date published: January 28, 2008

5 questions with...

Sandy BlockSandy Block
by Josh B. Wardrop

Sandy Block is Vice President of Beverage Operations for the popular Legal Sea Foods restaurant chain, as well as one of only 22 Americans to earn the designation Master of Wine. He’s written about wine for publications ranging from Boston magazine to The Quarterly Review of Wines.

Q: How does one become a Master of Wine?
You have to pass a very difficult four-day long exam requiring you to know a lot about every different kind of wine, including blind tastings of dozens of wines.

Q: What, to your mind, constitutes an exceptional wine list at a restaurant?
A list that has enough variety—Legal’s Park Square location has 800 selections, but you can put together a perfectly good list with 40 or 50 wines. Wines that are well-suited to the cuisine being served, and—most vitally—reasonably priced. People remember if they’re being gouged.

Q: What should wine novices do when ordering wine at a restaurant?
Ask questions. I always want to know what the server’s excited about. Ask what they serve that you might not find anywhere else. Think about what you’re going to eat, and ask what would complement that dish. It’s their job to know.

Q: What does Sandy Block, Master of Wine, order in a restaurant?
I love New Zealand and Argentinean wines.…I love pinot noirs. When I go out to eat, I usually select the wine first and then order food that goes with it—probably the mark of someone who’s obsessed (laughs).

Q: Why are wine lovers so passionate about wine?
There’s amazing variety to wine—you can never get bored with it. You can try a wine, then try it again six months later and it can be totally different. And there’s the historical and cultural connections wine has—it evokes memories of places we’ve been, or the land of our ancestors. Wine is an adventure.