2022 Competition

Young Sommeliers Competition

April 23, 2022


Joe Scorgie, Vice-Conseiller Gastronomic
Ashley, Vice Chargée de Presse

The 2022 Young Sommelier Competition started again this year at the Ranchmen’s club on April 9.  We had 7 competitors all vying for six spots in the final.  The prizes they are competing for are:

  • The title of Alberta’s best 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 International Young Sommelier competition in Wiesbaden Germany.

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 7 competitors who were brave enough to compete.

Our 7 competitors this year came from:

  • Ashish Jolly, Chateau Lake Louise
  • Julian Simard-Gilliss, Post Hotel
  • Alexander Conne, Willow Park Wine & Spirits
  • Braeden Shearer. Willow Park Wine & Spirits
  • Arianna Pirhalova, The Guild
  • Delany Lewis, The Guild
  • Matt Bendinelli, Calgary Golf & Country Clu

After the test was written we had 5 competitors begin preparations for the Service & Blind tasting finals on April 23, 2022.

The finalists were:

  • Ashish Jolly
  • Arianna Pirhalova
  • Braeden Schearer
  • Alexander Conne
  • Julian Simard-Gillis
  • Matt Bernidelli

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. 

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 international Young Sommelier test to compete in Wiesbaden Germany. Our winners were:

1st Place Julian Simard-Gillis – Post Hotel
Roger Baekleland Memorial Award, First place Medal, $1000.00 cash and writing the National Young Sommelier exam

2nd Place Ashish Joly – Chateau Lake Louise
Second Place Medal $500.00 cash

3rd Place Braeden Shearer – Willow Park Wines
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 Ashish Jolly a great competitor who will no longer be eligible for our competition in 2023 it was a pleasure to have as a part of the third annual Alberta Young Sommelier competition.

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

Ranchmen’s Club our hosts for the even and the wine wponsors Taittenger and Willow Park Wines.

Our Judges:

  • Susan Bauerfind
  • Howard Bell
  • Toni-Marie Ion-Brown
  • Robert Kulhawy
  • Clint Morissette
  • Peggy Perry
  • Cam Pinkney
  • Linda Robinson
  • Peter Smolarz
  • Llyn Strelau
  • Alita Brown

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