We all have options in life. When you possess both a beautiful singing voice and a brilliant mind, you may be swayed toward the glamour of show business or the lure of a prominent law career.
Dana Farner had those options. As an actor and a singer, Farner pursued her dream in New York City, waiting tables at the Blue Water Grill for steady income. “I also thought I’d go to law school,” she told Patterson’s. “But I loved service and I started falling in love with wine.”
While in New York – about five years ago – Farner’s voice became “sick.”
“We were never really sure why or how it happened,” she explained. “It occurred just after 9/11, maybe there was something in the air.”
Both her vocal coach and vocal therapist told her to stop and rest her voice…even to the point of not talking.
It was during this pause that she opted to take a class from a Master Sommelier and experienced tasting wines blind for the first time. “It was a moment,” she recalled. “Eureka, all of a sudden it all made sense: I turned a corner in my life and through myself totally into learning about wine.”
Armed with knowledge and passion – a fierce combination – Farner was promoted to Director of Beverage. “It was exciting to work in a seafood house, because I was able to encourage my customers to drink Riesling.”
Recommending wines and motivating her guests and staff to try something different helped to expand the restaurant’s wine business – actually tripling the numbers.
Making THE CUT
Now Director of Beverage at CUT by Wolfgang Puck and sidebar at The Regent Beverly Wilshire, Farner continues to utilize her acting skills. “My years of practicing improvisation keep me on my toes.” She “delicately nudges” guests to experience new realms in the wine world through her creative list.
The Wine List at CUT by Wolfgang Puck
“I haven’t rid myself of adoration of Riesling,” Farner points out to the 18 selections of this racy white, hailing from Italy, Germany, Washington State, Austria, Australia and France.
She points out that CUT Chef de Cuisine Air Rosenson creates a superb pairing with Riesling: a maple glazed pork belly with watercress salad and green apple.
It is apparent that Farner is also extremely enthusiastic about the wines of Washington State. “Syrah is big there,” she commented – speaking figuratively and literally, adding that her friend and mentor Greg Harrington is now making wine under the Gramercy Cellars label in Walla Walla.
The most original part of her list, and one that grabs anyone’s attention is the “Native & Displaced” sections for reds and whites.
Indigenous white varietals include Fiano di Avellino from Campania or Gruner Veltliner from Austria. Displaced whites may be Kerner from Alto Aldige (this is a varietal bred in Germany) or a Semillon from Washington State.
Ridge and Turkey Zinfandels are represented as a native red as is Planeta Nero D’Avola from Sicily. The “displaced” Hewitson Mourvedre from the Barossa is as intriguing as the Verdad Tempranillo from Santa Ynez.
Farner moved to Los Angeles in May, opened with CUT and sidebar June 1 and hasn’t missed a shift since.
She’ll often sit down with Wolfgang Puck, who she says is very much of a presence and inspiration. “He’ll get behind the line (in the kitchen) or take the time to talk to me about the wine list. He is deeply knowledgeable. His comments and energy just flow…and of course, his interaction with our guests is priceless.”