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Behold: Steve Heimoff, M.S.!!!!!



I’m not big on blowing my own horn, but hey, if you don’t beat your own bush and shine a light on your own accomplishments, then who will? So, with these awkwardly mixed metaphors, I’m proud to announce that I have just been awarded the prestigious title of Master Sommelier!

I didn’t reveal to anyone that I was actually “going for it” because I feared it would be too embarrassing if I didn’t win. You know how it is with some people—they tell you how successful they are and how everybody else is a loser, and then, when they themselves lose, they have to eat some serious crow. Well, I’ve never been a fan of crow, serious or otherwise. But guess what, you losers and ugly people: I WON! Hahahaha. Or is it Bwahahaha?

It was hard going. First I had to qualify for the WSA, then the WSAT, then the WSIP and the WSIP-level II, then the WSOP and ASAP and FSOP, and after that the Beta-san Phlibit and the notorious Wackomole-46. The latter was particularly grueling as it included living for four months in Ughistan where I was sommelier in a restaurant frequented by the Russian mafia and recovering phlebotomists. Then when I passed my Beta-san Phlibit the Court of Master Sommeliers made me take the Service part of the exam standing on my head for 11 months while reciting Michael Broadbent’s Great Vintage Wine Book chapter and verse backwards and being molested by ardent butterflies. That was hard, no less because they wouldn’t let me bathe, and every six weeks Fred Dame came in to tickle me. If you think being tickled by Fred Dame is pure gastronomic pleasure then you’ve never been on a force-fed diet of wormwood and pflugets, which is all I had to eat.

Fortunately I survived the Service part and then it was onto Blind Tusting. This isn’t the same as Blind Tasting, which I passed easily, especially after paying off the examiner. Blind Tusting is hard, because you don’t know what you’re Tusting, and you don’t even really know the definition of Tusting, so it’s quite difficult to do it correctly. All I knew was that every once in a while somebody would yell at me “Bad Tust!” and then lights would flash and horrible sounds erupted and the hounds began to howl. But then I would do something and somebody would say “Good Tust” and I felt all, like, calm and secure, and then Fred Dame would come in and massage my feet. I got my Introductory Tuster certification, then from there went on to Certified Tuster, Advanced Tuster, Advanced Tuster II, Semi-Professional Advanced Tuster levels III, IV and V, and Super-Duper Nirvanic Tuster, which took me 15 years but I did it, gosh darn it, proving again that I Am Special.

But don’t think for a minute the Blind Tust test was the end, because it wasn’t! Far from it, my friends, far from it! There was the Evocation Schmevocation, the Allurid Vowels Competition and the Wine and Psychosis Pairing, where they lock you in a tea party ward for six years and you have to match the wackadoodles with wines from Bulgaria, Inkadinkadooland and West Bumfuck, and if you get it wrong, they turn off the power, take your clothes off and leave you at the tender mercies of….well, let’s just say Hieronymous Bosch would have painted it if he weren’t dead. Which is pretty much how I felt when the Court told me I was now qualified for the finals: The Feiroreticals.

OMG how I studied for that!!! Rainfall charts for the last thousand years in Rwanda, the pH of the soils in Brooklyn, the number of wigs Donald Trump owns, the typos in One Wine Dude’s posts…they even made me memorize every glass of wine Leslie Sbrocco ever described as “cheerful.” You enjoy watching old episodes of Check Please! ? Be my guest! Fortunately, I was told by an oldtimer that the Court no longer requires applicants to pass the Gary Vaynerchuk test, which apparently involves anti-emetics…I don’t know, and I don’t think I want to know.

On April 19, 2016, at 11:06 a.m. on a Friday morning, as Gus was dreaming (his little paws were twitching), I got the phone call from Fred Dame himself. “You’ve passed!”

Finally, after all this time! I thought, “Now, Fred will invite me to the Court,” which I imagined as a magical mystical castle, like in Disneyland, with Master Sommeliers flying like monkeys in the Wizard of Oz, and fountains of vintage Petrus, and servants (failed and embittered M.W. candidates) carrying platters of charcuterie and chocolate truffles. Like the Playboy Mansion, the Court in my fervid fantasies was a heavenly place of indulgence, hedonism and endless sexual pleasure.

It was disillusioning enough to find out that there is no actual “Court,” just a post office box in Napa. But even more disconcerting has been my discovery that job offers are not exactly pouring down from Heaven. I had thought that, now that I can add those sweet letters M.S. after my name, I could name my price and work for whomever I wanted. No such luck. It turns out that, with some 17,000 Master Somms in the U.S. and thousands more expected to be churned out of the pipeline in coming months, competition is intense. So I’ve been forced to take such work as is available. I can now tell you that, starting on Monday, I will be the Senior Intern at the Hosemaster’s blog. It’s not what I foresaw myself doing at my age…the money isn’t what I had hoped…I’m working out of a dumpster…but Washam is a kind man and supposedly not a mean boss. It’s a start.

  1. Bill Stephenson says:

    Midway through the third paragraph I thought I was reading Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – among other works).

    That was a fun read!

  2. Steve,
    Congrats on the m.s. If you don’t get any job offers in the coming weeks I have a small task for you, though I’m pretty sure this is beneath someone with your credentials. Nevertheless I must ask. My wife, boys (13 and 16) and I will be on vacation in San Fran, Sonoma and Monterey from June 24-July 2. I would greatly appreciate some guidance on wineries to visit, restaurants to dine (like the Fremont Diner) and perhaps you could guide us on a tour at JFW. If it helps, I am the one who purchased both of your books before you were so famous.
    Seriously, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  3. Congratulations on earning the MS. It is a huge accomplishment.
    I enjoyed the humor.

  4. redmond barry says:

    The real test lies ahead: Can you hang with Lo Hai Qu? If Hosemaster’s previous treatment of M.S’s is any clue, beware of answered prayers.

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