This week Wine Director Tim Baldwin “spills” what it takes to become a sommelier.
“So you want to be a Sommelier”
Tasting legendary wines, eating epic food, visiting the greatest wineries in the world and being welcomed with open arms. People often come into the restaurant and say “you have the greatest job in the world! Do you need an assistant?”
While there is ton of glitz with the title of sommelier, what often is overlooked is the countless hours studying and tasting to prepare for a brief window of service to show off the skills of a sommelier. The pile of wine maps and flashcards stacked to the ceiling clutter the homes of most sommeliers. The books of tasting notes filled with notes of the average of a hundred wines a week both in and out of work we taste and evaluate. There is a ton of work involved in becoming a sommelier and perfecting your craft! I am not trying to scare you away but here is a glimpse!
Reading & Studying — The world of wine is changing constantly, the countries that are now exporting wine to the USA is expanding daily it seems. Regions are adding sub-regions and districts and a rate that is mind boggling, and don’t even get me started on Italy which adds wine regions almost daily! 2 hours a day in the morning is my daily goal, 2 hours of memorizing flashcards and maps. Some of the reading is fun, some of it feels like reading the instruction manual for a dishwasher, but it all goes towards the same goal of being a walking resource in the restaurant which is the role of a sommelier.
Tasting — Rarely a day goes by that we don’t taste through a flight of wine and write down every note we can think of. I wish tasting was all about determining if it is a good wine or not. We taste not only to select great wine for the restaurants of the hotel but almost more importantly we taste to better understand the wines and the categories they come from; we want to not only understand the wine we are serving, but what other wines like it are out there and what trends are going on in productions. The tasting portion also ties into the studying piece, what better way to understand the wines of Nemea in Greece then to taste a dozen of them and try to visualize the region.
Competitions, Certifications and Tests — Many sommeliers pursue industry certifications and look to hone their skills in competitions. These are stress filled roller coasters that make you feel great one moment and at others make you think you need to rethink your career choice. I was lucky enough to win the Copa Jerez, Best Sommelier title in Spain last year! Shortly after, I was crushed at the regional level of the ToppSomm national sommelier championships. Last year I earned the privilege of taking the prestigious Master Sommelier Exam; it was my first attempt and I knew the statistics said I would get roughed up the first time, but I was in a room with 40 of the best sommeliers in the world, every restaurant and hotel they worked for was somewhere that was elite, they were a collection of the best! Well as you can imagine there was a lot of bruised egos that day! So, to be a sommelier you need to have a short memory and move quickly to the next challenge. For instance, I just won the Southwest Region of Best Young Sommelier competition and will go to Nationals in May, and the Master Sommelier Exam is two weeks later!
The best part of all of the above craziness doesn’t even take into account our actual jobs! Our job is to be a resource and serve our guests, to ensure that they have a great time and a memorable experience. Hopefully all the above work pays off and we take great care of YOU!
So you want to be a sommelier — IF your still reading you must be interested! A great event coming up at the Broadmoor is the “Sommelier Bootcamp”. For a weekend, we will teach you some of the basics of wine and sommelier service. The Sommeliers of The Broadmoor will be joined by Master Sommeliers and an iconic wine Maker Chris Carpenter. We will put you to work and show you the craft, and I guess we will let you taste some wine…..A LOT OF WINE! I think that is the best part. March 3rd and 4th – visit broadmoor.com for more information.
Ok so its not all bad…here are two photos of the conference I was just at. We just happened to win an award for Best Hotel Beverage Program in the country while there!!!