As one of the nation’s first female sommeliers, Renée-Nicole Kubin intimately understands the art of pairing fine wine with food, finding the right wine for any occasion, and matching a flavor profile with a thirsty wine lover. Having curated wine programs at some of the most acclaimed restaurants throughout the U.S. and coauthored cookbooks, she developed a mastery of pairing long before the term “sommelier” was widely known and accredited. The wine community has long recognized Kubin’s expertise and frequently hosts her as featured speaker, hospitality and service coach, wine judge, and tasting-panel member. “When it comes to wine,” she explains, “I believe pairing wines with a guest’s palate isn’t something you learn to do by studying for exams, rather, (for me) it’s instinctive and a talent you have to nurture. Matching the right wine, dish, and guest is an art—and something I truly enjoy.”
Kubin was brought up in the hospitality business by her perennial inspiration, her mother, Chef and Hotelier Erna Kubin-Clanin, Founder of Relais & Chateaux, Forbes 5-Star and AAA 5-Diamond property Château du Sureau and Erna’s Elderberry House in Oakhurst, CA. While a student at Fresno State University, Kubin undertook the task of organizing the Elderberry House’s then 450-selection wine cellar, the catalyst for her career in studying fine wine.
Her enthusiasm caught the interest of Chef Charlie Trotter, who in 1993, hired Kubin early in her career to take over for departing Master Sommelier Larry Stone. She expanded Trotter’s Chicago restaurant’s James Beard and Wine Spectator Grand Award winning wine list while assisting the highly acclaimed Chef in co-authoring wine pairing notes in his first cookbooks. These accomplishments led her back to California in 1997 as Cellar Master at the Highlands Inn of Carmel and coordinator of the famed annual Masters of Food & Wine. The following year, Kubin became the first ever Wine Director at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in San Francisco and its restaurant Silks, with consulting Chef Charlie Palmer. She was also Assistant Food & Beverage Director overseeing all food and beverage outlets throughout the hotel.
In 1999, she opened Restaurant Gary Danko in San Francisco as Wine Director and created the wine cellar, to critical acclaim; her wine program featuring more than 1,500 selections consistently contributed to the San Francisco restaurant’s recognitions, including the coveted Wine Spectator Grand Award and a nomination for “Outstanding Wine Service” from the James Beard Foundation. She was also honored as “Wine Director of the Year” in 2001 by San Francisco magazine. From 2003-2004 Kubin once again teamed with Chef Charlie Trotter to launch One&Only Palmilla Resort and Charlie Trotter’s Restaurant C in Los Cabos, México, as Hotel Beverage Director, overseeing all food and beverage outlets throughout the hotel. She then returned to Restaurant Gary Danko for an additional eight years until 2013, when she moved to Southern California after being recruited by Larry Ellison of Oracle. For the next three years she worked for Mr. Ellison and was based in Malibu. Renée-Nicole created a Wine Spectator Best of Excellence award-winning cellar in the first year of Mr. Ellison’s first restaurant, Nikita Malibu (now SoHo House), as well as serving as Assistant General Manager throughout her tenure, then acting General Manager for over a year. Kubin continued on as personal Sommelier for Mr. Ellison in various capacities, including working at his Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts properties.
In 2016, Renée-Nicole returned to her family’s Estate which included Château du Sureau, Villa Sureau, Spa Sureau and The Elderberry House Restaurant as both General Manager and Wine & Spirits Director. As the operator of the Estate, Kubin brought a wealth of knowledge and experience from her career in top hotels and restaurants around the country and the world.
Today, Renée-Nicole works providing overall Hospitality and Wine & Spirits consulting to a number of Hotels, Wineries and Restaurants.
In her free moments, Renée-Nicole is a frequent Wine Judge, Wine Lecturer, and enjoys visiting wine regions around the world.