The Perks Of Being A Master Sommelier

When I was a child, I often wondered what it would be like to be a pilot. I thought it would be really cool to be able to fly a plane and all the perks like free travel, and not having to wait in line at security (although long security lines are a recent phenomenon). We all love perks. I admit that I don’t get free travel, but I do have some perks being a Master Sommelier that are not bad.

Some think that one of my perks is that I get free wine all the time. I do get wine, but they are not exactly “free.” Wineries do send me wine from time to time to either review or for my opinion. They are from all over the world and in different price points, but generally I don’t get samples of three-digit-value bottles. Some are actually (pardon my English) plonk! Others can be gems, but most of the time they are somewhere in between. Getting wine to drink that I don’t have to pay for is a pretty good deal, though.

One of my favorite perks is that people love to share their treasures with me. They know that I appreciate it not only for its taste and flavor, but also for its value and, in many cases, rarity. I have recounted many of those wonderful experiences here in “Vino Sense.” In fact, I would not have been able to drink the greatest wines in the world were it not for the generosity of those who have shared them with me. I am forever grateful.

Those wines are a laundry list of the best: Romanee Conti, Coche-Dury, Clos du Mesnil, Lafite, Petrus, Yquem, Screaming Eagle, Harlan Estate, Conterno, Gaja, Grange, etc. And I must tell you that those experiences really keep me going. They fan my fire and passion for great wine.

Another perk that I really love is seeing the evolution of students not only in the Court of Master Sommelier classes and examinations, but also those who I teach in trainings in restaurants around the state. I truly enjoy seeing neophytes’ eyes light up when they taste something they really like or they finally understand the true meaning of “terroir,” or when they find a food and wine pairing that is greater than the sum of its parts.

I get jazzed to see great talent in Hawaii excel, such as Patrick Okubo, who became a master just a couple of years ago, and Sean Isono, assistant sommelier at Halekulani Hotel who passed the Advanced Sommelier Examination just last week. I would never have those moments if I were not in this position.

And I do get treated very well in restaurants. They know me, and I am lucky to call many restaurateurs in Hawaii friends.

Once I was having lunch with my family. As we finished our meal, the manager of the restaurant came to the table and informed me that they were offering the meal complimentary. I was completely surprised and even humbled. My mother was flabbergasted. We were all very thankful, as I am very thankful to be a Master Sommelier.

Recommendations: 2011 Jermann Pinot Grigio ($25) This is not any ordinary or thin PG. This is richer, bolder and tastier than most examples. It has this almost poached peach and pear cobbler thing going on in it that makes it really stand out. 2011 Domaine Gramenon “La Sagesse” ($30) This is amazing Grenache from 80-year-old vines! It is redolent of plum preserves, cooked strawberry and fresh blueberries – perfectly ripe and just bursting with flavor and energy. (Only five cases imported to the state.)

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. Email or follow him on Twitter @Pinotpusher.