Finalists of Best USA Sommelier competition

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MEET OUR FINALISTS JUNE 13-15, 2022 HERMANN,MO



Best USA Sommelier Association (BUSA), a not-for-profit created by top industry professionals to support and promote the role of the sommelier in the United States, will host their first finals in June 13-15 in Hermann, MO. Seven finalists have advanced to compete for the title of “Best Sommelier USA.” The seven finalists excelled in two rigorous qualifying rounds, and were the top performers among 22 semi-finalists, a pool of highly skilled sommeliers who also met the global criteria of fluency in a second language. The following talented sommeliers have earned the distinction of competing for Best USA Sommelier: • David Bérubé (Restaurant Daniel, New York, NY) • Eduardo Bolaños (The Wine House, Los Angeles, CA) • Dustin Chabert (Chicago, IL) • Max Goldberg (Maybourne Hotel, Beverly Hills, CA) • Mark Guillaudeu (Commis, Oakland, CA) • Kaysie Rogers (Flagler Steakhouse, Palm Beach, FL)


´ ´ DAVID BERUBE H

ailing from Rivière-du-Loup in Québec, David Bérubé’s days at as a teen banquet runner led him to enroll in a Hospitality Management Diploma in Québec City, working his way through school at a Relais Châteaux hotel. The Fairmont Mont-Tremblant ski resort was his next destination at which time he began studies at the École Hôtelière des Laurenties. Yet it was a win at a wine competition that really stoked his excitement for wine. At 19 years old he began opening 1st growth Bordeaux for the elite in Dubai at Atmosphere, the world’s tallest restaurant. His time in Dubai also included a position as a floor sommelier for the pre-opening team of the Restaurant Jean-Georges Dubai during which he completed his Certified Sommelier and WSET Level 3. Upon his return to North America, he became Head Sommelier at Bar Boulud Boston in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and after several years, passed his Advanced Sommelier. Today David continues to work for 2-Michelin star Chef Daniel Boulud in Manhattan as assistant head sommelier at DANIEL.


Who have been your important mentors? When I lived in Boston, Michael Meagher MS was extremely generous with his time and allowed me to bring my tasting skills to the next level and passed my Advanced. In NYC, Yannick Benjamin is my go-to guy for sure. His view on the overall business of wine, his approach to tasting, his powerful impacts on our industry and his friendship are precious to me. What are some of your favorite places to drink and dine in New York City? Marta, Air’s Champagne Parlor, The Modern Is there a wine or a wine and food pairing that has helped you get through the past two years? During the pandemic, my wife cooked some delicious traditional Spanish dishes including a slow cooked pork shoulder with which we paired a 1996 Dame de Montrose, it was like they always knew each other. It was so delicious and I am still craving it!!! This is the first national competition run in conjunction with ASI (Association de la Sommelerie Internationale), in many years. A win could lead to international competition experience. What does representing the USA on the world stage mean to you? This sounds extremely exciting for me as I grew up watching the top sommeliers of Canada competing at the highest level and watched all the Gerard Basset’s videos I could find. I now have my own chance to represent the country where I have been learning and growing over the past 6 years and this motivates me to the highest level. How have you been preparing for the service portion of the exam? I am lucky to work in a fantastic fine dining and busy restaurant where I get to practice very high standards of service every day and be asked to adapt myself to all sorts of situations, keeping me on my toes and making me better every day. I also train with other Master Sommeliers and Mentors who are experienced in competition. What is your comfort zone – theory, service or tasting? Even though service is the part I enjoy the most, theory is my strength at the moment. What drink is your drink of choice after a challenging day of service? Either a chilled Modelo Especial or a Tequila Blanco on the rocks with lime, depending how challenging a service day I have! Where would you like to make wine? Champagne or Chablis.


