Getting Personal with Kowalski's Wine Specialist, Brian Mallie

Brian MallieIt almost makes sense that our Wine Specialist, Brian Mallie, wanted to be an archaeologist when he was a kid, because he does know how to dig up a great bottle of wine. His knowledge of wines is astonishing – all the more impressive considering the number of wines he tastes and the vast selection in our Wine Shops. It doesn't hurt that he's a bit of a foodie, too. He can match wine with anything. Just try stumping him! For that reason alone but also many more, it's worth getting to know Brian a little bit better.

Brian Mallie

Occupation: Kowalski's Wine Expert

Q. When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An archaeologist.

Q. What was your first job in this field?
The Liquor Depot was the first large wine retailer for whom I ever worked. When I was hired, I was the third choice. Before me, the two that had been hired for my position each worked for one day before they quit.

Q. How did you wind up in this business?
I dropped out of graduate school.

Q. What is the first wine you actually remember drinking?
Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut Champagne. I was fifteen, but I was in Mexico at the time where that was entirely legal.

Q. What are your favorite wines for sipping, with or without food, just to enjoy?
Most kinds of sparkling wines, French rosé, and red wines from the south of France.

Q. Do you have a favorite wine “memory”?
My first wine trip to Italy. The combination of food, wine and scenery was unforgettable.

Q. When it comes to sourcing wines for the stores, what do you look for when deciding what to bring in?
One, value: is it a good bottle for the money? Two, style: did the wine maker achieve what he or she set out to do? Three, typicity: does this wine taste like the place it comes from? Finally, scale: is it a big wine or an elegant wine and does it achieve a sense of balance regardless.

Q. Do you try all the wines you bring in?
Yes. Our suppliers bring us dozens of wines every week. We just wrapped up the last of the fall trade shows at which we probably tried 500-600 wines in the past 3 weeks.

Q. Is that as fun as it sounds?
Yes and no. My favorite part of the job is finding great wine, and I love to see everything out there. But it often means we kiss a lot of frogs before we find what we want.

Q. You seem to have an unbelievable memory when it comes to the details of all the wines you stock. How do you keep it all straight?
It's kind of a Rainman thing.

Q. If you're not drinking wine, you're drinking….
Unhealthy amounts of coffee. But I also love French ciders.

Q. You also like to cook, right? Do you think this helps you when it comes to pairing food with wine?
Yes, but it's not as hard as everybody thinks.

Q. What kinds of dishes are your favorites to make at home?
I cook with the seasons – grill in the summer, braise in the winter. I guess my favorite thing to do is make my own filled pasta. Rolling out pasta is very therapeutic.

Q. What are you most proud of in your department?
Our staff knows their stuff.

Q. What's something few people know about you?
My middle name is Whitney.

You can reach Brian at

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