Bride & Groom MOM Subscribe

Find Local

Kathryn Morgan is Passionate About Wine

Not your everyday sommelier.

Kathryn Morgan defies the snooty-sommelier stereotype. "People are surprised when I come to the table," says Morgan, who's been at Ristorante Tosca two years. For one thing, she's in a profession dominated by men. For another, she's extremely approachable.

Morgan learned about wine as a server at Asia Nora. She spent four years as sommelier at Occidental Grill, and she has put together a list at Tosca that's mostly Italian and heavy on vintages from Lombardy, where chef Cesare Lanfranconi grew up.

Wine rules: I passionately believe you should drink the wine of a region with the food of a region. There's a reason that the two cultures evolved together. For example, Tuscan wines, which have a high acid content, work beautifully with a plate of pasta and sausages and tomato sauce that has bite.

The values in Italian wines: The Veneto has high-quality wines that aren't appreciated. There's value in fine Soaves and Valpolicellas. They don't have the reputation of Barolos or Chiantis, but you can get a good one for $30. I have a Pieropan Soave that's a great value at $8 a glass. I'd also scan any list to see if there's a large selection of a little-known varietal or wines from a particular region. It means the restaurant wants to highlight those wines and they are likely to be good values.

How to make sense of an Italian wine list, which unlike a French list doesn't always follow geography or grapes: Read Andrea Immer's Great Wine Made Simple and Great Tastes Made Simple. And, of course, talk to the sommelier.

Most frequently asked question: At least once a night I get the "Some of us are having fish but we still want to have a red" question. It has to be a low-tannin wine like a Sangiovese because tannins interfere with fish. Low-tanin Italian wines tend to have high acidity—it's like squeezing a lemon.

Complaining about an iffy bottle: Say you think there might be something wrong with it and ask the sommelier to taste it.

How she keeps track of it all: Most of it is in my head. But when I choose wines for the restaurant I take notes on my Palm Pilot about the weight of a wine, how it interacts with food—I try all sorts of food with a wine. Combining wine and food is my favorite part of the job.

Favorite wine pairing at Tosca: I love an aromatic Nebbiolo with Cesare's lobster risotto, which is on his new tasting menu. And any of his dishes with the creamy sea-urchin sauce with the Italian Chardonnay made by Lageder from the Lowengang Vineyard.

10/06 update: Kathryn Morgan is now the sommelier at 2941 restaurant.  

Most Popular on Washingtonian

An Abridged History of Places Being Labeled the "Brooklyn" of Washington

Donald Trump Sues José Andrés Over Old Post Office Hotel Restaurant

Why All the Old Malls Are Turning Into Town Centers

6 Great Swimming Holes Near Washington, DC

5 Great Hotels and Inns to Stay at in Bethany Beach, Lewes, and Rehoboth

6 Can't-Miss Restaurant Openings This Week

Things to Do in DC This Week August 3-5: Cayucas, Trivia at Denizens, and Citi Open Happy Hour

15 Water Parks to Make a Splash Near Washington

21 Things to Do in DC This August