From Med School to Master Sommelier: Alex LaPratt’s Wine Journey

Alex LaPratt

Growing up and even during his college years, Alex LaPratt had his eyes set on becoming a doctor. Like many, while trudging through higher learning he supported himself by working in restaurants, and there wasn’t much doubt that medical school was the next step after graduating college.

Instead, he made a total U-turn and ultimately wound up becoming a Master Sommelier and restaurateur in New York City, opening a duo of Brooklyn restaurants — Atrium DUMBO and Beasts & Bottles. Not once has he regretted choosing popping corks over prescribing pills, “even on the bad days,” he says.

As an ambassador for Ribera y Rueda, Alex’s expertise as a Master Sommelier comes in quite handy. He was always familiar with the regions, but a recent trip there gave him an on-the-ground perspective of just how far the regions have come — and how much more potential is there.

“The power and the structure of Ribera is a natural continuation of many of the classic styles of California, but after a while you’re looking for more elegance and depth and complexity, and that’s what you’re getting from Ribera. It’s also such a great value comparatively.” he explains. 
“It’s world-class vineyard land. The amount of chalky soil and slopes and exposures, it’s incredible there’s that much land left without vineyards. What really surprised me is that there’s not more planted.”

Plots of land aside, LaPratt is equally excited about his work with Ribera and Rueda because they’re both perfect fits for the American wine palate in their own unique ways.

“It’s world-class vineyard land … it’s incredible there’s that much land left without vineyards.”

With Rueda, LaPratt goes one step further when it comes to the quality-to-price ratio.

“For Rueda, hands-down, it’s one of the best values in the white wine world for the minerality and the style. They’re almost giving it away. Many of them are like ‘Wow, this is great,’ and once you know the price, it’s a no-brainer. If i’m going to spend $12 on something, you might as well get a beautiful bottle of Rueda.”

Beyond his immense knowledge of wines from every corner of the world, Alex has years and years of experience listening to people’s questions, thoughts and worries about wine. So, we thought it would be fun to ask him his insider tip for how a customer can get the most out of the sommelier while still looking like they’ve got the wine situation under control. Here’s his “super power move” to make you look cool:

“One tip I’d give guests I’d open the wine list, look for a second, find a price point you’re comfortable with and point to that price point and say ‘I’ve had this wine before and I think it would be good with our food, but I was wondering what you might recommend?'” The whole time you’re pointing to a price, so it’s not even a specific wine or something crazy. Then you’re telling me discreetly how much you want to spend, and you also look like you know wine and are confident to your guests. It’s a super power move.”

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