Although James Lukezic has a strong professional portfolio as the Executive Managing Director of Old Slip Capital Partners and two decades of experience working as a retirement consultant for large corporations, he is also an avid wine collector. “My family has been making and selling wine for centuries. They have owned wineries in Slovenia (Austrian Hungarian Empire) and the Collio region of Italy,” James Lukezic says.
With such a strong winery background, it should come as no surprise James Lukezic is a sommelier. James Lukezic says, “My favorite wines are Napa Cabernet Sauvignons and Pinot noirs from Oregon’s Willamette Valley.” Because James Lukezic believes it’s possible to do it all, he shares how to become a sommelier.
James Lukezic recommends people try to learn as much as they can about wine if they’re interested in becoming a sommelier. One of the best things to do is to begin taking notes when tasting wines. Learning to taste wine like a pro is one of the most important steps. According to James Lukezic, familiarizing yourself with the most important wine regions in the world also helps a sommelier in the making, then delve into the lesser-known regions, thereby setting a base knowledge of styles, characteristics, and expectations.
Although traveling to the main wine regions is the best way to learn about wine, sometimes this is not possible for everyone. James Lukezic recommends reading as many books as you can on wine regions, attend local tastings and visits wineries when possible, to learn from those on the ground floor, vintners, farm managers, and cellar rats. Another important skill that is often overlooked is learning to properly examine wine. Whether a novice or professional, the first moments after the pour are critical. The nose and color of a wine can detail an incredible amount of information about a particular vintage, therefore its presentation and aromatics are quite important.
Naturally, one of the best ways to obtain training as a sommelier is by working in the industry. That said, working at a restaurant, tasting room, wine bar, or catering company is a great way to hone your knowledge and skills when working at a winery directly is not an option. James Lukezic, for example, comes from a background of winemakers, born into the industry, claiming this as the reason for his passionate love affair with wine and wine-making.
When we asked James Lukezic about his favorite part of tasting wines he referenced how his thoughts lead to thinking of the people that picked the particular vintage, where they were from and where are they now and if they know the profound effect they had on the wine being tasted so many years later.
For those who are very serious about becoming a sommelier, they can sign up for a certificate program. Wine courses are widely available and will provide them with the hands-on training required to become a professional sommelier.
When James Lukezic is not adding wines to his collection, he enjoys helping the community and staying involved with nonprofits. James serves as the Chairman of ITF USA, a non-profit organization that assists landmine victims in over 30 countries worldwide. James Lukezic also has plans to establish a non-profit to help widows in the five boroughs.
Some of his cherished personal interests include belonging to the United States Polo Association, New York City’s Fencers Club, and the American Helicopter Society.