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Wild Ginger's April Pogue on Wine, Pho, and Cocktails

Welcome to another edition of The TasteMakers, where we search the city to highlight Seattle’s innovative bakers, bartenders, cooks, and other restaurant professionals. Today, we interview Wild Ginger Bellevue's wine director April Pogue. We asked Pogue about her current position, working with her wife on a book, and her favorite haunts.
April_Pogue_Wild_Ginger.jpgWhat are your main responsibilities?
I’m manager and wine director. I just started here in the Bellevue location [November 2011], so I haven’t really moved into my full responsibilities as wine director yet. Right now, I’m basically maintaining the program and in January, I’ll start ordering for the program and tasting with vendors.

Which wines are most popular? Your favorites?
Washington State is really popular. People who aren’t from here want to try something from Washington, so that’s fun. I’m a Francophile, so I like a lot of French wines. I really enjoy German wines with our foods; German Riesling just sings. It’s perfect.

Do you have a favorite local winery?
It’s so hard for me to choose a favorite because I like so many of them. I love Long Shadows Winery, Laurelhurst Cellars, and Gramercy Cellars.

Where does your oenophilia come from?
It started when I lived in San Francisco. I was putting myself through school and I got a job at The Fifth Floor. It was mandatory that I have wine training, and at first, it was hard. People teased me a lot. I’d ask, ‘What glass does a Mer-Salt go in?’, and they’d laugh. ‘It’s [pronounced] Meursault! That kind of thing. And so I started studying a lot. When I worked at Spago, we would blind taste wine. When I first started, I was terrible. I would say a Chardonnay was a Sauvignon Blanc and that Pinot Noir was Zinfandel. I had no idea! And eventually, I grew. I developed a passion for it and started really focusing and studying on it.

Where do you like to eat and drink in Seattle?
I love Poppy. I’ve just had more perfect bites there than any place in Seattle. It’s kind of hard for me to get out since I work at nights, so [wife] Becky cooks for me. There’s this new place on Capitol Hill called Chino’s. I love Veronica[Poppy alum], the bartender. She is awesome and makes the best drinks. What do you like to drink there? She turned me on to Martin Miller’s gin. She’s just really good at educating her guests on cocktails and different liquors and spirits. Also, the best pho I ever had was at Pho Bac in the International District. The broth! It was just perfect. I had a cold one time, and I think it cured me, I really do.

How have things changed since [wife] Becky Selengut’s cookbook was published?
It’s brought along opportunities for us to work together. We were able to teach a class in Port Townsend a couple of months ago to students of the CIA—the students were on a field trip to the North West and were learning about seafood and sustainability—so Becky and I co-taught a class together. I did it on wine pairings and she did fish and then we prepared a meal and served wine with it.

Was it fun working on the book with your wife? Difficult?
It was fun; it was a bonding time. It was a really hard time because my father had passed away right when we started, but it was good because it kept me really busy. We had friends over four nights a week for dinner parties to taste the wine and food and critique the recipes.

Any future plans?
I am happy and content at the Wild Ginger. It’s a great company to work for; they’re intent on developing me as manager here, and that’s really important for me to learn more about the industry. And working with this wine list is any sommelier’s dream.

I’ve now passed two tests [for the Master Sommelier exams], and I’ll continue taking that damn advanced test until I pass it. That’s my goal. I took [the exam] this past October and I’m going to go for it again next October. It’s a toughie.

Interview and photo by Florence Kim, Eater Contributor

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Wild Ginger Bellevue

11020 NE 6th St, Bellevue, WA