Head sommelier at Rouge Tomate Chelsea in NYC Pascaline Lepeltier announced today her departure from the company after 10 years. Speaking with Pascaline on her announcement, we discover the reason for the change, the development of the wine list, and what’s next in store.

Pascaline has worked with the company Rouge Tomate for 10 years across three countries – France, Belgium, and the US – and upon her retirement from her position she commented, “It is time for me to move on and pursue new, different projects, to continue to learn, discover, and improve. I have been a sommelier barely 12 years – and 10 were with Rouge Tomate Chelsea – there is so much I want to explore.”

When asked of her next steps, Pascaline wasn’t able to confirm anything on the topic. Already a sommelier of 12 years, an avid supporter of the natural wine movement, contributor to the book, The Dirty Guide to Wine by Alice Feiring, amongst other undertakings; with already this many hats within her repertoire, there is promised to be good and interesting endeavors on the horizon.

“I want to continue to share and support wines with ‘soul’, respectful of the land, as a sommelier, a writer, a teacher. And I also want to get my hands dirtier; being more involved in some wine projects - definitely connected to the organic, biodynamic, and natural wine movement!” commented Pascaline.

The wine list has developed extraordinarily under Pascaline’s keen eye and willing wine team. When arriving at Rouge Tomate Chelsea in mid-2009, the list was approximately 250 references mostly from Europe and the US, and around 40 per cent of the wines were organic and biodynamic. At the time on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, it was more important to host bigger names with high scores and famous labels, bar the French side which was relatively committed to natural wines, but as time went on and Pascaline understood the NYC clientele she introduced more and more wines that followed the natural philosophy. The team was on board and gradually the education and passion spread.

By 2012 the by-the-glass list contained no wine with sulfur, Jura, and “crazy” Chenin. “It worked, as long as you could support and explain,” said Pascaline. “I started to get more adventurous, and the guests and the staff followed. From that point, it was no turning back.”

Now, the Rouge Tomate wine list, in its Chelsea location, has more than 1,600 references, close to 85% organic, biodynamic and natural, and all the by-the-glass labels follow the same philosophy.

“[We are] more convinced than ever (thanks to more travels, talks, researches, we did) that [this] was the present and future of the wine world.”

After winning the Wine List of the Year and Best Long Wine List in the World awards, Pascaline commented:

“That list was the result of 8 years of buying, aging, and selecting wines with the same vision and integrity, and it was really fantastic to be able to offer them to our guests at Rouge Tomate Chelsea, with some age and hopefully in a good drinking window. It was an adventurous selection of regions, vignerons, and styles we believed embodied today, the beauty of wines all over the world, and we were so thrilled the quality of these wines were recognized by a publication like yours.

“For us it meant that these wines didn't need to be classified as ‘organic, biodynamic or natural’ anymore, but just as great bottles which encapsulate their terroir. We brought our little stone to the movement, and thanks to The World of Fine Wine, it was made wildly public, and meaningful! We were so proud of it, to help give these vignerons, regions, wines the recognition they deserve!

“The award was also a great distinction of my team, without whom nothing could have been done.”
Without being able to select only one fond memory of her time spent at Rouge, Pascaline said, “I have so many [amazing memories]. I met some of my closest friends, and some of the most important people of my life. It is just impossible to choose one as Rouge gave me so much!”

Pascaline will be leaving in August 2017, when there is anticipated to be much merriment and a last hooray; “Yes come and visit, we are going to have a lot of fun with the cellar!”