Amy Mundwiler worked in the restaurant industry for several years before getting serious about wine. Then, things changed. “It all started with a glass of Cabernet Franc from Chinon in a little wine bar I was working at,” Mundwiler tells VinePair. “I started reading, tasting, and traveling every chance I could get.”
Now, as wine director at Chicago’s Maple & Ash, she handles wine selection, financials, and operations, along with managing “a team of talented sommeliers,” she says.
It’s not all sipping wine and talking to winemakers, though: “I’m usually nose deep in a spreadsheet or one of the programs we use to manage our inventory,” she says. Luckily, she loves that side of the business, too. “I’m great at spreadsheets and I’m great with wine,” she says. “It works!”
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Mundwiler considers her current position her biggest honor. Her motto is, “Be humble, be hungry, and always be the hardest-working person in the room.”
VinePair caught up with Mundwiler about her current obsession, her favorite bar in Spain, and why she thinks Champagne makes the best death row drink. (Hint: No hangover.)
1. What’s the bottle that made you fall in love with wine?
Cabernet Franc from Chinon. [It was] many, many bottles ago… but I believe it was from Charles Joguet.
2. FMK three varieties: Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay?
F: Chardonnay Meursault… a freak in the sheets and a lady in the streets.
M: Cabernet Sauvignon. Cab gets better with age. If you’re going to get married, you are looking for the long haul. You’re willing to outlast the immature phases, the mistakes, the random shutdowns. I’m definitely marrying Cabernet, because when it’s good, it’s sooooo good.
K: Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is my obsession. I’m stalking the wines from West Sonoma Coast. Occidental, Peay, Raen… It might be unhealthy. Don’t stalkers kill what they love?
3. You’re on death row. What’s your last-supper wine?
Champagne all day. Literally. Maybe a bucket of fried chicken in between bottles. Pierre Peters, Saint-Chamant, Pierre Paillard, Gosset, Pol Roger… Not sure what the “death row” rules are, but damn, it’s your last day on Earth. This calls for multiple bottles. You’re about to die. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to be drunk on Champagne when it happens. It’s a win-win. Champagne hangovers are the worst. Guess what? No hangover. I’m dead.
4. You can only drink one wine for the rest of your life. What is it?
Right now? The Pinot Noirs from Occidental.
5. You can only drink at one bar for the rest of your life. What is it?
Hemingway’s in Nerja, Spain, because that would mean I’m living there.
6. What’s the best and worst wine on your rack (or in your fridge) right now?
I would never sully the name of a wine by saying it’s the worst one on my rack. That’s just bad karma. Besides, if it’s on my rack, I have it there for a reason. Maybe I’m going to make sangria. Maybe I’m going to throw some Mexican Coke in it and make a Kalimotxo. It might be considered to be the worst wine on the rack, but it’s a diamond in the rough and will end up being something delicious either way.
As for the best wine, I have a Barolo from 1975 that was given to me a while ago. I was born in 1975, and I’m not exactly saving it for a special occasion (I don’t believe in that), but I’m waiting for the right moment. Could be a good day, could be a bad day… we’ll see what happens. Maybe I’ll wait for my death bed. Morphine? F’off. I’ll drink that Barolo from 1975. We came into this world together and we’re going out together!
7. If you could no longer drink wine, what would be your beverage of choice?