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Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills (A Four Seasons Hotel)

  • 9500 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, California, 90212, U.S.A.
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Dana Farner

Director of Beverage, CUT and sidebar

“The really challenging thing for sommeliers is to remove our ego from the restaurant experience and hear what the guest wants you to be in every situation.”

Four Seasons Tenure

  • Since 2006
  • First Four Seasons Assignment: Current

Employment History

  • Blue Water Grill, New York; Parkway Grill, Pasadena; Disney Cruise Line

Birthplace

  • Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, USA

Education

  • Court of Master Sommeliers; Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Music, Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota

Languages Spoken

  • English

Who knew wine was so much fun? Dana Farner, that’s who. As Beverage Director of CUT and sidebar – Wolfgang Puck’s outposts at Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills (A Four Seasons Hotel) – Farner has the pleasure of fashioning a tidy wine list as well as facilitating over-the-top wine dinners. “CUT has become a destination for celebrities, chefs and wine collectors who aren’t shy about enjoying themselves,” she says. “We’ve got a great wine list with something for everyone.”

That hardly means Farner is standing around. In October 2010, for instance, she found herself tending an expansive wine dinner put together by a collector with a taste for Domaine de la Romanée Conti. There were seven flights of the renowned Burgundy as well as a round of white and dessert wine. The scene saw Farner on the move: organising wines for drinking, decanting as necessary, tracking unfinished glasses, and weighing in knowledgeably whenever it seemed right. “My role is to play it subtle and get a feel for what guests want. Nudging them is one thing; pushing is another that I just won’t do.”

Quite often, what guests want is waiting on Farner’s list. With limited storage space, she stocks only 400 labels – typically a current vintage plus one of each wine. With CUT’s steakhouse focus, that means mostly Bordeaux and Napa cab, but also syrah, nebbiolo and pinot noir as well as a lovely selection of whites and Champagnes. “As much as I’d like to steer guests along, that’s not really my place,” says Farner, who believes many people spend the weeks between making reservations and sitting down to dinner dreaming about big steaks and big reds. “The challenge is to keep things fresh and be ready when someone wants to try something new.”

Unlike many in her field, Farner can’t claim any family history, Sideways-worthy moments or a lifelong passion for wine. Rather, she started out as an actor doubling as – what else? – a waiter. Though she saw success in musicals and improv, health issues forced Farner to abandon singing and the stage. Rather than fret, she threw herself into restaurant work and quickly realised she had a talent for moving wine.

She threw herself into that, too, taking a wine course at the New York restaurant where she worked and, afterwards, approaching the head of beverage about opportunities beyond waiting tables. “I told him, ‘I’ve been here a while and I’ve got a car,’ which is always an asset in New York.” Farner was soon tapped to analyze beverage costs – “something no one else wanted to do” – and two years and several courses later, found herself Beverage Director of one of the city’s hottest spots.

Farner is one level from certification as a Master by the Court of Master Sommeliers and uses collector wine dinners as opportunities to expand her knowledge of fine and rare wines. Though often offered glasses as she pours, rest assured that Farner doesn’t drink on shift. “There are just too many glasses to keep track of.”

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