Lawyers who pass the Bar have a feeling of accomplishment of having passed one of the toughest exams known. So tough that most test takers fail it the first time they attempt it. There is one exam that makes the Bar exam look like child’s play, the test to become a Master Sommelier.
For more than 40 years the Guild of Master Sommeliers has been testing prospective candidates who want entry into their very exclusive club. The three-part exam is so challenging only 230 individuals worldwide have passed the most grueling and comprehensive exam around. After passing several preliminary tests, applicants are invited to take the Master Sommelier exam; the three parts are theory, service and finally blind tasting. For the blind test the prospects must identify the grape variety as well as the year it was produced, country and region it is from and even which village in certain wines. Each person has three years to pass each part of the Master Sommelier exam.
Each candidate must do plenty of bookwork, hours of work perfecting their service techniques and countless sips of wine to train their noses and palates to learn the nuances of each grape. As a beverage expert sommeliers are also supposed to be fluent in different types of alcohols and mixed drinks as well.
Esquire Network is premiering, “UnCorked,” Tuesday November 10 at 10pm. “Uncorked” follows six New York sommeliers as they prepare to take the grueling Master Sommelier Exam. “Uncorked” is made up of 6 one hour episodes on the Esquire Network. Make sure to tune in and follow all of the drama of the six contestants to reach the historic goal and become a Master Sommelier. Below are the names and a brief bio of the six hopeful participants.
Meet the Somms of UNCORKED:
Jack Mason: Born and raised in College Station, Texas, Jack began working in local restaurants at a young age. Midway through his university studies, and while fulfilling a wine education requirement, Jack’s oenophilia interest was sparked and he decided to continue his education with a degree in Hospitality Management at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. In 2014, Jack joined the opening team of Marta as Wine Director, where he enjoys focusing on wines of Southern Italy and Champagne to complement Chef Nick Anderer’s Roman-influenced menu, and furthering the team’s beverage education. Since opening Marta, he has been named one of Zagat’s and Forbes’ “30 under 30,” and Wine & Spirits, “Best New Sommeliers” of 2015. This will be Jack’s third time taking the exam.
Yannick Benjamin: A visit to Bordeaux at age 13 inspired Yannick to get involved with wine, and he is now a Sommelier at New York’s University Club and lead lecturer for Saturday seminars at Le Du’s Wines in the West Village. In October 2003, a car accident left Yannick paralyzed from the waist down, but that did not deter him from pursuing his passion. He quickly adapted, outfitting his wheelchair with a table that allows him to continue to perform the tasks of a Sommelier. Yannick’s passion is his non-profit organization Wheeling Forwardwhere he is the co-founder and director of development. Yannick is on his final attempt to pass the test.
Jane Lopes: Jane, graduated from the University of Chicago with a love for food, wine, and spirits, and thus began her career in Chicago and then Nashville. Lopes moved to New York in January of 2013 where she worked at Maialino and Ristorante Morini before landing at Eleven Madison Park in October of 2014. During her tenure in New York, Jane passed her Advanced Exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers, receiving the second highest score, was named Wine & Spirits “Best New Sommelier” 2014, and won the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Jeune Somm Nationals 2014. Jane is taking the examination for the first time.
Dana Gaiser: Currently Key Accounts Director for Lauber Imports, Dana first developed a taste for wine in his teens with his parents when they started exploring and buying fine wines. By 18, he was selecting wines for their cellar and developing a palate for his first loves: Burgundy, German Riesling, and Champagne. After a four-year diversion studying Mechanical Engineering at Stanford, he accepted a position as an Assistant Sommelier in 2001, and his passion for wine became a profession. He has since served as a Sommelier and Beverage Director at prestigious restaurants on both coasts. Dana is on his third attempt on the exam.
Josh Nadel: Josh Nadel is a native New Yorker and the Executive Beverage Director of Andrew Carmellini’s restaurants in New York City: The Dutch, Locanda Verde, Bar Primi, Little Park, Joe’s Pub, The Public Theater, and Lafayette. He is a certified Advanced Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers and co-founder of Gothic Wine, a Pinot Noir focused winery in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. Previously, he was a Sommelier at the venerable wine-destination restaurants, Veritas and Cru, in New York City. This will be Josh’s fourth time taking the test.
Morgan Harris: While attending college, Morgan was first exposed to wine — and the energy of the service industry — while working part-time at a 300-seat white-tablecloth Italian restaurant in Boston. Currently, Morgan works as a Sommelier at the Michelin-starred Aureole restaurant in New York’s Times Square. He hopes to spend his career promoting wine as one of the planet’s finest agricultural products and a humanizing force for social good. Morgan is taking the exam for the second time.
UNCORKED is produced by Left/Right with Banks Tarver and Ken Druckerman serving as Executive Producers. The directors of the documentary “Somm,” Jason Wise, and Christina Wise, and Peter Goldwyn also serve as Executive Producers.