Meet Jason Zinger, Stratus Restaurant
’s new Bar Manager and resident sommelier, but more on that in a minute.
Jason was a performing artist for many years doing musical theater. He came by this talent naturally, growing up with a mother who is a voice teacher, he also learned to play the piano. And, like most ‘starving artists,’ a jaunt in the restaurant industry was a means to pay the bills. But for Jason, it sparked an unexpected appreciation for all things food and beverage, and it was this newfound love which pivoted Jason’s career, turning his passions towards a pursuit of wine expertise.
Coming to Stratus was the next logical progression for Jason who has worked previously under Chef Susur Lee at both Lee Restaurant and Luckee. While General Manager of the latter, Jason plugged away at sommelier-status, realizing that stepping back from the responsibilities of a GM left little time to exclusively develop a wine and beverage program.
Ever wonder what the road towards becoming a sommelier is like? (Hint: A lot of wine) When asked, Jason describes the prep course with great fondness, “…every Wednesday afternoon for 4 months I’d sit in a room and spend 3-4 hours tasting anywhere from 18-24 wines, 6 at a time usually, and talking about them. You have to learn typical examples and recognize factors in the wine. I spent a lot of time looking at wines and where things come from, producers, even getting my girlfriend to blind taste me.”
So what’s his preference? “I’m a wine drinker. You can’t limit yourself to red or white,” he muses. “I’ve been on a huge high-acid whites kick lately. Chenin Blanc is the grape in Vouvray and Rieslings and a little bit of Sauvignon Blanc too. German Rieslings, or Loire Valley in France.”
As for the what’s on the horizon for Stratus, Jason hopes to provide a focus to the wine list with a curated selection which utilizes his wealth of expertise. There’s also plans to up the cocktail program with in-house syrups and fancy garnishes. But his most exciting venture is his goal to restart a Wine Club for Members, doing smaller classes and interesting tastings that educate people and get them talking. Of course, special menu lunches or dinners with wine pairings where Jason’s charm and knowledge can be on full display, as showcased during our Valentine’s Day Dinner, will become a regular Stratus feature. “One of the reasons I like being a sommelier is finding out what the guest really enjoys and enhancing their in the restaurant and their dining experience.”
Next time you’re in Stratus Restaurant, here’s a few of Jason’s top recommendations:
Our New York Striploin entrée is dynamite, pair it with our newest Cabernet Sauvignon, The R8, from the Sonoma Valley in California Crafted by a winemaker originally from Etobicoke.
For a lighter fare, try our beautiful seasoned Salmon dish with preserved lemon sauce and fennel, as a fattier fish you’ll need a lot of acid, try the Chablis Unoaked Chardonnay.