Above: Hans Wirsching 2009 Sylvaner is what we drank to get us started. Put enough Master Sommeliers under one roof together and something delicious and geeky is bound to be opened.
Saturday night “happened” to find me at Mark Sayre’s newly renovated bar at Trio in the Four Seasons in downtown Austin, where the board of the Court of Master Sommeliers “happened” to be staying for a Court meeting.
I wasn’t exactly invited to the party that ensued. But some how I ended up in a hotel room where I was the only lay person, so to speak. Having five Master Sommeliers and one Master of Wine offering to pour me wine was — how can I put it? — a unique experience.
It was really interesting to meet MS Geoff Kruth, director of operations for the Guild of Sommeliers, and learn that he speaks Italian fluently and is an unabashed fan of the often forgotten Italian region of Molise. He had recently returned from a visit there and was raving about the venues where stayed and ate. His Italian and his knowledge of Italy are impressive, to say the least.
My conversation with MS Shayn Bjornholm, the court’s examination director, was also intriguing. He had a lot to say about the legacy of the 2012 film Somm (in which he appears) and how it has reshaped awareness of the court and its mission. Dialog was candid and he spoke of his personal investment in making hospitality, rather than wine connoisseurship, the primary focus of the court’s evolving curriculum.
It was also great to catch up with MS Bret Zimmerman, whom I know from my years in New York. He affirmed my conviction that Boulder, Colorado, where he runs the excellent Boulder Wine Merchant, is one of the (not so) new epicenters of North American enogastronomy.
And it was equally rewarding to hear MS (and Austinite) Craig Collins, wine director for the ELM Restaurant Group, talk about plans to develop a new Italian concept restaurant in Austin. He’s on his way to Rome, Chiantishire, and Montalcino for research.
The next morning, when Tracie P gently roused me from bed (after generously letting me sleep in), we couldn’t help but laugh about a comment a good friend and high-profile wine writer made when I told her I was moving to Austin five years ago.
“What will you drink?” she asked, deeply and genuinely concerned for my enogastronomic health.
Looking back now, “What won’t you drink?” would have been more to the point.