It’s at this point where I would like to declare disparity in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. How is it that Jegging has a more intricate definition than Sommelier? Jeggings were barely around long enough in 2015 to garner meme status; whereas Sommeliers have been pouring wine since 1977. In Merriam-Webster’s defense, the word Sommelier comes from the French language and directly translates to Wine Waitress. Although the actual trade encompasses so much more than just waitressing.
Let it be known that despite Merriam-Webster, Sommelier is less a job than it is a prestigious degree. To obtain the title, one must undergo a series of trainings and exams. It’s a wine journey where one’s knowledge of wine and spirits continually builds upon itself.
We all go through this journey. I myself began my wine journey at 21 when I was finally and legally allowed to purchase magnum bottles of Barefoot White Zin from 7/11 on my way home from work. By 22 I could drink select non-pink wines, and by 23 consume red under duress at family dinner parties. Now at 25 I can proudly appreciate the difference between Pinot Noir and Cabernet.
It’s this wine journey that provides the inspiration for many a hashtag including, but not limited to:
#WineWednesday #WineNight #Wineo #Wineoclock #WineLife and #Winestagram.
But preparing for your #SommelierLife involves less glamourous moments than those posted to social media; such as 9 AM tastings and considerable amounts of sobriety. Should you actually swallow all the wine you’re tasting, you’d (unfortunately) never be coherent enough to decipher the taste and origin. In fact, in order to pass with flying colors, you have to maintain discipline and abstain from indulgence.
The Master Sommelier Diploma Exam ranks as THE HARDEST exam in the world – harder than Mensa, Gate and LNAT. It involves training in theory, taste and service. The test not only requires a strong skill set in identification, but in history, essay writing, deductive strategy and decanting.
And a Sommelier’s acquired knowledge doesn’t just cover wine, as Master Sommeliers uphold expertise on champagne, spirits, beer, sake and cigars as well.
Let it also be known that, despite being a feminine noun, only 19% of Sommeliers in the country are women. And Malibu Beach Inn’s Laurie Sutton is one.
From the very beginning Laurie knew exactly what she was interested in – history, culture and the human body. Three seemingly unrelated topics, and yet she pursued her degree from The University of Texas in Classical Civilization and Kinesiology.
Upon graduating Laurie ventured to Los Angeles and started working at Shutters on the Beach as a waitress (but only after dabbling in production as one does when they first come to LA). She’d waitressed before, but the prominent standards of Shutters taught her what it meant to work in hospitality.
Luxury hotels don’t just provide service, they create experiences and memories for their patrons. They invest in their guests.
While she was waitressing, Master Sommelier Peter Neptune came to give the food and beverage staff a lesson in wine. He combined teachings of history, culture, politics, even a little bit of health. All of a sudden Laurie recognized a career that combined what she loved – history, learning and the human body.
To embark upon a Master Sommelier wine journey, there are a series of courses involved: first there is the Introductory Course and Exam, the Deductive Tasting Method Workshop, the Certified Sommelier Examination, the Advanced Sommelier Course and Examination, and finally the Master Sommelier Diploma Examination.
Malibu Beach Inn’s Sommelier, Laurie, passed the Advanced Sommelier Examination in the top of her class; providing her with preemptive access to Master Sommelier experiences.
Now that she has her prestigious degree the real fun starts. Due to her clout and expertise, Laurie receives invitations to esteemed tasting groups. She is part of a global assemblage of wine connoisseurs who travel all over to taste and experience their study.
Wonderfully enough, Los Angeles maintains a kind and inclusive Sommelier community. Laurie has local friends who join her to taste experimental cuisine and come up with corresponding wine pairings; as well as mentors who have taken her under their wing to teach her all that they know.
The pivotal moment of her 10 year wine journey was when she tasted a 1998 bottle of Chablis Raveneau and appreciated it in a way her novice self never could – appreciation being a joy all its own.
Now she finds herself at Malibu Beach Inn, where she can apply her Sommelier knowledge to a whole new magnitude. It’s here where Laurie finally gets to create the wine list of her dreams; she helps design cocktails with her own wine, Honey Bubbles; she works with the Chef de Cuisine to come up with suggested pairings for every course; and she successfully combines her extensive knowledge with the intimate luxury of the hotel to create personalized wine pairings for patrons – all of which enable Laurie to share her passion, her studies, and her joy with everyone who comes to Carbon Beach Club.
WRITTEN BY JORDAN MOROSCO