I took a walk over to Essex House hotel this morning to check out the finalists in the Best Sommelier in America competition organized by Andrew Bell, the head of the American Sommelier Association. Actually 'orchestrated' would be a better word. What a well-run event it was... and I was only seeing a small part of it as the competition had actually been running since Sunday morning. Bell was ably assisted by a number of the biggest names in som-dom (Robert Bohr, Tim Kopec, Eric Zillier) and of course, returning champ, Aldo Sohm, who did a dry run through the stages of the test - both practical and theoretical - that the four finalists (only one New Yorker!) would soon face. I got a bit short of breath just thinking of what lay ahead for the three men and one woman who would soon be on stage. I won't detail the test just yet (perhaps tomorrow) but suffice it to say that any would-be sommelier should be practicing not only their service points but also memorizing the names of some very (very) obscure grapes.
The audience was composed chiefly of sommeliers, those who were just cheering for friends and those who had been part of Sunday's semi-finals, but I can't imagine there was anyone present who wasn't just a little bit intimidated - and more than a little impressed. More anon.