A Master Sommelier’s Blushing Moments

This week’s column is a little difficult for me to write. In fact, I debated quite some time before deciding to go forward with it.

But since, in November, I will be teaching the introductory course, and giving the introductory and certificate examinations for the Court of Master Sommeliers on Oahu (please check out master-sommeliers.org for more information or to register for the class), I thought it would be poignant as well as humbling to admit my most embarrassing wine moments. These include faux pas in service as well as accidental moments that could not be helped.


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This light, refreshing wine combines some of the best elements of Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc | Photos from Roberto Viernes

1) The over-generous pour. When I first began serving wine in restaurants, I always was so exuberant to serve a bottle of wine, especially if I really enjoyed the wine personally or had recommended it to my guests. So, I had recommended a bottle of Kistler Chardonnay to someone I was serving who had seven guests. I was so happy that he had selected my recommendation that I failed to realize that he had only ordered one bottle. As I poured my way around the table, I got to the fifth person and I had already poured out the entire bottle. I had to go back to the host and ask if he wanted to purchase another bottle. However, his intention was to use this first bottle of white as a toast for the whole table. He was not too pleased. I had to apologize and ended up having to take each glass of wine and split it among the guests. You can bet I never did that again.

2) Not paying attention. One night, working in Mariposa restaurant, I was serving two glasses of our most expensive “by the glass” red, Groth Cabernet Sauvignon. I had to carry them from the bar on a tray all the way to the other end of the restaurant, which is not a short distance. I had navigated my way just fine until I got to the glass partition that separates the balcony seating from the inside tables.

I had walked that same path hundreds of times without incident, but this time, for some reason, I walked around the partition, turned the opposite direction and hit the wall with the tray, and the two glasses came crashing down right in front of me and spilled all over my suit. Luckily, it did not splash on any of my guests. My face was probably just as red as the wine just then.

3) “You’re wrong.” I was on a panel with a couple of fellow Master Sommeliers going through a vertical tasting of one of California’s greatest estates along with the estate director. As we were speaking about the estate, I claimed that the estate was completely dry-farmed, which I thought gave the wine more character than other estates that irrigate their vineyards. Well, the estate director swiftly corrected me, pointing out that the estate is indeed irrigated. So much for my memory and my visit to the estate. I am wiser for the mistakes and thankfully my Master Sommelier certificate has not been taken away.

Recommendations: 2012 Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina ($14) This is one of those wines that, once you try it, you wonder why you never heard of it before. It hails from Campania and combines some of the best elements of Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc in a compact, light and refreshing glass. NV Ferrari Brut Rose ($35) As you likely know, I am huge Champagne fanatic, and this sparkler from the Veneto is absolutely stellar! It puts many Brut Rose Champagnes to shame. Luxurious, dry, complex and delicious. You owe it to yourself to find this wine.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. Email rviernes@southernwine.com or follow him on Twitter @Pinotpusher.