The Beauty Issue: Angler’s Master Sommelier on Wine’s Jolie Laide Appeal

By Jeanne Cooper

This story is part of a the Nob Hill Gazette’s feature, Perspectives on Beauty, in our March issue.

As head sommelier at Angler, Saison’s sought-after new offshoot on the Embarcadero, Morgan Harris has a veritable encyclopedia of vino to recommend to patrons — but wouldn’t describe all of its offerings as beautiful.

“A lot of beauty in wine for me lies in getting to the essentials of something and eschewing any sense of veneer or the hand of the maker in the finished product,” says Harris, one of only a half-dozen certified master sommeliers in San Francisco.

Harris by Iris Lei

While even “ugly,” or rustic, wines may be delicious and pair well with food — meaty Syrah, the salty Austrian varietal Juhfark and acidic Assyrtiko from Santorini among them, Harris notes — he says wines also become beautiful as they age. Bordeaux, for example, “are these broad-shouldered, awkward tannic wines that aren’t a whole lot of fun to drink in their youth, but give them 30 years of bottle age, and they turn into these ethereal, perfumed, delicious, delicate examples of wine.”

The Pinot Noir of Burgundy might start out prettier, with “all these floral, perfume aromatics like cherry blossom and cinnamon stick,” Harris says, but “part of its beauty is its crazy elusiveness. Even the wines you drink frequently from producers you like don’t always show up the way you want.”

Currently spending 60 to 80 hours a week at Angler, Harris says he also appreciates his beautiful vista overlooking the Bay and Treasure Island. At his previous post in New York, “I worked across from a 40-foot Jumbotron.” Nature and culture have both influenced his ideals for beauty, says Harris. Now 33, the Seattle native spent time in Alaska and studied theater at Boston’s Emerson College before starting his current career.

“I spent a lot of my youth in the wilderness, including two summers in southeast Alaska, and those experiences were huge. Traveling in Europe, going to great museums of the world and the classical arts was a big portion of the development of my sense of aesthetics as well,” he says. “You need to go out into the world to see it — you can’t necessarily do it from a desk.”

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