Caleb Ganzer

Caleb Ganzer

Caleb Ganzer continues his climb in the world of wine.

The 31-year-old Wilmington native has been named one of Food & Wine's 2017 Sommeliers of the Year for his work at a French-influenced wine bar in New York City.

For the last two years, Ganzer has helped reshape a spot in the Nolita (north of Little Italy) neighborhood of Manhattan called Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels. When it opened, the New York Times called it "a sliver of the sixth arrondissement," a reference to its Paris roots.

Ganzer, a part owner of the business, says it's now a place that feels like a neighborhood wine bar, where patrons feel comfortable popping in for un verre after work or entertaining parents on the weekend.

At Compagnie, Ganzer has brought in a new chef with a new food program, introduced lower-priced wine (including some of the cheapest Champagne in Manhattan, he says) and started a happy hour — all to make wine less intimidating and more approachable.

He was in Australia when Food & Wine's wine editor phoned him to deliver the good news.

This honor isn't the first for Ganzer. In 2012, Zagat included him on its "30 Under 30" list of up-and-comers in the New York City restaurant scene. Last year, Wine & Spirits magazine named him one of their Best New Sommeliers of 2016.

Ganzer attended Bishop McNamara in Kankakee and studied at the University of Illinois in Champaign, as well as in Paris, but he's spent the last eight years in New York. Before Compagnie, he worked for two years at Eleven Madison Park, a Michelin three-star restaurant also in Manhattan.

Now, as managing partner and head sommelier at Compagnie, Ganzer handles both the romanticized side of working in wine — choosing which wines show up on the menu, for example — and mundane parts of running a business. After all, even wine bars have to manage payroll and deal with landlords.

But with a stake in a company and both feet firmly planted in one of the cultural capitals of the world, he doesn't see a future for himself elsewhere.

"New York is one of those places where the longer you're here, the more you carve out your own niche, and the more you want to make that niche bigger," Ganzer said. "New York's become home."

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