A trained chef, Rajat grew up in Calcutta, India, before journeying to the United States where he graduated from the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park. It was at the CIA where his interest in wine took hold. After graduation, choosing to pursue the cellar instead of the kitchen, Rajat ventured to San Francisco…
A trained chef, Rajat grew up in Calcutta, India, before journeying to the United States where he graduated from the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park. It was at the CIA where his interest in wine took hold. After graduation, choosing to pursue the cellar instead of the kitchen, Rajat ventured to San Francisco to join the staff of Rubicon, the renowned wine-focused restaurant of Master Sommelier Larry Stone. As protégé of Stone, he honed the wine knowledge and tasting talent that would propel him to become one the world’s most celebrated sommeliers. Raj eventually left Rubicon to take over the wine program at San Francisco’s landmark Fifth Floor restaurant before moving to join chef Michael Mina as wine director of that chef’s eponymous restaurant. The Mina Group would eventually spawn over 20 restaurants across the country, with wine programs all overseen by Rajat. During this period, winemaking began to evermore capture his imagination.
Fascinated not just with the taste of wine, but the question of why wines taste the way they do, Rajat frequently traveled to European wine regions and California wine country, becoming close with several of California’s top winemakers. This ultimately translated into bottling his own wines. At first these were blends selected from wines produced by others, but in short time Raj became more deeply involved—calling picking times, overseeing fermentations, etc. As vineyards and winemaking became ever more an obsession, Raj made the transition from sommelier to producer.
During this period, he became closer to Santa Barbara County winemaker Sashi Moorman, as they found mutual interest in pushing the boundaries of California wine, every vintage seeing how much earlier they could harvest to achieve more balanced alcohols, racier acidity, and purer flavors. In 2011, Rajat and Sashi launched Sandhi, producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from select vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills. In 2013, they released wines from his new estate vineyard, Domaine de la Côte, located on the westernmost edge of the Sta. Rita Hills. Most recently, in early 2014, Rajat and Sashi took over the historic and acclaimed Seven Springs Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon. In 2018, they launched the Raj Parr Wine Club, a label of unique and esoteric wines and styles sold directly to members. And soon, with Le Bernadin’s sommelier Marie Ponsonnet, Raj will release a Merlot called Colete.
Beyond his wineries, today Raj collaborated with writer Jordan Mackay on the James-Beard-Award winning book Secrets of the Sommeliers and their 2018 book, the Andre-Simon-Award-winning The Sommelier’s Atlas of Taste. Rajat lives in Santa Barbara, though he can still be found frequently traveling the world speaking, teaching, tasting, and obsessively learning.