One annual event that I always look forward to is the Somms Under Fire Finals competition from Keeper Collection. This food and wine pairing pits sommeliers against each other in a fast paced evening of delectable bites and sips. At stake is an internship in Burgundy, France and $2K travel grant, to help the winner on his journey toward a higher level of wine knowledge, sponsored by Becky Wasserman & Co. It’s a fun way to spend an evening, with outstanding small bites paired with just the right complementary wine, and a crowd encouraging their chosen sommelier through tweets, applause and sometimes loudly voiced support. This is one wine pairing event that veers away from the old fashioned, staid, and somber and into vibrant discourse.
Full disclosure: I have been in the past, and will be this year, a guest of Keeper Collection at Somms Under Fire. I fully anticipate to enjoy every bit of the night.
Competition will be stiff between Advanced Sommelier Luke Boland of Del Posto in New York, Advanced Sommelier Blake Leja of Signature Luxury Wine & Spirits in Chicago, and Certified Sommelier Ryan Robinson of Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Boise Idaho.
The sommeliers have worked their way through a series of challenges to the finals, which features a choice of wines from around the world to pair with food from Chef Drew Curran (Arro, Easy Tiger, Italic). Master Sommelier June Rodil (McGuire Moorman Hospitality Group) will emcee the event, and as always, attendees can expect her warmth and wit to shine. Trivia: Rodil was the 2012 Somms Under Fire winner.
Somms Under Fire kickstarts the festivities in the late afternoon with a Wine Tasting & Education presentation by Napa Valley Vintners is VIP only, and is well worth the additional fee. Learn from some of the industry’s best, as Rosemary Cakebread, Michael Eddy, and Chris Hall lead a lively forum on Napa Valley wines. Napa Valley Vintners is sponsoring a prize package of an educational trip to Napa Valley, accomodations, airfare and meals for the Fan Favorite sommelier. It’s not a leap to conclude that the trip will have copious opportunities to sample Napa wine.
The evening opens with a Chopin Vodka Cocktail Challenge Competition (included in both General Admission and VIP tickets) for which contestants create a cocktail showcasing their personality and the artisinal spirit. From there, it’s on to the ballroom as the sommeliers go for the gold, and patrons sample the foods for the pairings, and enjoy a taste of many delightful wines. I always find my “new favorite bottle” at this competition, thanks to the efforts of Keeper Collection.
The audience chooses the fan favorite, but the sommeliers will be under intense scrutiny from the judges, one of which has sparked a #LambruscoRevolution in Austin. Master Sommelier Craig Collins (The Elm Group) has been spreading the gospel of lightly effervescent vino, and I’ve seen evidence of his influence appear on the wine menu of restaurants all over the city. Accompanying Collins are Peju Napa Valley winemaker Sara Fowler, Burgundy winemaker Nicolas Rossignol, and the always charming bon vivant, Peter Wasserman,
Somms Under Fire will be held at the AT&T Conference Center on Sunday, January 24, 2016. Both VIP ($130)and General Admission ($65) tickets are available. This competition encourages social media postings throughout the event. Keeper Collection may be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The event’s hashtag is #SommsUF. Keeper Collection holds a weekly wine education forum on Twitter on Wednesdays, 12N-1pm EST that can be found using the hashtag #SommChat.