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Every year, some of the country’s best sommeliers, Master Sommeliers, Masters of Wine, wine buyers, and other industry experts gather to taste wines from around the world. This year, the annual Sommeliers Choice Awards took place in San Francisco on May 16, 2021. The wines were blind-tasted by the best wine talent out there and were awarded their deserving spot on the winners’ list.
For a wine brand, getting onto a restaurant’s wine list or a retail store’s shelf and retaining their spot there is the most important thing; and is exactly what the Sommeliers Choice Awards aids in. The top 100 scoring wines will be added to the Top 100 On-Premise wine list, creating a benchmark for wine buyers across the country.
The Sommeliers Choice Awards’ judging process is carefully crafted to shine the spotlight on those wine brands that deserve a spot on a restaurant/bar’s wine list, and retail stores.
While the emphasis is on quality, like most wine competitions, the Sommeliers Choice Awards also judges on four other parameters, namely, food pairing ability, typicity, value, and packaging. In short, the competition focuses on those things that drinkers look at before choosing a wine.
Taking the drinker’s likes into consideration, the food pairing ability accounts for how well the wine pairs with different cuisines, dishes, and how versatile it is. The typicity of the wine focuses on how well it represents its origins, while the quality measures the wine by its taste, body, and mouthfeel. Then comes the value, which is awarded based on the price of the wine, with an emphasis on how well the quality matches its price tag. Lastly, the Sommeliers Choice Awards puts an emphasis on the packaging of the wine, keeping in mind that most of the time, a consumer’s first interaction with a bottle is through its packaging and label.
All wines entered are scored out of a 100, and those that are likely to score between 96-100 points are deemed as outstanding, taking home a Double Gold medal. Wines that score between 90-95 receive a Gold Medal, while those that receive anything within 80-89 are given a Silver. Those that are placed within the numbers of 70-79 are awarded a Bronze.
Apart from the staple medals, the Sommeliers Choice Awards also recognizes wines for their excellence in separate categories, and awards these wines with titles like ‘Wine of the Year’, ‘Winery of the Year’, ‘White Wine of the Year by Glass’, ‘Best Package of the Year’ and many more.
The judging panel at the Sommeliers Choice Awards is one that comprises some of the best names in the American wine industry, from establishments such as Crenn Dining Group, The French Laundry, Treasury Wine Estates, Four Seasons, and many more.
These judges come with years of experience and a special love for the trade. They’re also heavily involved in the day-to-day decision-making for their establishments when it comes to wine. The 2021 judging panel boasted 20 Master Sommeliers coming together under one roof to taste the best wines there are.
This year’s judging panel included:
Brett Davis MS - Master Sommelier and Sales and Education Manager at E. & J. Gallo Winery
Maximilian Kast MS - Master Sommelier and Director of Education at Broadbent Selections Inc
Laura Williamson MS, CWE - Master Sommelier, Owner of Unlock Your Palate Inc and Partner at RingIT Inc
Mia Van De Water MS - Master Sommelier, New York
Gillian Ballance MS DWS - Master Sommelier and Education Manager at Treasury Wine Estates
Jim Bube MS - Master Sommelier and General Manager of Mercantile Dining and Provision in Denver, CO
Will Costello MS - Master Sommelier
Ira Harmon MS - Master Sommelier and Fine Wine Speacialist at Vin Sauvage, Las Vegas, NV
Morgan Harris MS - Master Sommelier
David Keck MS - Master Sommelier and Wine Director at VT Wine Shepherd, VT
Kyungmoon Kim MS - Master Sommelier and Founder KMS Imports
Rachel Lowe - Director of Beverage for Levy Restaurants, Chicago, IL
Katelyn Peil - Beverage Director at Heavy Restaurant Group, Kirkland, Washington
Koen Masschelein - Director Of Food And Beverage at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Yountville, CA
Cami Lehmann - Purchasing, Wine Programs, and Marketing at Maggiano’s Little Italy, Carrollton, TX
Jon Mcdaniel - Head of Wine Education at Scout & Cellar, Chicago, IL
Tonya Pitts - Award-Winning Sommelier, San Francisco, CA
Mikayla Avedisian-cohen - Wine Director and General Manager at Crenn Dining Group, Alameda, CA
Natalie Matthews - Sommelier at The Village Pub
Hunter Hammett - Award-Winning Sommelier, Wine Judge, and Wine Educator
Bret Patterson - Certified Sommelier and Wine Professional
Marc R. Kauffman - Noted Celebrity Sommelier, CS, CSW
Sean Widger - Wine Director at Alexanders Steakhouse, San Francisco
Michael Mighetto Hoefling - Service Manager & Sommelier at Spruce in San Francisco
Wes Box - Winemaker at All points West
Thomas Brenner - Head Sommelier at Chez TJ, Mountain View, CA
Jacob Brown - Head Sommelier at Lazy Bear, San Francisco
Paul Carayas - Wine Director at Chez TJ, San Mateo, CA
Au Chung - Sommelier
Chappy Cottrell - Award-Winning Wine Director, Certified Sommelier and Wine Podcast Host
Joshua Decolongon - Sommelier and Co-founder at Endless West, San Francisco, CA
Serena Harkey - Director of Wine at Left Bank Brasseries and LB Steak
Sahar Gharai - Wine Buyer, and Sommelier at La Dolce Vita Wine Lounge
Brandon Heist - General Manager and Sommelier at Credo, San Francisco
David Hunter - Wine Director at Tavern on Kruse, Lake Oswego, OR
Brent Jones - Cellar Sommelier at The French Laundry, Napa
Luke Kenning - Wine Director at Farallon Restaurant SF
Beki Miller - Sommelier and Production Manager for Master the World
Vincent Morrow MS - Master Sommelier
Tiffany Tobey - General Manager and Sommelier for Thirty Eight & Vine, Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex
Stay tuned for the 2021 results, to be announced soon.