˜ EDUARDO BOLANOS E

duardo Bolaños began his wine career at the Spago Beverly Hills where he assisted the Wine Director in creating a cellar worthy of the Wine Spectator “Grand Award” in 2010. Eduardo went on to work for top restaurants in Los Angeles such as Pizzeria Mozza and Chi Spacca. Subsequently taking on the role of sommelier at three-star Michelin restaurants Arzak and Akelare in Spain, he also worked a harvest in the region. In 2014, Eduardo became an Advanced Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers and he is currently sommelier at Antico Nuovo in Los Angeles as well as a retail buyer for Wine House L.A.


How did you get your start in the wine industry/as a sommelier? I worked as a server at Spago in Beverly Hills and we had a new wine director come in, I offered to help in the cellar because I wanted to learn a bit more about wine. He said that he couldn’t pay me in salary, but made up for it in wine education. Basically he gave me a different bottle everyday and he had me give him a full, detailed report the following day on the producer, the grape, the region. That’s how I got my start in wine. What do you think are the biggest obstacles to becoming a sommelier today? The biggest obstacle I’m seeing now is the lack of availability of classic wines for upand-coming sommeliers. Bordeaux, Burgundy and other classic regions have become quite pricey and access to them and classic producers we read about is challenging. What might you be doing today if you didn’t become a sommelier? I was an EMT for a good while and would probably have tried to continue in the medical field. What has been the most challenging aspect of the competition to date? For me personally it has been finding time to study for everything; working full-time during our current pandemic situation has made life more difficult then usual. How have you been preparing for the service portion of the exam? I’ve been watching a lot of the YouTube videos from past ASI competitions. What is your comfort zone – theory, service or tasting? Tasting is my comfort zone. Just say what you smell and taste and go from there. What is your corkscrew of choice? Pulltaps! So easy to use and inexpensive. What drink is your drink of choice after a challenging day of service? Usually a mezcal cocktail of some kind. Where would you like to make wine? I would love to make wine somewhere near the ocean, like Provence or Liguria.


DUSTIN CHABERT D

ustin Chabert is a wine professional based in the Chicago area whose sommelier and restaurant stints include Next, Swift & Sons, Nico Osteria, The Publican, Momotaro, Henri and the famed Spiaggia. He is the current Best USA Sommelier Competition champion, earning his victory in 2019.


How did you get your start in the wine industry? I represent the fifth generation of my family working in the restaurant industry. My father is a chef, and I grew up working in kitchens and restaurants. After working many years in the front of house, I was gifted a taste of 1949 Esmonin Ruchottes-Chambertin by a guest, and it blew my mind. After that moment, I wanted to know everything I could about wine. Who have been your important mentors? Fernando Beteta and Chris Tanghe have offered me a great deal of guidance throughout the years in terms of honing my blind tasting and theory skills. How have your wine preferences changed over the years? When I first started to drink wine, I tended to prefer bold expressions of whatever it was that I was enjoying—not necessarily dense or high alcohol, but very “in your face.” Now, I tend to look for things that are more complex and nuanced. This is the first national competition run in conjunction with ASI (Association de la Sommelerie Internationale), in many years. A win could lead to international competition experience. What does representing the USA on the world stage mean to you? So this question is interesting, as I represented the USA in the previous competition in Antwerp in 2019. That being said, I look forward to having the opportunity to represent the USA again on the global stage. It was such a thrill the last time around and I feel like I have a deeper knowledge and understanding of how to be more successful with another chance. What has been the most challenging aspect of the competition to date? It’s been difficult trying to master the nuance and vocabulary of blind tasting in another language. What is your comfort zone – theory, service or tasting? Theory is definitely my strongest suit. What is your corkscrew of choice? Coutale Sommelier Series Innovation.


MAX GOLDBERG F

rom his start at Redondo Beach, Max Goldberg went on to study at the CIA in Napa Valley and currently runs the wine program at the Maybourne Hotel in Beverly Hills. Entre-temps, Max worked for Jean-Georges at the Waldorf Astoria followed by the West Hollywood Edition at which time he passed his Advanced Sommelier Exam. When Covid hit in 2020, Max took the opportunity to work his first harvest at Seabold Cellars in Monterey.


