It's a Bird, It's a Plane...It's SUPER SOMM!
Interestingly, it seems celeb status isn’t reserved for just actors and rockstars anymore.
MWS Social Media Maven, Emily Crichton, comments on the new phenomenon in the restaurant world - SUPER SOMMS!I have a confession: I may come off as a cool cucumber, but in the presence of a celebrity (and by "presence" I mean actual and hypothetical), I become completely and arrestingly star struck. Yes, I know they're just people like you and me, but I can't help it...It's like a reflex! Case in point, my friend Keri recently told me that she saw Rob Lowe at a Starbucks in Santa Barbara some five years ago and my heart palpitations were so fierce I think I may have triggered the SF Emergency Alert System (So what if they test the siren every Tues at noon, the exact moment we were chatting... stranger things have happened, right?). Yep, it's bad.
Interestingly, it seems celeb status isn't reserved for just actors and rockstars anymore. Thanks in part to the now ubiquitous foodie-based reality television shows, blogs, book deals, and social media empires, sommeliers are the new A-listers these days. Even Terry Theise, a wine celebrity of a different kind, alluded to it in an article titled What to Say to a Sommelier when he said, "We have a high-priest class in fine dining restaurants. They possess the mysteries, and while nearly all of them are remarkably affable and helpful, one's heart can quake when they approach the table." Hmmm, sound familiar? (cue siren!)
Rest assured, sommeliers are more like you and me than "real" celebrities, but in a our foodie-minded society, a growing number of restaurant insiders have managed to land on top of some pretty high pedestals. Luckily for us diners, they're generally not the snooty old fuddy duddies they were once pegged as back in the day...No sir. In fact, most of today's "Super Somms" are not only savvy as all get up on everything wine, but they're also fairly young, energetic, fiercely passionate, and everlastingly devoted to their profession, spurring on a growing number of *sommelier competitions and mind-blowingly rigorous academic programs. There's even a movie coming out soon called SOMM, a documentary about four sommeliers and their quest to pass the prestigious Master Sommelier Exam (think med school but with wine and likely a lower pass rate). The other common trait of today's pro-oenophiles, aside from their love for wine, is sharing their passion by educating others and giving customers what they want, whether that's an oaky California Chardonnay, rare old red Bordeaux, or just the best bang for the buck. Of course, there are perks other than academic accolades that an A-lister somm enjoys... trips around the world, people sucking up to you, access to wines most people can only dream of tasting etc. Heck, I know a sommelier who receives designer work threads for free (jealous)! However, for the most part, today's sommelier is all about sharing the wealth... er wine.... with the world, not getting their customers to buy the most expensive wine on the list or making recommendations without an explanation.
Side note: If you ever do come across a sommelier that does NOT possess any of these lovely qualities or just hasn't taken the time to find out what you want, don't be afraid to speak up and/or get someone else to help you navigate the wine list. Unfortunately, Super Somms are not every somm... even when they serve real celebrities. I was saddened to see Joan Rivers of all people write "My football snacks were a disaster.... maybe the sommelier was a mistake" on Twitter a couple weeks ago. Rest assured, she was immediately consoled by multiple sympathetic sommeliers who tweeted that they would have gladly come to her rescue had they known she was in danger of a failed pairing (Super Somm = Superhero!) I replied that I wondered if the somm she used was a fake! The reality is, there was probably a miscommunication, an occurrence of wine snob-itis, or an abuse of power. It happens. Hmm, maybe there should be an emergency somm siren for that....
That said, I haven't experienced Rob Lowe-scale heart palpitations upon seeing a notorious sommelier in San Francisco or elsewhere... but it doesn't hurt to keep a pen & paper handy. Who knows what those autographs will be worth in 5 years.
Read more about MWS Social Media Maven, Emily Crichton
*My Wine School's very own "Super Somm", Jessica Bell, will be competing in the Dream Dance Sommelier Showdown Finale on March 20th. Come cheer her onto victory!