I applied to participate in the 2nd annual Ruinart Champagne Challenge. The Guild of Sommeliers and Ruinart Champagne were hosting the event in five US cities. They were choosing 100 wine professionals nationwide with 20 contestants at each competition. The locations were in New York, Las Vegas, Chicago, San Francisco, and Houston. Each city's winner would win a trip to Champagne, France and a $1000 scholarship with the Guild of Sommeliers and the runners-up would each receive a magnum of Ruinart Blancs de Blancs.
My application was accepted and I was invited to compete in the Houston challenge held at Brennan's-Houston restaurant. Participants arrived at 11:00 AM to compete in a blind tasting of sparkling wines. After 40 minutes, contestants turned in their tasting notes and were engaged in a short lecture from Frederic Panaiotis, Ruinart Cellars' Master, on the "Physics behind the Fizz" with a question and answer period. We then adjourned to another room where we were treated to Ruinart's new aroma kit featuring some of the main aromas found in Champagne. A buffet lunch followed.
The competitors had various backgrounds in the wine industry- restaurant sommeliers, wine educators, winery employees, distributor and wine shop sales people. The competion was intense and the winners were standouts.
Winner - Eric Hastings, Eddie V's Prime Seafood
Runner-up 1 - Bill Elsey, Duchman Family Winery
Runner-up 2 - Benjamin Roberts, Masraffs Restaurant