Aldo Sohm’s fascination with wine began at the age of 19 after visiting an Italian vineyard with his father. Captivated with what he encountered and learned, he knew right then and there that he wanted to pursue a career in wine. Soon after, Sohm attended tourism school in Saint Johann, Tirol, located near his hometown of Inzing.
Following his 1989 graduation, Sohm spent the next 15 years working at restaurants throughout Austria, only taking a break to fulfill military duty and to study Italian in Florence. While working at the Steigenberger Alpenkönig restaurant in 1998, Sohm passed the official Austrian sommelier exam. He then worked for four years as a sommelier at the Robinson Select Alpenkönig restaurant, while simultaneously teaching at the tourism school from which he graduated in St. Johann in Tirol. That same year he attended, but did not compete in, the World Sommelier Competition with his friend Norbert Waldnig, who won third place.
Sohm later entered the competition and won, being named “Best Sommelier of Austria 2002.”
He upheld this title for four consecutive years, a feat never before or since accomplished.
In July 2004, Sohm relocated to the United States, partly to perfect his English in order to compete in national and international sommelier competitions. He began working as wine director at Wallsé, Blaue Gans, and Café Sabarsky, and in 2006, New York magazine voted him “Best Sommelier in New York.” The following year Sohm joined Le Bernardin and also competed for and won the title of “Best Sommelier in America 2007.” Sohm reached the pinnacle of wine competitions when he was awarded the highly-coveted title, “Best Sommelier in the World 2008,” by the World Sommelier Association. The two-day competition was held in Rome in May of 2008, and consisted of food and wine pairings, blind tastings, a written exam, editing a wine list and performing table service in a mock restaurant.
He was the first representative of America to win this title.
Aldo has remained the wine director of Le Bernardin since 2007, one of the most critically acclaimed restaurants in the United States and New York’s longest running four-star restaurant, where he oversees a 15,000 bottle wine collection made up of 900 wine selections from 12 countries with vintages from as early as 1875. Under his direction, Le Bernardin won the 2009 James Beard Award for “Outstanding Wine Service.” Not only has Aldo curated one of the finest programs in the country, he values education with the utmost regard and has never altered his signature approach to wine: infectious enthusiasm and abundant knowledge with no pretentiousness. Food and wine pairings are a passion of Sohm’s and a trait for which he has become well known. He trains his sommeliers in enticing pairings that range from classic to daring, conducts wine seminars, offers competition training for sommeliers and curates wine cellars for private clients. Sohm also serves as Brand Ambassador for Zalto, an Austria-based glassware manufacturer known for their carefully crafted products.
Gerhard Kracher is the son and right hand to the late Alois Kracher Jr.-— one of the most successful winemakers in Austrian history. In 1981, after working for years as a chemist in the pharmaceutical industry, Alois began working part-time in his father’s winery (Alois Kracher Senior) and by 1986 was fully committed to the family business. The Kracher Winery lies in the Seewinkel area of Austria´s Burgenland. Here, through the evaporative periods of Lake Neusiedl, the evening fog and the warm Pannonian climate, continuous warm-humid weather patterns are dominant and, therefore, allow for Botrytis cinerea to be generated. Alois recognized the area’s potential to produce noble sweet wines, most notably the coveted Trockenbeerenauslese, and took sweet winemaking to a whole new level. In fact, it should be noted that it was Alois Kracher who put this otherwise unremarkable wine growing subregion of Burgenland on the map. Alois accured countless accolades over the years and garnered worldwide recognition. He was honored by Great Britain´s esteemed Wine Journal as “Wine Maker of the Year” seven times— in 1994, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2006 and 2008! His wines are represented on renowned wine lists in 45 countries and the Kracher estate has received phenomenal ratings and exceptional awards that have spanned three solid decades. A pioneer and a legend, Alois Kracher will forever remain an iconic figure in the world of winemaking.
Alois Kracher, who died in December 2007 [of pancreatic cancer], will always be remembered as one of the most important ambassadors for Austrian Wine all over the world.
He who has big shoes to ﬁll must inevitably adapt his character quickly and that is exactly what Gerhard Kracher has managed to do. Gerhard jumped right in and took over the estate in 2007, now in its third generation, without seemingly missing a beat. He also manages the important American market and oversees his own import company. Gerhard carries on his father’s legacy, continuing to make what many believe to be among the best sweet wines in the world.
As with many great ideas, Sohm & Kracher was created by two friends during a wine and dining experience over lunch in New York City back in 2008. Both Gerhard and Aldo cherish indigenous grape varieties and have a soft spot in their hearts for grüner veltliner making this variety the clear choice. They decided upon the wine-growing region of Weinviertel as being underestimated and possessing old vineyards, as well as displaying a diverse soil profile and a unique micro-climate. This was where the two found the perfect vineyard and began to define their very own style of grüner veltliner. It should be noted that the duo went into the project with only two guiding principles: the wines should be (low to) moderate in alcohol and they should not be unctuous in character.
They have since added a vineyard in the village of St. Georgen in Neusiedlersee-Hügelland which became its own bottling.