Awesomm and Taste of Italy “Best Sommelier in Houston” competition applications now open

Disclosure: Jeremy Parzen, manager and owner of Houston Wine Almanac, is a media consultant for the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce.

On February 24-25, AweSomm will be hosting the first-ever “Best Sommelier in Houston” competition in association with the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce Texas and its 5th annual Taste of Italy Houston festival and trade show.

To apply, please use the form below.

  • 20 Houston-based sommeliers will be invited to compete for the title of “Best Sommelier in Houston.”
  • Candidates must currently be working in Houston and must be “pre-Advanced” (in their Court of Master Sommeliers candidacy).
  • All competitors will be required to take a theory, service, and blind tasting exam.
  • Once the theory exam is completed, the 10 candidates with the top scores will be seated for the service and blind tasting exams.
  • Testing will take place at the Hilton Post Oak on Sunday, February 24. The winner and 2 runners up will be announced at the Taste of Italy festival Monday, February 25.
  • Master Sommelier Guy Stout (Southern-Glazers), Advanced Sommelier Brandon Kerne (Pappas Bros.), Advanced Sommelier James Watkins (Paul Hobbs Winery), and Cat Nguyen (Houston Sommelier Association founder) will serve as judges.
  • The winner will receive a $1,200 scholarship to apply to future studies; 2 runners up will receive $300 scholarships; all 10 finalists will be eligible for Italy-America Chamber sponsored trips to Italian wine country.

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Steven McDonald, whose MS title was “invalidated” by Court in cheating scandal, regains pin

Beloved Houston sommelier Steven McDonald became a Master Sommelier for the second time last week.

That’s Steven (above), wine director for one of the city’s leading steakhouses, with his wife Adria in St. Louis where he retook the tasting exam after being stripped of his title in the wake of a cheating scandal (photo via Steven’s Facebook).

Steven wasn’t involved with the malfeasance in any way. But he was one of 23 erstwhile Master Sommeliers whose newly earned titles were “invalidated” by the Court of Master Sommeliers more than a month after the group’s coveted pins had been conferred.

Houston Chronicle wine writer Dale Robertson reported the story here.

And for more background, information on steps the Court has taken to rectify the situation, and updates on some of the candidates who didn’t pass the “reset” (as its called), see this excellent reporting by Seven Fifty Daily contributor Courtney Schiessl.

Julie Dalton wins Periwinkle Foundation Iron Sommelier competition

Julie Dalton of Mastro’s Steakhouse is the winner of the 2018 Periwinkle Foundation Iron Sommelier competition.

From Sandra Crittenden’s blog Wine Thoughts:

Iron Sommelier 2018 was held last night at The Houstonian Hotel, Club, and Spa. Iron Sommelier is Houston’s most important competition for local beverage gurus with some of the city’s best sommeliers competing for the title. There was great excitement in the room when Julie Dalton of Mastro’s was named this year’s Iron Sommelier.

Dalton is the first female to ever win the title. Her theme of “Drink Gneiss Schist” was a clever play on words with all of the wines she chose coming from grapes sourced from metamorphic soil types. “The wines that have made me take pause or cry or have a come to Jesus moment have all been wines from metamorphic soils,” she shared. She explained that gneiss and schist are both metamorphoses of shale and slate created from pressure and heat. “I just find the wines to be so expressive, there is electricity on the palate.” She said that she was not anticipating to win as a newcomer to the city, ” I was honored to even be invited to be a participant and I chose something really geeky, I wasn’t expecting that at all.”

Click here to continue reading…

Image via the Iron Somm Facebook.

HSA hosts Donatella Cinelli Colombini

To join the Houston Sommelier Association mailing list, please send Cat an email at info@houstonsommeliers.com.

THIS WEEK @ HSA…

We are getting giddy over Italy!! We are super excited to welcome that Violante Gardini, daughter of the “Lady of Brunello”, Donatella Cinelli Colombini.

The roots of the Colombini family in Tuscany go back to 1592, and their tradition of excellence in winemaking began in 1790 with the founding of the Fattoria dei Barbi. It was in the 1960’s that Francesca Cinelli Colombini, also known as the “Lady of Brunello” made a name for herself as the stalwart leader of Barbi’s top wines. When the next generation came into the spotlight, her son Stefano took over the family estate, while Francesca placed her daughter Donatella in charge of farming the neighboring property, Azienda de Casato.

Donatella officially inherited the Casato estate from her mother in 1998. If her brother Stefano at Fattoria dei Barbi represents tradition and continuity, Donatella Cinelli Colombini is all about new beginnings. Softly spoken but extremely determined lady, Donatella has embarked on an endless succession of innovative projects. One of her first missions was to create a winery exclusively staffed by women (there’s a story there). She is also completely replanting her vineyards on the hills north of the village. She ferments with strains of indigenous yeasts, selected on the estate. Her latest innovation is to move over to conical cement fermenting vats – cutting-edge stuff for the region.

CAN.NOT.WAIT. See you Wednesday!

See y’all Wednesday at The Art of Cellaring located at 2301 Portsmouth St. Street parking is available as well as in the lot across the street. Please plan to be on time as the doors here will lock at 10:30AM to reduce interruption and distraction out of respect for our speakers. Remember, EARLY IS ON TIME!! Professional attire is encouraged… please.

Also… please keep in mind that we are all doing this on a volunteer basis (no one is being paid for this) Please stick around to help clean up… Polishing glasses and resetting the space. It takes a village.. 😄

This week at Houston Sommelier Association

To join the Houston Sommelier Association mailing list, please send Cat an email at info@houstonsommeliers.com.

THIS WEEK @ HSA…

We welcome Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) who will be hosting an introduction to sake by Sake Samurai Timothy Sullivan and a presentation of different sakes from across Japan. Come join us for an educational morning tasting and learning the qualities of Japanese sake.

TASTE – a variety of sakes such as Junmai, Honjozou, Junmai daigingo, Sparkling, Nigori, flavored such as Yuzu, etc. will be available to taste and order.

LEARN – from a Sake Expert, Timothy Sullivan, Sake Samurai *about what is sake, the difference in sakes from regions across Japan, how to taste & serve sake, and pairing sake with non-Japanese food.

A suggested pairing such as cheese will be served.

Timothy is an internationally recognized authority on sake; in 2007, he was awarded by the Japanese Sake Brewer’s Association for his work to promote sake outside of Japan. He is the founder of Urban Sake.

See y’all Wednesday at The Art of Cellaring located at 2301 Portsmouth St. Street parking is available as well as in the lot across the street. Please plan to be on time as the doors here will lock at 10:30AM to reduce interruption and distraction out of respect for our speakers. Remember, EARLY IS ON TIME!! Professional attire is encouraged… please.

Also… please keep in mind that we are all doing this on a volunteer basis (no one is being paid for this) Please stick around to help clean up… Polishing glasses and resetting the space. It takes a village.. 😄

UPCOMING EVENTS @ HSA

November 7, 2018
Violate Gardini from Donatella Cinelli Colombini

Dale Robertson (Chronicle) reports on “invalidation” of Steven McDonald’s Master Sommelier title

Steven McDonald (above) became Houston’s fifth Master Sommelier last month after successfully completing the blind tasting portion of the exam in St. Louis.

This week, the Court of Master Sommeliers “invalidated” his title and those of 22 others who had also passed the exam because it discovered that someone cheated during the tasting portion.

Dale Roberton tells the story in a post published yesterday by the Houston Chronicle, including quotes from Steven and some of Houston’s current Master Sommeliers.

The whole Houston wine community is rooting for Steven, one of its most beloved and talented members.