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blog swirl & savor

The Somm's Pick, an Engaging New Program at Swirl

Beth Ribblett

Tasting wine @ Ken Wright's Tasting Room in Oregon
American wine consumption has been on the rise now for 20 consecutive years, in fact we've been setting records recently and the market is predicted to continue to grow.  And as Americans are getting more and more into wine, earning the title of certified sommelier has become a hot career path.  People are signing up for sommelier programs in droves and schedules fill up almost immediately when new training and certification dates are released.  Movies, national and international "top somm" competitions and the media have brought an intense, almost cult-like focus on this once somewhat stuffy and obscure wine and service career.

While there are many excellent wine education programs out there, there is no doubt that the title of "sommelier" is the most recognized by the American public.  In terms of certification organizations it is the Court of Master Sommeliers that tends draw the most attention with its multi tiered system where different levels of certification are obtained through rigorous study, exams and blind tasting evaluations. To earn the title of sommelier students must first pass an introductory level exam to then be eligible to take the Certified Sommelier exam which entails written theory, demonstration of service as defined by the Court and blind tastings.  This is just the tip of the iceberg as there are then 2 more levels in the Advanced and the coveted title of Master Sommelier.
 
Blind tasting is an important component of all CMS certifications
The post Katrina exploding New Orleans dining scene has brought with it a demand for wine professionals and there are probably more certified somms than ever before in the Crescent City. Helping to meet that demand, each year Commander's Palace hosts the Court of Master Sommeliers as a site for their workshops and exams, giving New Orleans service industry easy access to the program.  Dan Davis, sommelier and wine director at Commander's has been a driving force behind getting more New Orleanians educated through CMS and hopes to offer two certification dates in 2015.
 
At Swirl we have always tried to make it fun to learn about wine and I think our new program, The Somm's Pick, will be one of our best yet.  Through our new tasting and education series at Swirl, we will put you in direct contact with some of New Orleans' finest sommeliers.  During their monthly presentations you'll have the opportunity to taste with them and discover wines they have chosen as some of the most intriguing in the market. Plus you'll be able to purchase the wines at a discount should you decided to participate in our Somm's Pick Buyers Club.

Our guest sommeliers will include Dan Davis of Commander's Palace, Liz Dowty of Square Root,  Michelle Gueydan from Vino Solutions/Neat Wines, John Mitchell of the Windsor Court, our own Kimi Kivirana and more.  We'll meet at the shop once a month to taste their selections and pick their brains on the who, what, when and whys of the bottles they've chosen.  And if you have an interest in becoming a sommelier this will be the perfect time to learn what is involved with obtaining the title from professionals who have made it through different levels of the program.

So here's how it works.  The first Monday of the month my weekly newsletter will  introduce a featured sommelier and their picks of the month.  The next evening, the first Tuesday of the month, is The Somm's Pick Tasting.  Our featured sommelier will be in the house from 6-8pm pouring their 2 wines which can be sparkling, red, white, rose' - sometimes it may be 2 reds, sometimes mixed, who knows?  It's their call!  The wines will be priced somewhere between $19.99 and $39.99.  Plus we'll have a third selection from the shop that we'll pour blind to give you a little insight into how to evaluate an unidentified wine.  It is $10 to attend the event, that will include tasting the 3 wines plus a free Reidel crytstal wine glass that is yours to keep.  The wines will be available for sale starting that evening and will be featured in the store through the month.

Then there's the Somm's Pick Buyers Club.  If you decide to join, each month you will be billed for the 2 wines with a 10% discount for being part of the club.  You can attend the tasting for half price and receive your free wine glass.  If you choose to purchase more of the wines anytime throughout the month you will continue to receive the 10% discount.  You'll also receive exclusive offers and discounts for any other events associated with the program.  The best part is, there's no long term commitment or obligation - after the first 3 months you can cancel at any time!

Dan Davis, Commanders Palace - Photo by Sara Essex Bradley
Intrigued?  Our first tasting is on Tuesday, February 3rd at 6pm and our featured sommelier is Dan Davis of Commander's Palace.  I'll have more details in next week's email, but mark the date, this should be one exciting kick off!