One of the toughest exams in the world stands as the gatekeeper to winning the right to attach “Master Sommelier” to your name (the bar exam for lawyers is a snooze by comparison). And it’s the subject of a series of documentaries directed by a Cleveland native.
The premiere for the third episode of SOMM, directed by Cleveland’s own Jason Wise about four people agonizing over the exam, was held in September at Clos Du Val winery in Napa. Very fitting: its Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was part of the 1976 Judgment in Paris, the blind tasting that forever put Napa wines on the map. And the winery’s reserve cab was the top winner in a 1986 re-tasting of the event’s reds at the French Culinary Institute in New York. The premiere also gave viewers a first peek at Clos Du Val’s new tasting room, where floor-to-ceiling windows showcase glorious views of the vineyards.
SOMM 3’s plot is different. The episode mirrors the Paris 1976 tasting, as three top wine experts meet in Paris for a blind tasting of Pinot Noir, says Jason Wise of Forgotten Man Films. The trio: Steven Spurrier, the UK wine merchant behind the 1976 tasting (now a wine writer and winemaker); Fred Dame, one of the first Americans to become a Master Sommelier, ex- cellarmaster of Sardine Factory restaurant in Monterey, a Wine Spectator Grand Award winner; and Jancis Robinson, a highly respected UK wine writer. The Pinots tasted were chosen as best in show after a blind tasting by sommeliers from around the world at Verve Wine in New York.
Spoiler alert: We’re not divulging the names of those Pinots. Let’s just say one from Santa Barbara County, made by ex-sommelier Rajat Parr, ex-wine director at Michael Mina Group, makes a very strong showing. You’ll just have to see SOMM 3, which opened Oct. 19 in Napa and is headed to other theaters nationwide soon, or on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.
“We’ve worked so hard to keep that close to the vest,” says Wise, adding, “I moved from Cleveland at age 22 to go to film school in Southern California. I still miss it terribly. Go Browns!” Wise man.
Photo courtesy SOMM 3.