Ten Young Sommeliers Compete In Napa For National “BEST” Award

Ten Young Sommeliers, all of whom are no more than 35 years old, will compete for the National “Best Young Sommelier 2012” award presented by The Société Mondiale du Vin USA, the wine section of the international food and wine organization, Confrérié de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs.   The competition will take place on Saturday, May 5, at the Sociéte’s annual conference being held at Silverado Resort in Napa.
The ten sommeliers won regional competitions to qualify for the National event.  The National winner will represent the U.S. in the international contest in Cape Town, South Africa, on September 22.  Last year’s international winner was from the Bay Area, Sommelier Ian Cauble, 31, Wine Director at The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, California. Both the national and international competitions are based on a format designed by the Court of Master Sommeliers.
Northern California boasts two national finalists this year:  Garth Hodgdon, a sommelier at French Laundry in Yountville, and Robert P. Conroy, a sommelier at Benu in San Francisco.  The other eight include:  Shaun C. Wright, Gainesville, Florida, Dragonfly Sushi & Sake Company; Timothy Baldwin, Broadmoor Hotel, Colorado Springs; Jacob Gragg, Aria Restaurant, Atlanta; Joshua Orr, Vineagogo, LLC, San Diego; Sean Akio Osono, Halekulani, Honolulu; Christopher P. Bates, Hotel Fauchere, Milford, PA; Michael Scherzberg, Gram & Dun, Kansas City, MO; and Alexander LaPratt, db Bistro Moderne, New York City.
The group will be tested on Theory, Practical Skills, and Blind Tasting by nine distinguished judges:  Rajat Parr, Wine Director, The Mina Group; Sur Lucero, Beverage Director and Head Sommelier, Oenotri, Napa; Michael Meagher, sommelier and regional manager, Treasury Wine Estates; Geoff Labitzke, MW, Vice President of Young’s Market; Tim Hanni, MW, wine consultant; Ian Cauble; and, from the Chaîne des Rotisseurs, wine collector Tom Black, Vice Culinaire for the U.S. organization; Clay Cockerell of the Dallas Chaîne Chapter and owner, with his wife, Brenda, of Cockerell Family Wine Estates in Calistoga, CA; and wine collector Bill Salomon, Chambellan Provincial of the Chaîne’s Southwest Region.
Also on the weekend’s agenda is a gala banquet honoring not only the “Best Young Sommelier of 2012” but also four members of the iconic Mondavi wine families:  Margrit Mondavi, widow of the late, legendary Robert Mondavi, Peter Mondavi, Sr., patriarch of Charles Krug, Tim Mondavi, creator of Conundrum Winery, and Rob Mondavi, son of Michael Mondavi, founder of Michael Mondavi Family Estate.
The Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, which has 22,000 members worldwide, has chapters throughout the United States and around the globe.  Two important programs of the Chaîne are the Young Sommeliers competition and a Young Chefs competition to encourage younger members of the hospitality industry.   Additional information about the Chaîne des Rotisseurs is available at its U.S. website, www.chaineus.org, and international website, www.chainedesrotisseurs.com.