How did you get your start in the wine industry/as a sommelier? I first became interested in wine while studying Culinary Arts at the CIA in Hyde Park, NY, where part of the curriculum is a 3-week wine course – I’ve been hooked ever since. I spent the remainder of my time at CIA focusing on the beverage industry and thanks to the tremendous professors at the school (especially Christie Dufault), I was able to make a career out of it. Who have been your important mentors? My first job out of school was as a food runner at Restaurant Gary Danko. While there, I had the pleasure of learning from some absolute rockstars in the Wine World: Jeremiah Morehouse, Chris Gaither, Freddy Foot, and Vince Morrow. Recently I’ve had the pleasure of working harvest with Chris Miller, who’s been incredibly helpful as well. Is there a wine or a wine and food pairing that has helped you get through the past two years? Hunter Valley Sémillon – Incredibly easy to just enjoy without having to think too much about it. This is the first national competition run in conjunction with ASI (Association de la Sommelerie Internationale), in many years. A win could lead to international competition experience. What does representing the USA on the world stage mean to you? It’s a very humbling experience for me personally. The United States has some of the best sommeliers in the world and to even be competing here in the National Finals is a tremendous accomplishment for everyone involved. What has been the most challenging aspect of the competition to date? Changing my approach on tasting from the CMS grid to the ASI method has been one of the more challenging aspects thus far... largely due to the fact that it’s in a foreign language. What is your comfort zone – theory, service or tasting? Theory for sure! It’s the one aspect of the competition that I feel is in my control and can adequately prepare for. What is your corkscrew of choice? Code 38 – Tried and true!


MARK GUILLAUDEAU F

rom a start at Glen’s Garden Market in Washington D.C where he assisted in the local, sustainable/organic beverage program after completing a Master’s program in Buddhist Studies, Mark Guillaudeau had a need to continue learning. He went on to finish his WSET Level 3 and then took on the role of sommelier at Curious Grape in Shirlington,Virginia followed by roles with Richard Sandoval and Robert Wiedemaier's restaurant groups. Mark then packed up and headed to California where he earned his Advanced Sommelier certification and went on to be named one of Wine & Spirits Magazine's Best New Sommeliers of 2019. Other challenges include runnning the beverage program at Roka Akor in the Financial District and the two Michelin-starred Commis in the Piedmont Neighborhood of Oakland (since 2017), whose bar was named “Best Bar in the East Bay" by SF Magazine and one of Esquire’s “Best Bars in America” in 2019. Currently Mark’s priority remains mentoring students and preparing for the rigorous Master of Wine and Master Sommelier exams in 2022.


How did you get your start in the wine industry as a sommelier? I got my early start homebrewing mead in Virginia, but my professional start came years later at a local grocery concept called Glen’s Garden Market in Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. It was an opening that pulled together people from all walks of life passionate about sustainability - but the opening beverage guy snuck out the back door at 9:45pm on opening night. I invested heavily in my own education in those early years (with key help from my first boss in the business, Mrs. Danielle Vogel), and I got a very good return on those investments for many years. How has the pandemic changed your job description? I’ve done just about everything during the pandemic - virtual tastings, education, to-go cocktail programs and converted our bar space into a retail shop. I am glad to be back in service, doing what I love. What do you think are the biggest obstacles to becoming a sommelier today? The world of wine is broader than ever before at exactly the moment the iconic wines are further out of reach than ever before. At the same time there is a broad populist movement away from credentialling and the deep, broad knowledge it entails. For example, I have friends who work now in the natural wine sphere exclusively: their unfamiliarity with what I consider the iconic wines of the world is as great as mine with what they consider the great wines of the world. The consensus over a common core of knowledge is fracturing in front of our eyes - which makes getting started trickier than ever. How have your wine preferences changed over the years? I’ve found my palate has shifted more by geography than anything else: as I grow older I increasingly prefer wines of savour, mostly from Eastern Europe: Georgia, Hungary, Slovakia, and my favorite: Austria. I’ve found as well its easier to make sense of wine styles by tracking medieval governance than it does modern nation (i.e. that the wines of the old Venetian republic share more in common than the wines of the old Kingdom of Aragón, even though some of those territories are part of the same countries today. To that point: I absolutely adore the wines of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Republic of Venice - whatever side of whichever border they’re from today. What might you be doing today if you didn’t become a sommelier? I’d originally set out to be a Humanities professor (History of Religions with a focus on Tibetan Buddhism) - and my interim had been tech vis-à-vis web development. The plan had always been to pivot back to either if hospitality hadn’t served my needs but it’s been almost a decade now and I haven’t looked back.


