Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Semi Somm

Seems like Somm is the new buzz word.

I don't remember much ado about sommeliers until recently. Sommelier was and to some still is, a restaurant term. In the retail world "Wine Geek" was much more common. Whatever rack held white wines that were not Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc or possibly Rieslings held "Geek Whites."

But that's all changed.

Locally the Texas Sommelier Conference TEXSOM in its ten years has grown into a huge event with national attention.

And the documentary SOMM shows what it takes to become a Master Sommelier. And that the world of a somm is an intense geeky place. I mentioned the film to my sister the food critic and she flew off on a twenty minute tirade, the gist of which I gathered was that she didn't like the movie or Somms among other things.

Sort of awkward. It was dinner at my house and I was pouring some pretty nice wines.

I saw the movie with a couple of wine buddies. Colleagues in fact. We had taken and passed the first level of the Court of Sommelier tests together and had received three of the highest scores in our class. But the movie was insider and geeky.I wondered at the time how it would play to an outsider.

In a recent Wine Spectator James Laube wrote a column titled "Dim Somms" in which he railed at Sommeliers who are "misguided know-it-alls who are doing more harm than good." More specifically he is railing against the group 'In Pursuit of Balance" whose mission is "to promote dialogue around the meaning and relevance in California Pinot Noir and Chardonnay."

Well, there you have it. Meaning and Relevance. Is this a graduate seminar?


I am Somm. I have passed first level examinations with both the Court of Master Sommeliers and the Society of Wine Educators. I am an active member of the Dallas Sommelier Society. I attend a Monday Morning Theory Study Group with some young sommeliers intent on pursuing higher certification. Whether higher certification is in my future is uncertain, but I am certainly learning.

I was pondering all these issues as I went to a meeting at 10 pm on a Thursday night in a dark restaurant. We met with David Jeffrey, proprietor and visionary of Colluna Vineyards, a tiny new producer he shared his vision:  MISSION:  To capture the qualities of great Bordeaux--balance, intensity and longevity-- in the context of the Chalk Hill Appellation.
I listened to him talk, I tasted his wine. And everything clicked into place.


1 comment:

  1. Hello. I am said sister. And let me put it right up front: I have no beef with somms. In fact, I can say that some of my best friends are somms, though they may not look sommish. I have been writing about and interviewing somms, formerly known as sommeliers, for about 28 years now. In my stint as editor at wine.com, I worked with lotsa somms–Peter Granoff, Peter Marks, Tim Gaiser and others whose names I forget. Several of these people were also Masters of Wine. I am all for wine training and even wine certification. I am passionately in favor of wine education and, mostly, the encouragement of wine appreciation. The world would be a better place if everyone (well, all but a few of us) drank more wine. Learning to understand and appreciate wine teaches us also to savor, to think about understand our senses, to ponder the source of things and the way things are made.
    Still, I did not like the movie Somm.
    I didn't like it because instead of portraying any of the things I just mentioned, it portrayed the pursuit of the title "sommelier" in pretty much purely competitive terms: Who's going to win? It turned the appreciation of wine into a bar exam, a football game, a score-keeping frenzy of gamesmanship. Our culture seems to do this to everything it
    touches. In my view, it's a macho perversion of a humanist pursuit. I get it can be fun to compete. But winning–getting the highest score or the badge or the piece of paper–isn't always the best indicator of knowledge. And certainly not of understanding. THAT'S what I didn't like about the movie. it left out the love.