This past Sunday, Taste of Italy - Houston held The Villa Sandi Houston Sommelier Competition at the Hilton Post Oak in collaboration with the Italian American Chamber of Commerce. The competition was orchestrated to help local sommeliers hone their both their service and test taking skills while showcasing their knowledge of all things wine. Competitors started with a deductive tasting and theory exam and concluded with a table service exam.
The winners were announce on Monday morning at the opening of the Taste of Italy - Houston. Tony Elsinga won the top prize of $750 along with a trip to Italy. Mark Fusco was the first runner up also winning $750 and and Carlos Rosas was the second runner up earning a $500 prize. Each winner also was a gifted a jerobaum bottle of Villa Sandi Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore.
The competition was originally conceived by Jaime Deleon, the Adult Beverage Sales Manager for Kroger's Houston Division and an Advanced Sommelier in the Court of Master Sommeliers. Deleon is extremely active in local sommelier education.
This year's judges were Guy Stout MS, Nathan Prater, Jacob Gragg, Cat Nguyen, Dario Najera, and former winner, Danny Steiner. Observers included Dale Robertson, Osvaldo Pascollini, Omar Pereney, and myself. The competition is incredibly detailed with a high level of knowledge and expertise required to win. Specific details of the competition must remain secret to protect the integrity for future contestants.