Wine lovers already flock to Camerata for its combination of personal service, chic design and an ever-evolving wine list, but patrons who haven't been by in awhile may want to schedule a visit to meet head sommelier David Keck's newest hire. To replace Ryan Cooper, who left to assume the general manager position at Down House, Keck has brought on board Rachel DelRocco.
While DelRocco may not be familiar to Houstonians, she's well-known in Austin for her work as the beverage director at Qui, the restaurant opened by Top Chef winner Paul Qui that's widely considered to be one of Austin's finest dining experiences. DelRocco earned a prestigious Eater Young Gun Award for the way she blended her knowledge of spirits with wine to shape Qui's beverage options.
DelRocco tells CultureMap that, once she decided to move to Houston for personal reasons, she sought out Camerata as the place where she could grow the most professionally. "It was time to move on. The only place in Houston I wanted to work was here," she says. "I learned a lot of buying, managing and wine list maintenance at Qui. I really wanted to take a step back and dig into all the other things . . . I bugged (Keck) until he hired me."
For his part, Keck explains that, even more than DelRocco's wine knowledge, her customer service experience from working at Qui with Master Sommelier June Rodil made her a fit for Camerata.
"It’s much harder to teach customer service than it is to teach wine," Keck explains. "Intellectual curiosity and the ability to provide your guests with a high level of service with their interests in mind is something I can’t really teach, so that’s what I look for. Wine knowledge is a secondary thing."
Once DelRocco spent a couple days staging, she knew she'd found a new home. "It's a really nice work environment. Every body is on the same page and is really excited about their education and wants to learn more," DelRocco says. "It's a good place to be."
Bartender/sommeliers at Camerata have the difficult challenge of relating to both the numerous restaurant industry professionals who want to dive into Keck's carefully selected list and weekend patrons who are less knowledgeable about wine. "I think it’s important for wine professionals to be able to speak to everybody," Keck says. "Selling this list to our Friday, Saturday night clientele is 10 times harder than selling a more pedestrian list to people who know wine."
With the addition of DelRocco, Camerata is equipped to continue delivering excellent service to both its geeky regulars and weekend patrons.
"That's very exciting for me as a seller and a buyer is to find wines that people can relate to, but you can still promote something really exciting in the wine world like small producers or female winemakers," DelRocco says. "It's really exciting for me to find that bridge wine to get people to try something new."