Ashley Santoro

Inside the unassuming Standard East Village, in New York, Ashley Santoro presides over the wine lists of hotelier André Balazs and chef John Fraser’s buzzy, all-day Café Standard and farm-to-table hotspot, Narcissa. At celebrity-loving Narcissa, where Fraser’s deft touch with vegetables takes center stage, Santoro has assembled a list heavy on American and French selections—and her biggest passion, sherry. When approaching a new wine, Santoro says she always has an open mind. “Every wine is a learning experience,” explains the former wine director of Casa Mono and Bar Jamon. “Not every one is going to blow your mind, but you will learn something about its style, its grapes or its region.”

Her Aha! Wine Moment: “After college I moved to Umbria, and that’s when I decided to focus on wine as my career. When I was first getting into wine I truly fell in love with Italian ones; I have a strong emotional connection to the red wines of Italy. As for Spanish wines, during my first week at Casa Mono there was a table celebrating with a 1947 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia and they said I should drink some it. I fell in love.”

One of her favorite pairings: “I’ve had a lot of fun playing with the Carrots Wellington (which includes bluefoot mushrooms, sunchokes, and gremolata) and Cabernet Franc. There’s a version from California blended with Gamay—Bebame Red 2012—but I’m also opening a lot of stuff from the Loire Valley and guests end up drinking the whole bottle. The Chinon are amazing.”

Her Favorite Value: “The Patrick Bottex Bugey Cerdon Rosé. It retails for about $22. A blend of Gamay and Poulsard from the Savoie that’s just slightly off dry, this is the perfect apéritif wine, especially on the rocks. Seriously.”

Her Thoughts on Memorable Wine Regions: “I’ve been to Spain too much. Going to Jerez was one of the best experiences of my life, yes, because I love sherry, but also because there’s great culture and food. It really is a magical place. I would love to go to Burgundy. It’s a region where no matter how much you think you already know about it, you’re going to learn things.”

What She Drinks On Her Night Off: “I love my job and am fortunate to be in this position, but after all the tastings my palate is shot and I don’t want to think about wine. Sometimes I just want a Miller High Life and a big margarita pizza.”