Unfiltered: Katie Exton
The sommelier and restaurateur of Victoria’s Lorne talks to Douglas Blyde about serving Harrison Ford.
What is your vintage?
I was born in Montreal in 1983. From that year, Cheval Blanc was pretty amazing, but the standout was the Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel Wehlener Sonnenuhr Joh Jos Prüm served blind at dinner by Manfred Prüm himself.
What does Lorne mean?
Lorne is a town in Australia on Great Ocean Road. I was looking for a restaurant name before we opened and I googled Victoria, and Victoria Australia came up and I got nostalgic looking at places I’d visited. Lorne got put on my “maybe” list for a restaurant name and nothing else ever joined it. I found out later, Lorne is also a Scottish square breakfast sausage.
What bottle sparked your oenophilia?
Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Pucelles 1999. I could have smelt that wine for days. I remember thinking, “this is a perfect glass of wine.”
What are some standout producers on your list?
I guess it depends on what you’re looking for. We have producers like Giacosa, Burlotto, Pierre-Yves Colin Morey and Littorai that people get excited about.
Where would we find particular value?
We work off cash margins on the more expensive wines, and wines we love that aren’t so well known like a Schiopettino from Ronca di Cialla in Friuli.
How many references are there?
About 250, though it fluctuates depending on how much I can get out and taste.
Are you selective with who you give the single bottle list?
No! It’s in the wine list which we give every guest on the last two pages.
What’s your most embarrassing front-of-house moment?
When I first started as a sommelier I nervously used my waiter’s friend to try and open a screw-capped bottle…
Who is your inspiration?
My friends and family are huge sources of inspiration. My sister, Robyn, set up a lesbian dating app called “HER”. The hard work she put in to build a place that helps LGBTQ people find friendship and love is very inspirational. And I think Michelle Obama is an incredible role model for women and mothers. She is so full of kindness and hope and I find her truly inspiring.
What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Take photos and make notes of everything you’ve tasted, because your memory is not as good as you think it is.
What’s your ultimate food and wine pairing?
Prosciutto (the more salty and savoury Culatello is my favourite) and Charentais melon with a glass of Pieropan Soave. Heavenly!
What is a standout match between wine and a dish by co-owner and head chef, Graham Brown?
Our sea bream tartare with kohlrabi, cucumber, dashi jelly, chives and beer batter is so delicious, I’d be happy to eat this every day. It has layers of flavour and texture, comprising the freshly-cured bream, umami-rich dashi and an addictive crunch from the beer batter scraps. A challenge to pair, but I’m really enjoying it with 2021 Tio Pepe En Rama Fino. The savoury briny yeasty notes from the sherry seem to highlight the fresh and citrus flavours of the dish.
Which grape do you find it hard to get along with?
Although I love aromatic whites, I struggle with how heady and aromatic Torrontés can be.
What ingredient do you struggle to enjoy?
Who is the most memorable customer you served?
Harrison Ford who said to me, “choose me the best bottle of wine for $100 and if that means it costs $200, that’s great.” I never knew what he meant by that, but he loved the Fuligni Brunello I chose.
What has been an enlightening vineyard visit?
The one most fixed in my memories is my last wine trip before Covid-19 to Piedmont in December 2019. Aldo Vacca from Produttori del Barbaresco drove us all around with those brilliant Piedmont wine region paper maps in hand. We were jumping in and out of the car, looking at vineyards like Asili and Pora on the map and then in situ. It was sunset and it was just breathtakingly beautiful.
What’s your go-to drink at the end of a long day?
Our house Champagne NV Veuve Fourny 1er Cru Blanc de Blancs. So refreshing, it perks me up at any point of the day.
What is your life motto?
There are no regrets in life, just lessons to be learnt.
Tell us something surprising about yourself?
I love karaoke and I’m not even sure why, because I really can’t sing.
Describe the playlist?
I have a three-year-old daughter, Martha, so currently I am unaware of any music existing that isn’t from Encanto.
What table is your favourite?
The booths at the front are popular, but I like T28 which is at the back of the restaurant. It stands alone and feels private and has a great view of the whole restaurant. It’s a controversial choice because it’s next to a fire exit door and some people don’t like that, but that has never bothered me.
What’s on your wine bucket list?
I really want to go to Pinot Camp in the USA one day.
Who should prospective candidates contact if they want to join your team, and what attributes in them do you seek?
Contact our Restaurant manager Alice Doran, via email@example.com