Sunday, April 12, 2009

Best Sommelier in America 2009

Last Monday I had the privilege of being a (cigar) judge at the American Sommelier Association's Best Sommelier in America 2009 competition in NYC. It was an extraordinary and significant experience on many levels and for several reasons.

First, I had the opportunity to spend the day with my host, who I affectionately like to call 'America's Tobacconist', Mr. Michael Herklots, the GM of Davidoff of Geneva stores in NYC, as well as another great tobacconist, Mr. David Kitchens, GM of Holt's. Just spending time with two extraordinary tobacconists would be enough to make it an educational and rewarding experience. But, the most educational and rewarding part was watching and learning from America's Best Sommeliers. The four finalists exhibited extraordinary professionalism, knowledge, and panache while performing for the wine and cigar judges. In particular, it was inspirational to see the world's greatest professionals competing to be the best. Their focus, intensity, and commitment was impressive, to say the least.

Ultimately, the fact that there is a cigar part to the Best Sommelier in America competition is probably the most significant point to make. The American Sommelier Association and their President, Andrew Bell, honor our industry by including cigars in the competition. By doing so, they acknowledge and reinforce the fact that cigars are an organoeleptic delicacy worthy of study and enjoyment, just like great wine and food. This simple fact should not be lost on tobacconists and consumers. Unlike the wine industry, tobacconists are swimming upstream against a torrent of taxation and repressive legislation every day. As we move forward, our survival will depend on our ability to build and project our credibility, which is why TU Certifies Tobacconists. There is much to learn from the wine industry and sommeliers.

Best Sommelier in America 2009
Michael Engelmann
Gary Danko, San Francisco

First Runner Up
Fernando Beteta, M.S.
NoMi, Chicago, IL

Second Runner Up
Inez Ribustello
On the Square, Tarboro, NC

Third Runner Up
Hristo Zizovski
Restaurant Jean Georges, NYC, NY

.... but, of course, they are all winners in my book...

1 comment:

Deidre said...

Happy to see a woman in the mix. Go Inez!