While the dining options at Ocean Casino Resort are seemingly endless, choosing the perfect wine to go with your meal can sometimes feel overwhelming. As a Level 2 sommelier, Director of Wine & Spirits Sabrina Schatz has made tasks like wine pairing her passion. Schatz sat down with us to chat about where her passion for wine stems from and of course, her favorite dining spots at Ocean Casino Resort. 

How did your journey to becoming a sommelier begin? 

Sabrina Schatz: You have to love wine first of all (laughs). I have been in the restaurant business since I was a teenager. I’m Bulgarian and came to the United States as a student in 1999 with a major in hospitality and management. I was going to school and continued waiting tables and I realized if I wanted to make more money, I needed to sell some wine (laughs)! I always worked with wine, but I never knew too much about it, other than what I liked. I started learning on my own and the restaurant that I was working at had a fantastic wine program and the sommelier at the time became my mentor. The Wine Director started pushing me as well, noticing my enthusiasm. I took a couple of classes at the Wine School of Philadelphia and did the certification, which is based in England.

I wanted to be certified by the American version also, which is The Court of Master Sommelier. I applied there and had to take more tests and classes, but passed the first time. The sommelier business has four different levels, and I have passed the first two. I sat down for the third and have done the course and test, but haven’t completed it just yet!


So many claim to have a passion or knowledge about wine, but you truly do. Where do you think that stems from? 

S: Honestly, wine is just so fascinating. While it may get you a little tipsy when you’re having fun, at the same time it’s all about the people behind it. The smaller wineries tend to be these great family businesses. The European wineries, have generations and generations of history and pride in their product. It’s also the geography, which I think I’m a bit of a geek about. Depending on where the grapes are picked, you can taste it in the wine. Wine is an agricultural product, so it very much depends on the weather, the fires in California for example, will impact the wine industry; every year it is really something different.


Ocean has such a vast variety of spaces for dining, and the bar and cocktail menus at each are unparalleled. Where are some of the places that you personally recommend for wine? 

S: Amada without a doubt. It is both challenging and lots of fun to even begin to choose what wines to pair with what dishes. I am also starting to add some more wines to the wine list, so that will be very exciting.


Where would you consider the most exotic place that truly gave you the best experience as a sommelier? 

When it comes to wine, that is why I truly love this business because you get to travel so frequently. You go to Napa for example, and it is just gorgeous. I have been to Spain and that was such an amazing experience, it is so beautiful there. This past October, I was in France and we went to Champagne, very last minute and it was gorgeous. Like they say, “Paris is always a good idea”, right?


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