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Where do Master Sommeliers actually work?



A few days ago, the one and only Hosemaster of Wine caused a dustup in the world of sommeliers with his blog post, “The six people you want to avoid in the wine business.”

One of his “six people to avoid” was “the Master Sommelier Working for a Corporation.” It was a good spoof in the best Hosemaster tradition, of course, and—having been the recipient of numerous Hosemaster barbs over the years–I appreciate his wit and am happy when he mentions me. Hosemaster, AKA Ron Washam, is a satirist, in the great twentieth-century tradition of Mort Sahl, Joseph Heller and even Stephen Colbert. But he is never mean-spirited.

Master Somms, like the rest of us, have to work somewhere. They may not choose to work in a restaurant; they might want different sorts of opportunities, and many go through a series of different jobs as their careers develop. So after you’ve invested all the expense and time of obtaining the coveted M.S., where are you gonna go?

Into the business world, as so many Master Sommeliers have done. As you can see if you browse through the membership page on the Court of Master Sommelier’s website,

some go to work for wineries, big and small. (And, yes, Master Somms work for my company, Jackson Family Wines, which by the way is not corporate, but family-owned.) Others work for distributors or in retail trade. Some consult; some are independent wine educators. The latest Master Somm to rock the business world is Ken Fredrickson, whose investment group just took over Brewer-Clifton.

In other words, Master Somms do all sorts of interesting things.

What’s wrong with a Master Somm working an honest day for honest pay? There are only 140 of them in all of North America, and 219 worldwide. With such limited numbers, these men and women are in high demand. They can essentially work anyplace they want. Actually, in going into the business world, they move beyond rarified sommelier circles into networks of on- and off-premise professionals and consumers—democratizing, as it were, the world of fine wine, which is as it should be.

I don’t think Hosemaster actually believes it’s “sad” for a Master Somm to work for a winery. After all, he’s a former sommelier himself and understands the terroir. But for anyone who does think along those lines, let me quote Hosemaster’s own words, on Charlie Olken’s blog, “[G]ood sommeliers…understand that their only job, their ONLY job, is to help assure that the customer has an enjoyable evening.” No matter where they work or what they do, good sommeliers do exactly that: they help customers enjoy their wine.

  1. Mort Sahl – wow the boomerangs aint gonna get that one – but spot on, Steve

  2. Bob Henry says:

    A day in the life of sommelier Rom Toulon at Meadowood’s The Restaurant, from the Napa Valley Register “On Wine” section (January 2011):

    “The Challenge of Living Up to Michellin’s Lofty [Three Stars] Rating Makes the Job Fun for [Rom] Toulon”


    NEWS FLASH – Napa Valley Register (July 2011):

    “Rom Toulon Leaving Meadowood”


  3. Bob Henry says:

    NEWER NEWS FLASH – LinkedIn:

    Rom Toulon Wine Solutions
    9744 Wilshire Boulevard #311
    Beverly Hills, CA 90212
    July 2011 – January 2013 (1 year 7 months)



    Managing Partner
    24 Hubert Wines
    New York, NY
    March 2013 – Present (2 years 1 month)

    “First Look at 24 Hubert Wines, Rom Toulon’s New Tribeca Shop”


  4. Bob Henry says:


    Quoting from the GrubStreet profile:

    “Rom Toulon went from being the wine director at the Michelin three-stared restaurant at Meadowood in Napa Valley to the managing partner of a 2,500-square-foot wine store in downtown New York. It’s a big career change, but Toulon says it’s something he’s had in mind for a while. “When you’re a sommelier, you always think of owning your own little store with the wines that you believe in and love the most,” he says. For Toulon, that means A FOCUS ON CALIFORNIAN WINES: “After twelve years there, I BELIEVE IN THOSE WINES AS MUCH AS I BELIEVE IN FRENCH WINES. But I’m French, so there will always be a selection of European wines.” Toulon estimates that the average bottle at 24 Hubert Wines costs $30, and more than 100 entry-level bottles are under $25. . . .”


    I just accessed the store’s website, and used the search function to peruse wines from the region of “California” in the country of “United States.”

    How many whites and reds did I find?

    Are you sitting down?


    No, that’s not a typo.

    This one: 2000 vintage Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon (which bottling? unknown) @ $140.


    (Any wines from Oregon? No. Any wines from Washington? No. Any wines from New York state? No.)

    Bill Haydon, I guess Rom changed his business model — aligning with your advice to embrace European wines?

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