, I’m doing a full audit of inventory and reviewing invoices.
Two days a week are order days where we interact with distributors, doing tastings or meeting about new products and opportunities.
During the shift I am doing what the manager is doing, whether it is educating servers on new wines, helping the staff or interacting with guests.

You plan to divide your time evenly among Canoe and Cellar Door and have the assistance of one sommelier at each location. How did you prepare for this transition?
I had a pretty good idea of which distributors to use based on my relationship with them at Canoe. I set goals for what I wanted to do and I met with the distributors over a three-week period. I just completed the opening purchases for the wine shop and I worked on the spreadsheet for six weeks. The whole process ended when the wine was delivered. The store received orders over a 48-hour period and when that time was up we had every bottle of wine on the shelf.

How can someone become more knowledgeable about wine?
Wine made sense to me when it didn’t make sense to other people. You should enjoy wine but know that drinking it takes some cognition. Ask yourself why each wine tastes the way it does, and compare and contrast between different varieties and regions.

Do you have a favorite wine?
That’s an unfair question. (laughs) I do enjoy the French or Italian regions but it is all about tasting everything you can. I like the wines that I have now but I that collector’s mentality where I want the next wine a little more.

-By Alexa Lampasona for the Food & More blog

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