Q&A: Levi Seed

Dining Room Manager and Lead Sommelier at The Joel Palmer House

##Photo credit: Evrim Icoz Photography

With an affinity for the finer things in life, Levi Seed always dreamt of becoming a chef. After graduating from high school, he earned a degree in fine dining, culinary arts, and management from Oregon Culinary Institute. While studying in Shanghai, Seed specialized in French-Asian fusion, refining his unique flavor profile signature. Returning, he became a private chef and launched a consulting business.

After discovering a passion for fine wines, Seed further developed his palate with two advanced wine courses in culinary school. At 21 years old, he moved to the front of the house, curating the bar and beverage program at a 17-million-dollar restaurant. Currently, Seed manages the country’s largest Oregon Pinot Noir collection as the Dining Room Manager and Lead Sommelier at The Joel Palmer House.

With his unwavering dedication to hospitality, Seed produces memorable experiences for all guests. With an indomitable spirit, tenacity, and integrity, he leads the service staff with the goal to continuously refine hospitality excellence.

He serves on multiple executive boards supporting local childhood cancer organizations using food and wine to raise awareness and funding.

What made you first become interested in wine?

LS: I like wearing suits… but seriously my passion for wines came very naturally after taking two advanced wine courses in culinary school. I have always found wine to be exciting but also mystical, at the time I was 19 but I was introduced to the fine wines of the world… something about fine dining and wine just clicked and I have always loved the sophistication of service and the role that Sommeliers play. I took my studies very seriously and my instructor at the time encouraged me to pursue a career in wine, so I dedicated most of my free time while not working behind the line to wine studies. As much as I loved being a chef and cooking, the front of the house was calling to me and I wanted to become part of the elite world of Sommeliers.

What brought you to the Joel Palmer House?

LS: Working in the wine industry, The Joel Palmer House was always on my radar as one of the valley’s top fine dining restaurants. After dining at the restaurant for the first time and having what was in my top three best dining experiences in my career, the Omakase menu, it became clear that I wanted to work here. I spoke with Chef Christopher, and he offered me a job on the spot. It was quite the transition going from working in wineries to a restaurant, but I chose the Joel Palmer House as my career. Starting out as the floor Sommelier and working up to Lead Sommelier and Dining Room Manager, I am very proud of my team and the atmosphere of service we have developed.

How is your wine program unique from other restaurants?

LS: Our wine list is uniquely Oregon. We offer over 500 different producers from all over the Willamette Valley. We have been collecting our wines for the past 25 years and have wines dating back to 1994 along with having multiple full verticals from some of Oregon’s most prestigious wine makers. I am proud to say that almost every vertical we have is only available at our restaurant thanks to the relationships we have developed over the past 25 years here in the valley. It is as much a tribute to Oregon as a region as it is to the wine makers who have been supporting us and supplying these verticals and I am honored to represent it to all our guests.

When diners ask for wine recommendations, how do you choose your suggestions?

LS: We feature the largest selection of Oregon Pinot noir in the country. A lot of our guests have heard about our wine program and are eager to experience everything the Willamette Valley has to offer, and I would estimate 90% of our guests are interested in Oregon Pinot. Narrowing down the perfect bottle for each guest interaction is really a testament to how versatile Oregon Pinot can be. As the Lead Sommelier I take my time talking to each individual about their personal likes and what profile they are looking for, whether they are drawn to a specific AVA, cooler or warmer vintages, more terroir driven or fruit centric, older or more current vintage wines and price range. I can then narrow down to find them the perfect bottle.

What is the most interesting pairing you’ve encountered? A pairing that broke all the rules?

LS: I have always tried to be the outside of the box thinking, against the grain Chef and Sommelier. The beautiful thing about food and wine is the endless possibilities. Just because you read it somewhere doesn’t mean to have to follow it by the book. One pairing I did that surprised me the most was 2019 Pierce Riesling paired with our cilantro and lime juice marinated sturgeon with curried quinoa, cayenne aioli, braised mushrooms, and asparagus.

Your thoughts on Oregon wine? Favorites (varietal, brand and/or region)?

LS: Oregon wine is unique. Being the youngest growing Pinot Noir region, Oregon Pinot is often misunderstood or misinterpreted based on a preconceived idea of what the typicity of Burgundian Pinot has to offer and often that of California as well. We often get guests looking for that unique terroir that can usually only be found in Burgundy, they are often surprised when what they are tasting in their glass is completely different in both phenolic structure and aromas. Oregon is quickly becoming one of the world’s most renown regions for growing world class Pinot Noir. With the umbrella AVA of the Willamette Valley, growers, wine makers, and Sommeliers alike all have a mutual understanding that Oregon Pinot has vastly different profiles based on not only where it is grown but who makes it, there is no one Oregon Pinot style. Oregon is too young as a whole to really delineate a specific typicity.

Oregon is my direct market, managing the largest Oregon wine list I have become very familiar with the different styles, and I can say without hesitation 2011 Adelsheim Quarter Mile Lane Pinot Noir is my favorite Oregon Pinot, one of the very first established vineyards planted in the early 70s, Oregon wine history resides within its roots. Elegant and structured with vivid acidity, I believe Quarter Mile is the purest expression and representation of Oregon Pinot. With an aroma unlike any other, this wine is brilliance in a glass.

Are you and Chef Chris planning any new projects or special events at the restaurant?

LS: The Joel Palmer House just finished our largest renovation in 25 years! Taking what was an old historic house built in the 1850s and transforming it into a modern, chic, lively environment whilst still keeping the small town, little hidden gem in Dayton Oregon wine country feeling. While we want to give our guests the highest level of service and serve delicious food, we want them to feel like they are “guests in our home.”

Now that our focus on the renovation is over, chef Christopher and I are creating several special event dinners and events that will allow us to celebrate our new dining space during the winter months. Go to for a current list of events and to stay updated on future events and follow us on Facebook and Instagram for behind the scenes fun.

Web Design and Web Development by Buildable