Heather Branch

Beverage Expert

Like many Californians, the Sacramento native was unwittingly steeped in the culture of wine from an early age. After attending the University of Pennsylvania, Heather took a job as a server at Lulu restaurant in San Francisco. It was here, negotiating the Provençal wine list, that her interest in wine was piqued. Next, she accepted…

Like many Californians, the Sacramento native was unwittingly steeped in the culture of wine from an early age. After attending the University of Pennsylvania, Heather took a job as a server at Lulu restaurant in San Francisco. It was here, negotiating the Provençal wine list, that her interest in wine was piqued. Next, she accepted a position at Farallon in San Francisco and after two and a half years, moved to the Fifth Floor to work under the direction of Rajat Parr, a disciple of the legendary wine connoisseur, Larry Stone. Both men had a significant role in cultivating Heather’s talent and after two and a half years, felt that she was ready for her own program.

The opportunity soon came. Tom Colicchio invited Heather to direct the beverage program at his Las Vegas venture, Craftsteak. Throughout her three-year tenure, she supplemented the 750-bottle list with Craftsteak exclusives—products she brought in from small producers with whom she had already developed relationships in California. In 2004, she was named one of the year’s best new sommeliers by Wine & Spirits magazine. Offers began pouring in from New York and soon Heather was unpacking her wine key in her new West Village apartment, first to head up the program at Donatella Arpaia and Michael Psilakis’ Dona and then at Charlie Palmer’s Aureole.

Heather created the list and managed the beverage program at Eighty-One, and when it closed in 2010, she took a hiatus from restaurants after 15 years to learn the distribution side of wine for Polaner Selections, where she represented brands such as Selosse, Prevost, Giacomo Conterno, Fontaine Gagnard, and Arnot Roberts, and worked with top Manhattan restaurants. In July, 2013, another opportunity arose to launch a new winery in Oregon, Chapter 24 Vineyards (pinot noirs crafted by Mike Etzel Jr. and wine consultant Louis-Michel Liger-Belair).  Heather began managing national sales, was the general manager, and then a consultant as she decided to move to Grand Cayman in 2018, where she is now the sommelier for Blue by Eric Ripert.

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