Creator of the I-Ching Wine List
One of the most studied members of the AZ staff happens to be a stand-up comedian, photographer, martial arts teacher and student, freelance writer and editor AND the Wine Director of AZ (21 W 17th), the home of Patricia Yeo’s Asian-inspired, American cuisine. He is not a snob or an obvious aesthete, as one might imagine a sommelier to be, but a spiritual, witty, hardworking guy from the pleasant town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. His name is Dan Perlman, and he has a diverse background.
Before joining the team at AZ, this wine consultant and chef spent 25 years trying to satisfy an insatiable appetite for his niche in the restaurant industry, starting with basic prep work in the kitchen to graduating with honors from both Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School and the Takada School of Japanese Cooking.
While working in the kitchen, Dan became fascinated with wines. He nurtured his affinity for wines, which led him to the Sommelier Society of America’s Wine Captain’s Class. He ultimately received the Advanced Sommelier certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers. Dan’s training guided him to become one of the first American to receive the Higher Certificate from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust and enter the tri-annual competition for Best Sommelier in the Northeastern United States from the Sommelier Society of America. This highly regarded wine connoisseur went on to create the award winning wine programs at top New York restaurants: American Renaissance, Felidia and Veritas.
Now, Dan oversees AZ’s 4,200-bottle cellar, which houses 600 different wines. The wine list is categorized not only by country and by grape, but also according to the I-Ching, set forth in Asian terms with symbols for the sun, wind and earth. This ancient practice, dating back five thousand years, is actually a book containing scripts dealing with divination and wisdom in the Chinese religions. Literally, “I” means “change,” and “Ching” means “book,” thus, “The Book of Changes,” which was originally intended to assist people in resolving changes in their everyday lives. As a follower of Eastern religion, Dan believes that the I-Ching is a companion guide that brings solace to immense profundity. Thus, something such as a lengthy wine list is made comprehensible to people who might be overwhelmed by the many varietals available today.
For example, by demarcating the “Sun Symbol,” a category stocked with wines that have bright, aromatic flavors such as Rieslings, Muscats and Gewurztraminers, a guest is able to choose one of the lesser known varietals on the list like Scheurebe, Viognier or Sylvaner. Dan’s philosophy is not to focus on the personality of the food with the wine, since an average diner might order one bottle and various courses with a variety of meats and spices, but rather the character of the person that may appear in the wine. For those who just want to taste without spending too much, or prefer a wider range of wines without excess, Dan has amassed a collection of over 100 half bottles of wine.
Consistent application of such principles as the I-Ching is the crux of Dan Perlman’s success, as synchronicity and symbolism have a say in everything he does. His exposure to many spiritual disciplines and varied walks of life has enriched his perspectives and sculpted his uniqueness. This straight-talking wine consultant is revolutionizing the wine industry by taking a step up the sophistication scale by uniting east with west.
When Dan Perlman is not working the floor at AZ, he relays his messages to the rest of the world as a freelance writer and the food & wine editor for Q San Francisco and Passport magazines.