2019 Competition

Young Sommeliers Competition

April 13, 2019

Joe Scorgie, Vice-Conseiller Gastronomic

The 2019 Young Sommelier Competition started again this year at the Ranchmen’s club on March 30.  We had 12 competitors all vying for six spots in the final.  The prizes they are competing for are:

  • The title of Alberta’s Bets young Sommelier
  • The Roger Baekeland memorial Award to be displayed in their place of work for the year
  • 1st, 2nd and 3rd place medals
  • $1750.00 of prize money
  • A chance to move on to the National Young Sommelier competition in Toronto.

They would reach the finals by being one of the top six scorers on the written exam.  The test is not easy, in fact it is extremely difficult and requires a large breadth of wine, viticulture, and spirits knowledge.  Congratulations to our twelve competitors who were brave enough to compete.

Our 12 competitors this year came from:

Teatro – Taylor Simpson
Chateau Lake Louise – Kevin Milne
Post Hotel – Julian Simard-Gilliss

Willow Park Wine & Spirits:
Devin McKay
Alexander Conne
Samantha Nelmes

Foreign Concept – Adam Perry
Blink – Danielle Neufeld
The Ranchmen’s Club – Jarod Ross
The Italian Farm House – Jade Edwards
Royale – Rowan Belamy
WSET – Chelicia Petersen

After the test was written we had six competitors begin preparations for the Service & Blind tasting finals on April 13th 2019, which also happened to be World Chaine Day.  The finalists were:

Taylor Simpson
Kevin Milne
Danielle Neufeld
Devin McKay
Alexander Conne
Julian Simard-Gillis

The final stage of the competition consists of two parts, a service test with a menu pairing component and a blind tasting test of four wines.  We had the great pleasure and good fortune to be back at the Ranchmen’s Club, this time in the extraordinary A.E. Cross dining room for our service test.

The champagne service test is meant to allow each competitor to display flawless sparkling wine service in a dining room setting.  This test challenges each competitor master all of the fine details relating not only to pouring but opening and presenting Champagne to restaurant guests.  This year’s Champagne service test was sponsored by Taittenger Champagne much to the delight of the judges.

The Menu Pairing allows the competitors to let not just their wine knowledge shine but also their knowledge of food and cheese.  The competitors are given a menu designed by the competition committee and a dining scenario for which they are asked to pair with specific wines.  In this segment we really see the competitors’ ability to understand client needs and occasions blended with smart wine choices that would result in repeat business for their establishment.  Being a Sommelier is not just about wine expertise it is also about the business of customer service and sales.

Red wine service and decanting is performed in the traditional method using a wine cradle, gudiron and candle.  This is something not seen in Calgary very often so it requires the competitors to practice on their own prior to the competition.   Not only is the competitor meant to flawlessly execute the decanting and service of the red wine tableside they are also subjected to multiple questions about the wine from the table guests, this can be one of the most challenging parts of the competition.

Finally the competitors move on to the Blind tasting test.  Each competitor is given 15 minutes to blind taste 4 wines using the Court of Master Sommeliers deductive tasting method.  Each competitor is then scored by our judging panel led by Peter Smolarz of Willow Park Wines.  This year we are pleased to announce that one competitor, Alex Conne actually Identified one of the wines perfectly – the 2015 Joseph Drouhin Clos Des Mouche Blanc – well done Alex!  Thanks to our wine Sponsor Willow Park Wines!

In the end we tallied up the scores from all four parts of our competition to determine the winner – written test, champagne service test, menu pairing test, red wine decanting & service test and blind tasting test.

Our winners this year were competing for $1750.00 in prize money and a chance to write the national Young Sommelier test to compete in Toronto. Our winners were:

1st Place Kevin Milne – Chateau Lake Louise
Roger Baekleland Memorial Award, First place Medal, $1000.00 cash and writing the National Young Sommelier exam

2nd Place Taylor Simpson – Teatro
Second Place Medal $500.00 cash

3rd Place Julian Simard-Gillis Post Hotel
Third Place Medal $250.00 cash

Congratulations to all of the competitors and we hope to see you all back next year.  A special farewell to Danielle Neufeld and Devin McKay, two great competitors who will no longer be eligible for our competition in 2020 you were both a pleasure to have as a part of the inaugural and second annual Alberta Young Sommelier competition.

Finally a huge debt of thanks is owed to our Sponsors and Judges:

Thanks to the Ranchmen’s Club our hosts for the event

Thanks to our Wine Sponsors Taittenger and Willow Park Wines

Thanks to our Judges:

Susan Bauerfind
Juergen Bahr
Jodi Scarlett
Max Labhardt
Linda Robinson
Seamus Dooley
Peter Smolarz
Liana Robrecht
Carol Buchanan
Una Larson
Satwant Lota

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