What wines on your list are you most excited about recommending right now? Two great underappreciated passions of mine are Rioja and Grüner Veltliner - both, ideally, aged. As a style I find so few people have been exposed to them - especially the textures and flavors grüner picks up as it develops. To that end probably the 1935 Bodegas Palacios Reserva Especial and the 2001 Emmerich Knoll Ried Kreutles grüner. Other than wine, what makes you tick? Language. From the time I was a kid I always wanted to understand what other people were saying in the grocery store. I’ve always gotten a kick out of learning new languages and for a while was thinking about pursuing a career in linguistics. It’s tough to beat the opportunities to travel when you’re a translator and educator - outside of wine, of course! This is the first national competition run in conjunction with ASI (Association de la Sommelerie Internationale), in many years. A win could lead to international competition experience. What does representing the USA on the world stage mean to you? The US sommelier community has been largely focused on the CMS for the last decade since the Somm documentaries. The community is looking for greater diversity and I think it important we look outward as well. Participating in the ASI gives us the chance to learn with the international sommelier community. Some of the most rewarding parts of my trips abroad have been hearing from sommeliers in Brazil or Moscow or Toronto what the trade is like in their corner of the world. The rising tide lifts all boats - now is our chance to be a part of it. What have you learned from watching previous competitions? The biggest difference that I’ve had to take away from old competitions is the tasting format. I’ve pursued both the MW and MS paths - but the ASI format including service, glassware, etc. is a different format still - and under MS-like time constraints. I really love the way that the ASI method incorporates true practical components into its tasting - decanted or not, glassware, temperature - the real nitty gritty of wine service rather than the intellectual effort of the CMS deductive method or the economic and trade focus of the MW. What is your comfort zone – theory, service or tasting? I have always felt there is nothing worse that can be done to me in examination or competition that I have not endured worse in Michelin service. In the MW program I have been blinded on just about everything: sparkling English rosé, Muscat de Setúbal, amphora-fermented Chilean Cinsault, and even Niagara Chardonnay. When I sat the Master Sommelier exam I was disappointed by the caliber of question and narrowness of scope. By contrast, the ASI has felt like the exam I was studying for all this time. I guess that means I am most comfortable with theory?


In what language (other than your mother tongue) would you choose to compete how would you prepare to do so? For now I will be competing in French. Language prep for me is (I think?) pretty typical for somebody developing their language skills outside of school: daily vocabulary flashcards, two tutors, watching French TV, and using wine and culinary-focused vocabulary books. I’ve also found a series called “News in Slow French” that offers contemporary news in at perhaps 70% speed to aid comprehension. What advice would you give to others that may want to compete in the future? Take the plunge! Embrace the freedom to study anything and everything! Shuck off that angel on your shoulder that tells you you’re digging too deep and go for true, genuine mastery of your field! Oh, and this: you’re not a wine professional, you’re not a beverage professional, you’re a fermentation professional - study everything from tea to tobacco, coffee to kombucha, sake to cider to Scotch - and be sure you don’t forget your cheeses too! The sommelier was the purveyor of the king’s provisions - not just his cellar. Remember that! What is your corkscrew of choice? The Coutale Sommelier Series ‘Innovation.’ They’re sturdy, aren’t expensive, last about 2 years under full time work and strain, aren’t serrated and work like a charm. What drink is your drink of choice after a challenging day of service? In what I hope is my most clichéd of answers: an ounce of Fernet from the freezer, sipped neat. Where would you like to make wine? Before the land prices skyrocket more than they already have, I’d settle down in the Wachau Valley in Austria. The most savoury and chiseled riesling in the world and a host of others - my favorite grüner included - to play with. And those views can hardly be beaten. Red, white, pink, cloudy or fizzy? Judging by my recycling bin, white and fizzy in about equal measure.


