ARTHUR HON, Sommelier & Beverage Director
A trained visual artist, Beverage Director Arthur Hon compares his work in the world of wine as a four-dimensional outlet to express his creativity. A member of the savvy team at Sepia since the restaurant’s 2007 opening, he brings a natural affinity for creating a sensory experience through food and wine to Chicago. A self-professed perpetual student, Hon admits that his curiosity for wine was piqued by his intimidation by it. During his first fine dining experience, his server recommended a bottle of 1998 Chiarello Family Vineyards Roux Old Vine, a Petite Sirah from St. Helena, CA. After just a taste, his fate was sealed, and he spent the next three months drinking only Petite Sirah and reading as much as possible about the varietal. As his palate developed, he methodically “toured” as many varietals from as many regions as possible, beginning the self-taught journey that would later inform his career.
Hon began his personal pursuit of wine and work in restaurants while earning his undergraduate and advanced degrees from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago. When Sepia opened, he joined the team as a server and wine captain. He continued exploring wine under the tutelage of Sepia’s then-sommelier, Scott Tyree, whom Hon credits for championing his learning and providing him with both training and encouragement to translate his interest into something much more.
As beverage director, Hon oversees Sepia’s seasonal food-driven wine list of approximately 700 bottles, featuring boutique winemakers and lesser known grapes and wine regions, in addition to discovering new finds and facilitating wine pairing events and dinners at Sepia throughout the year. He also hosts weekly wine staff training events to foster the servers’ knowledge and passion for wine at the Michelin-starred restaurant. Since 2013, Wine Enthusiast Magazine has continued to include Sepia on its 100 Best Wine Restaurants in America list with special recognition in the Outstanding By-the-Glass Program category. The World of Fine Wines has also bestowed Sepia’s wine list its highest three-star rating since 2015.
Hon believes in removing the pretension and intimidation that often go along with wine lists, which creates a lively conversation that ultimately inspires the guest to try something new. A supporter of local and sustainable growers, he believes in allowing the grapes to speak for themselves as they harmonize with Executive Chef Andrew Zimmerman’s seasonal American cuisine.
“Creativity and passion don’t always have to be complex or come from afar,” he says. “Simpler is always better,” Hon’s approach to wine captured the attention of the James Beard Foundation, and Sepia was nominated for Outstanding Wine Program in March 2016 after being a semifinalist consecutively in the category since 2012. Hon recently received Wine Enthusiast’s 2016 Wine Star Award nomination for Sommelier/ Wine Director of the Year. In September 2015, Wine & Spirits Magazine named Hon Best New Sommelier of 2015. He was also awarded “Best Sommelier” at the Jean Banchet Awards in January of the same year. He is an Advanced Sommelier certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers and is currently studying for the Diploma level of Master exam.