Sommelier school in Denver?

Hi,
I'd like to become a certified sommelier.

I'm 53, have a masters degree in computer science, and have been working as a software engineer for the past 25 years. I have no experience in the food/bev industry, except for a part-time job in high school, busing tables and washing dishes at a steak house. Over the past decade I've attended numerous wine tastings, visited wineries, and in general, developed a deep appreciation and love of wine (not to mention single malts and exotic rums).

It's time for a career move and I think I'd like to be a sommelier in the next phase of my life. So where to study?

I live in Denver, CO. Does anyone have any experience with, or knowledge of, these two learning centers in Denver. Furthermore, are the certifications they deliver recognized in the industry?
-International Wine Guild
-International Sommelier Guild

I've been doing some internet research and it looks to me like there is really no industry wide certification. True? Looks to me like every school has it's own certification with titles like: Wine Master, Certified Sommelier, and Master Sommmelier.

Any recommendations for other schools?

Back in 2006, in a related post on this forum, Gloria Frazee stated that the best known certification programs were offered by the following 3 schools. Still true?
-The Court of Master Sommeliers: does perodically offer courses in Colorado. However, their introductory course says one should have a minumum of three years experience in the industry.
-The Sommelier Society of America: courses offered in NYC
-American Sommelier: courses offered in NYC.

Last question: Am I kidding myself or is this a real possibility? Would anyone hire a 50 year old newly certified sommelier who has no industry experience?

On the topic of industry experience, what about experience from the other side of the table? As a guy who has no kids and makes a comfortable living as as computer geek, I eat out a lot! My girfriend and I enjoy fine dining and fine wine every week. So I know what good resturant service looks like.

Thanks.
Original Post
Can't see a lot of value in picking up any certification at this point.

If I were an owner, I'd want to talk to you about wine and see you in action. I wouldn't care at all about any certification you might or might not have.

If you've never dealt with some self-entitled prick trying to boost his ego at your expense, or some indifferent diners who couldn't care less about your latest passion, or some whiners who aren't satisfied with anything, then I'd suggest getting some experience. Doesn't mean do 5 years as a busboy, but spend six months or so really working on the floor to see if you can really stand it.

You've been doing things that bring you some sense of self-respect. Waiting on Joe Public isn't likely to provide the same ego gratification.

Work somewhere, ask a lot of questions, and then work somewhere else and ask a lot of questions. Taste everything you can and learn a lot about some particular region. Then give it a shot. Good luck.
There are certifications available that are not service-driven, like the CSW from the Society of Wine Educators, for example. I second the idea of getting into the restaurant to see if you even like the feel. There's much more that goes into being a restaurant Sommelier then just knowing about wine. In many restaurants, they work partly as a manager as well, and dealing with customers is an underappreciated art. It would be really good to get more of that experience under your belt, if you're serious about this.

The Court of Master Sommeliers is the school you named that I have experience with. I have taken their intro exam, and I'd say the knowledge needed to pass is not related to working in a restaurant. You can learn that info mostly anywhere. The 2nd exam, or the Certified exam, does rely heavily on service, so you would need a good deal of experience to pass that one and all subsequent exams through that school.

I plan on taking the Certified Somm next year. I've only been out of restaurants for one year, and I'm shaking in my boots over the service portion. I've asked my restaurant manager friends to let me moonlight as a Somm a few nights a week in preparation, as well as getting wino friends together for dinner parties to make me pair/pour/service the table.

To sum it up, you're going to have a hard time becoming a certified Sommelier without any industry experience. The service element is what separates Sommeliers from other types of wine professionals.
quote:
Originally posted by GregT:
Work somewhere, ask a lot of questions, and then work somewhere else and ask a lot of questions. Taste everything you can and learn a lot about some particular region. Then give it a shot. Good luck.


'somewhere' seems a bit generic. Do you mean somewhere that has a wine program or where pairing wine with food goes beyond 'white with fish and chicken, red with beef', or somewhere as basic as Olive Garden would be fine?
quote:
Originally posted by finz:
quote:
Originally posted by GregT:
Work somewhere, ask a lot of questions, and then work somewhere else and ask a lot of questions. Taste everything you can and learn a lot about some particular region. Then give it a shot. Good luck.


'somewhere' seems a bit generic. Do you mean somewhere that has a wine program or where pairing wine with food goes beyond 'white with fish and chicken, red with beef', or somewhere as basic as Olive Garden would be fine?


I don't think Olive Garden hires Sommeliers. I think they hire "mixologists."
Though many would advice you to first take a sommelier class and then have the Certified Sommelier exam or term paper, it still depends on the employer if he will hire you base on what you studied or how you will respond in any questions regarding wine and eventually seeing you in action. I think it would be better to work somewhere like in a wine plantation even if there's only small pay and ask questions, and taste everything.

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