KAYSIE ROGERS A

former pastry chef, Kaysie Rogers developed an interest in wine from her off-piste excursions while traveling the globe delivering master classes and competing on Food Network shows. Following her thirst for adventure, she returned to Seattle where she passed the CMS Intro, Certified and Advanced Exams along with the WSET Diploma in quick succession. Certifications were followed by work as a sommelier at Wild Ginger and at The Metropolitan Grill in Seattle. Currently, Kaysie works as the Beverage Director for Flagler Steakhouse at The Breakers Palm Beach, FL.


How did you get your start in the wine industry/as a sommelier? I was working as a pastry chef and cake artist and was lucky enough to get to travel around the world teaching classes. On days off, hosts would often take me to local wine regions as a fun day off excursion. I started to develop more of an interest in wine the more I tasted. I remember specifically being in Hunter Valley at Tyrrell’s and getting to taste a vertical of back vintages of Vat 1. It blew my mind! I had no idea wines could evolve or change like that. I then started pursuing more wine education through both the CMS and WSET and in 2018 began working as a sommelier at Wild Ginger in Seattle. How has the pandemic changed your job description? Aside from having to move across the country for a job, not much! I live in Florida now, and it has stayed very open during the pandemic, so I have a very normal somm job. The biggest change for me has been trying to keep wine in stock! How have your wine preferences changed over the years? I started liking big bold reds, Syrah/Shiraz, blends, and Cabernets. I enjoyed flavors that slapped me upside the head - mostly I think because I was excited to actually recognize what I was tasting! I’m much more of a Bubbles, Pinot Noir and Riesling girl these days. I found that I’m excited by subtleties and nuances. But at the end of the day, I love wine and am an equal opportunity consumer! Other than wine, what makes you tick? I love history! I will get lost in rabbit holes studying everything from the War of the Roses to the revolution of food production during the Industrial Revolution. Luckily, it ties into my love of wine. What has been the most challenging aspect of the competition to date? The language aspect! These are all incredibly difficult exams in your native tongue, doing them in a second language is daunting! Being in the states, I’m never really required to work in a language other than English. I have a few Québecois guests that indulge me and let me do their wine service in French, but it is far, far from second nature. In what language (other than your mother tongue) would you choose to compete? How would you prepare to do so? I will be competing in French. I’ve gotten a French tutor to try and shake the rust off, but it will be very difficult since it is a skill I haven’t used in a long time. Duo-Lingo is also my best friend these days! Maybe I should move to France for a bit before the competition :) What is your comfort zone – theory, service or tasting? Theory! I’m a giant nerd and love studying. I’m also much better at reading French than speaking it. What is your corkscrew of choice? I have a Code 38 that was gifted to me after I passed my Advanced Exam, I never thought I could love a corkscrew so much! I am saving to get a second one. What drink is your drink of choice after a challenging day of service? A gin martini with a twist... easy and delicious! It definitely takes the edge off a rough service. What grape do you most identify with and why? I’ve always said if I were a grape I would be Syrah - I can be outgoing and over-the-top or reserved, subtle, and a bit spicy depending on the situation. Red, white, pink, cloudy or fizzy? All the above??? Ok, twist my arm - fizzy!


VISION To execute world-class sommelier competitions, supporting United States based sommeliers with unparalleled preparation, enabling our sommeliers to compete with the world’s best at the highest level.

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