“The message has to be, don’t just drink wine, explore wine,” Regine Rousseau tells VinePair. The Chicago-based sommelier, wine educator, and entrepreneur leads tastings and demonstrations as CEO of Shall We Wine. She’s passionate about building a larger table — and pouring everybody a glass.
Rousseau holds Level II certification from the International Sommelier Guild and an Executive Bourbon Steward degree from Stave and Thief Society. She’s also worked in wine sales, and is a published author and poet. (And actually, one of her poetry readings was previously written up in The New Yorker.)
People with this many talents are usually stressful, but, instead, Rousseau is funny and disarming. Here, she divulges her last-supper wine, how she got into the business, and Chicago’s sexiest glass of bourbon.
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1. What’s the bottle that made you fall in love with wine?
I wrote this some years back, and it is still true to this day: “I can’t remember my first crush, or my first kiss, however the moment I sipped Bordeaux wine, that transformed me from wine novice to connoisseur. It is forever etched in my mind.” I don’t remember the producer, but the experience sparked curiosity that has led me to this brilliant business.
2. FMK three varieties: Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay.
F: F* yeah, a good bottle of Napa Cab does put me in the mood.
Marry: Marry Grand Cru Chardonnay and Pinot Noir any time! So nice, ferment it twice. Yes, please, and thank you.
Kill: Oh, that’s harsh. Can we just vote anyone off the island who doesn’t drink Cabernet, Pinot Noir,or Chardonnay? Just saying!
3. You’re on death row. What’s your last-supper wine?
Seriously VinePair, these questions are tough! Most of my friends would expect me to say vintage grower Champagne. But how well do your friends know you? If I’m going to be taken out (I’m innocent, by the way), I want to leave this world with sweet memories… Please serve me a 375 of Château d’Yquem Sauternes and forgive all my trespasses.
4. You can only drink one wine for the rest of your life. What is it?
Just kill me. I’m here for the diversity.
5. You can only drink at one bar for the rest of your life. What is it?
The Rooftop at Nomi, Chicago. I get sexier every time I walk onto that terrace. The space is clean, posh, breezy. I can switch from wine to bourbon to iced tea and never be disappointed. I had my first taste of Whistle Pig Boss Hog IV there. Just talk to your server, there are many jewels on that list.
6. What’s the best and worst wine on your rack (or in your fridge) right now?
Best: Laurent Perrier Grand Siècle. This is a multi-vintage Champagne that blends the best years and crus into a glorious melody. Yes, the Champagne sings.
Worst: I use the Ikea Kallax bookshelf (147×147 cm) as my wine rack. It can safely hold about 240 bottles. The rack is two thirds full — I always leave room for gifts — and there isn’t a “bad bottle.” Life is too short, I’m not here for bad wine.
7. If you could no longer drink wine, what would be your beverage of choice?
A Gin and Tonic made with Chicago Distilling Company’s Finn’s Gin and Q Tonic. This Finn’s Gin is juniper living its best life! Fresh, uplifting, and always in season.