Interview with a Master Sommelier, Part 1
Happy Women’s History Month!
Today we celebrate Women’s History Month on TheMorganMemo.net by talking to a female Master Sommelier. Emily Wines is one of only 24 female Master Sommeliers in the world out of 149 Master Sommeliers. According to the Court of Master Sommeliers, “There are 236 professionals worldwide who have recieved the title of Master Sommelier since the first Master Sommelier diploma exam.”
To top it all off I interviewed her on the 10th anniversary of her becoming a Master Sommelier. (I didn’t find this out until after the interview when I checked Instagram.)
Let me tell you how this all came about.
It’s a Tuesday afternoon and already it’s been a long week but as soon as I went to Cooper’s Hawk my day perked up. I went to pick up a bottle of barbera to go with the Giordano’s pizza I got in Orlando. Even though Chicago is far away, Orlando is only a 2 hour drive and when I’m in Orlando I definitely stop by Giordano’s.
Anyhoo! While I was there doing my own mini-tasting of 3 wines (just walking in the door grants you that privilege no membership required) the employee patiently waiting on me in the tasting room just so happened to drop the fact that Emily Wines would be at the restaurant later that day.
She wasn’t talking to me but I couldn’t help but to eavesdrop. I confirmed the fruits of my nosiness when she came back over to help me. Yes, it was shaping up to be a good day because not only was I drinking a few glasses of wine at 2 o’clock in the afternoon on a Tuesday but I was also making sure I cleared the rest of my day to return to meet Emily Wines.
What is my connection to Emily Wines? She follows me on both Instagram accounts. The IG connected to this blog, @TheMorganMemo as well as my personal IG, @JulieMoJulie. I followed her first but that’s not really the point.
I decided to use the loose connection and slide into her DM’s and ask if I could interview her for my blog. She agreed and the rest as they say is history.
We sat down at a table in the Markets at Town Center Jacksonville location of Cooper’s Hawk. As I ramble on about how I got wind of her visit and the fact that I appreciated her for taking the time to talk to me for my new blog, she’s so sweet to listen to me. She listened intently and attentively.
Join me on our conversation about herself and wine in general (And honestly my fangirl moment):
ME: This is for my blog TheMorganMemo.net. I told you that I started it not too long ago so this is the perfect opportunity. I love wine. I just got into wine probably about a year and a half ago. (After checking out my Cooper’s Hawk membership deets I realized my 2 year anniversary landed on 2/27 so it was more than 1 1/2 years.)
ME: What is your title with Cooper’s Hawk?
EMILY: My title is the Vice President of Wine and Beverage Experiences so it’s kind of a broad title. Mostly it means I get to hang out with cool people in our restaurants and drink wine with them.
I do a combination of things. In part I work with learning and development so doing a lot of educational programs for our staff and arming them with all the great stories and information about wine so that they can better talk to our guests about it. Because people really come to us to sort of develop their own wine culture and to learn about wine.
I’m from California where there’s always lots of wineries and everybody in California goes to wineries all the time and so it’s not a novel experience. But in the places where our restaurants are it is really unique and really different so we have to arm our staff even more with information about wine because it might be the first time that somebody has done a wine tasting at a wine bar like this.
I also work on the marketing side doing things like events, I write columns in our newsletter and I do PR-related appearances. I also have been really developing the voice of our wine, thus far we’ve had our wine-maker whose really good at making wine delicious and my job is to talk about it delicious if that makes sense.
So I’ve been almost like a brand ambassador of sorts as I am the voice of Cooper’s Hawk.
ME: So are you a, and I’m probably gonna say this wrong so please correct me because I really want it to be right, a sommelier?
EMILY: Yeah think, “some-all-yay”
ME: “Some-all-yay” I like that
EMILY: It’s easy to remember, so I’m a Master Sommelier
ME: Tell me this, what exactly does that mean. What is a sommelier?
EMILY: Technically all a sommelier is, is a person who works in a restaurant who does wine service in the restaurant. A sommelier is also typically in charge of procuring, writing a wine list in the restaurant and then they work closely with the chef. They understand what the cuisine is and they also are selecting wines that match the food.
In addition they’re helping guests have a good food and wine experience by helping them choose wines that they will like and that also work well with the food. So that’s kind of a loose definition of what a sommelier is.
ME: Would you say that they’re a wine expert?
EMILY: Yes, absolutely because as a sommelier you have to really understand all the wines of the world. There are different levels of certification that you can go through as a sommelier. I’m a Master Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers which is an organization that started in the U.K. and you can look up more about them at mastersommeliers.org.
So there are four different levels of exams, like the pen that I’m wearing is my Master Sommelier pen. I passed that exam in 2008. There are about 250 Master Sommeliers in the world. Of that, I think about 25 of them are women. Unfortunately, it’s too small of a number. There should be more, there will be more.
EMILY: Yeah we’re a really small geeky wine club.
ME: That’s interesting!
EMILY: And Master Sommeliers, most of us don’t necessarily work in restaurants anymore. Most either do corporate level positions like mine or they become winemakers and have their own wineries or they work as importers. They all have pretty high-level wine industry jobs but all of us started out working in restaurants and selling wine and serving wine on the floor.
And that’s actually what I’m doing here tonight. I want to test out Cooper’s Hawk having a position that’s more dedicated just to wine service and sales on the floor. So helping people select wines and doing the wine service where they’re not distracted by having to do the food order and to clear the tables and doing other things. They can really just talk to people and help them choose wine.
ME: Hmmm…that’s interesting. What would you say are the health benefits of wine?
EMILY: Keeps you calmer
ME: I like that
EMILY: It’s a mood booster. There’s a lot of antioxidants in wine especially in red wines so that’s a beneficial thing. There’s something about how it’s a blood thinner so people with high blood pressure it helps with that. I’ve read a few different studies out there.
ME: Is there a good wine versus a bad wine?
EMILY: I always say you are an expert in that you know what you like. If it’s a wine that you like then it’s a good wine and if it’s a wine that you don’t like then it’s not a good wine.
That being said there are lower quality wines and there are wines that have flaws; wines that are not well made versus wines that are really well-crafted and wines that are of superior quality. But it first starts out with what your own tastes are.
What does “superior quality mean”, the role the glass plays in the how the wine tastes and the note that stands out first when you taste a wine. That’s in part 2 of my interview with Master Sommelier Emily Wines.