Explore Italy like a Sommelier

Explore Italy like a Sommelier

Take a journey to the famed Chianti Classico wine region in Tuscany with our Sommelier, JY—and plan to come back with some must-try pasta pairings.

Jason Yamasaki gets people curious about wine. JY, as we like to call him, believes wine plays a central role in an iconic dining experience. As JOEY Group Sommelier, he works to spread his philosophy that wine is food’s best friend. “My enthusiasm and passion for wine came out of an obsession with hospitality and service. The communication and entertainment around wine is the best way to provide unforgettable service in a restaurant.” When JY isn’t crafting the JOEY wine experience, working with wineries to develop new blends and enhancing our wine list, he travels to each JOEY location to inspire curiosity and passion about wine. He also holds a distinguished role as the Chianti Classico Ambassador to British Columbia.

JY was hand-picked from 40 expert applicants, after a three-stage examination that included panel interviews with Chianti Classico experts, winemakers, and members of the consorzio (governing body) of Chianti Classico.

"With each visit I discovered an individual flavour and experience."

As part of of JY’s ambassadorship, he travelled to Italy to immerse himself in the Chianti Classico region—the first wine region to ever be geographically defined. “The wine world is huge, Italy is endlessly diverse, and Tuscany is its wine centre. My focus is a small, historic region between Florence and Siena called Chianti Classico. I could spend the rest of my life discovering just that region,” he explains. How does a sommelier tackle one of the most famed wine regions in the world? They pack the day to see as much as possible, and start bright and early. JY explored four wineries daily, walking through the vineyards, exploring the properties, meeting the personalities behind the wine and–arguably the best part—tasting the wines. “With each visit I discovered an individual flavour and experience.”

One of JY’s intentions for his Tuscany trip was to enrich and enliven the way our team shares Chianti Classico and Italian wine with guests—to build a connection to the feel, colours and architecture that is connected to their wine. “I want people to taste the experience of being there. It’s not just vineyards, there are tons of olives everywhere, a dense forest and shrubby, aromatic herbs. The landscape truly tastes and feels like something.” But this wasn’t JY’s first foray into the world of Italian wine. “A year and a half ago, I travelled to Tuscany to work with a local wine producer to develop a new blend for our menu—the Strada Bianca Super Tuscan. Strada Bianca translates to white roads, and these are the less travelled roads that link the vineyards. The blend really speaks to the essence of the region.”

As JOEY’s Sommelier, JY is working to create a wine list that enhances your meal. He considers food without wine like a pasta that’s missing its sauce. Speaking of pasta—JY shares with us that his favourite Italian-inspired pairing is the Strada Bianca Super Tuscan with our Spaghetti Pomodoro or Chicken Parmesan.

“Tuscan wine and spaghetti with tomato sauce—that’s an easy one. The tomatoes that we selected bring a refreshing acidity to the dish. The difficult part is finding a wine that has an equal level of freshness and quench to it. Sangiovese, the staple grape of the Chianti Classico region, has this sense of refreshment—a high level of acidity.” JY explains his food and wine pairing principle as creating a perfect balance of acidity to create space for more flavours to emerge. “When you create a dish where the acidity on the plate perfectly matches the acidity of the wine—what happens is perfect harmony. What you're left with is more purity and more exposure of the fruit in the wine. More tasting of the pure ripe tomato. And some of the underlying spices are revealed.”

If the iconic Italian experience of food and wine is calling you—you don’t have to hop on the next flight to Tuscany. Visit us tonight and take a quick trip to the Chianti Classico region and back (and don’t worry, you don’t need to pack your passport).