My Dream Team of Top Tasters
I have always been fascinated by the thought of assembling a group of tasters to take on say, the Harvard or Oxford wine tasting teams. I have read about these super tasting groups that compete on an international taste off.
I have thought about it and have come up with what I think would be a group to challenge the best of the best. Though my years of sitting both the Master of Wine and Master Sommelier exams I have been privileged to meet and taste with what I think are some of the greatest palates in the world. Not surprising my group would be made up with friends from both organizations. Having passed two out of three of the MW exam and passed the MS exam, I think I have a unique perspective. The essays writing , my obvious weak point, in the MW program was my short coming. It was Doug Frost, who I sat the MW exam with my last time, suggested I might do better in the MS program because there were no essay requirements involved. The MS program does have a service exam that is daunting to say the least, but certainly something I could do with my restaurant background. Doug was right.
My fantasy tasting team, in no particular order:
D.C. Flynt MW – D.C. and I studied together and were roommates and shared cost of wines and practiced essay writing together. We have that shared experience and still remain good friends to this day. He is an amazing taster, with a very lucrative brokerage wine business.
Fred Dame MS – I admit that Fred was the first guy I had ever seen blow through a flight of wines and nailing not just the region, sub region and vintage, but sticking his neck out and naming producers. This is not required in either the MW or MS programs. It is about identifying the birth place of the wine and its quality. The fact he was “spot on” with several producer was amazing. Fred is a special person and almost single handedly pushed the American Sommelier to the top of international standards and winning Top Somm honors. It was in my final attempt at the MS that he gave me a tough love tasting. I didn’t do well. Fred has a unique way of mentoring sommeliers…. with only tasting remaining. I passed.
Paul Roberts MS – One of the original study group members of our Houston team, that has now produced three Master Sommelier. He has managed some of the finest wine program in the country including Per Se, Café Annie, French Laundry and Bond Wine Estates. It was Paul who got me back on track with my tasting. I had fallen into a slump and he told me I had forgotten to actually drink the wines and not just analyze them. I had probably one of my worst blind tasting with him in my final approach for the MS exam. I slept on what he told me and tasted again the next day and knocked it over the fence. I never looked back. Thanks brother.
Peter Marks MW – Another of the MW study group I was part of with D.C. Peter won top honors the year he passed as the top score in the MW tasting exam. He is currently working with Constellation wines as wine educator. .
Robert Parker – I have always admired his palate and have had the privilege to drive him around Houston during the release of one of his fist books back in the 1980’s. The man is absolutely right on with his ability to taste and review wines. His real strength is in the wines that don’t score the 90plus, but in finding gems in the non- blockbuster category. Bob is a pleasant man with a lust for good wine and food..
Rajat Parr – Michael Mina’s wine guru. He was one of the people I counted on during my studies, all be it a very Euro centric palate. Every time I went to one of his restaurants, a flight of wines would appear and he would check back with me later. He kept me on my toes and always a great insight into what I needed to move forward at that time. Raj has impeccable taste for both new and old world wines.