MBA Student Wins Wine Tasting Competition

Sonoma State wine business students participate in French-American gala in San Francisco

by Wines & Vines Staff
la soiree wine tasting competition
Sebastian Briare, Rachel Kau Taylor, Shane Ryan and Palmer Emmitt (from left) were the top four finalists in a student wine-tasting competition at La Soiree. The first-place finisher, Emmitt, won a one-week trip to Champagne, France.
San Francisco, Calif.—Palmer Emmitt, a wine business MBA student at Sonoma State University, won the student wine-tasting competition at La Soiree, an event hosted by the French American Chamber of Commerce in San Francisco. His prize for winning is an all-expense-paid trip and one-week stay at a Chateau in the Champagne region of France.

“I’m floating. I still can’t believe that I am actually going to France,” Emmitt said. The second prize winner, Rachel Kau Taylor, won a two-night stay at a winery in Napa along with a $400 cash prize to spend on wine. The third prize winner, Shane Ryan, won a private tour, picnic and a $200 cash prize at a local winery in Sonoma. Sebastian Briare won the fourth prize, a tasting at Lynmar Winery and $100 cash.

In addition to these prizes, all four finalists had the opportunity to be judges for a Champagne-tasting competition at the La Soiree event. All of the winners are students in Sonoma State’s Wine Business Institute.

“It was a no-brainer to involve SSU in this competition,” said Jacques Brix, vice president and director of sales at Wines & Vines, a major sponsor of the event. “Their curriculum works very well and is geared toward real life, and I have always been impressed by the knowledge of SSU students when I go to tasting rooms and other wine events.”

Support from industry suppliers
The idea to have a wine competition came from Brynhild Dumas, the director of the French American Chamber of Commerce, who for years has been putting on La Soiree, an event that celebrates French food and wine. Other sponsors of La Soiree included wine industry suppliers Lafitte Cork & Capsule, Verallia, Amcor and SaverGlass.

The final round included a final tasting of one red American wine and one white French wine. The competitors were only given a few details about the origins of the wine. From there they were asked to taste the wine and determine the varietal, the vintage and the AVA/appellation.

The competition had three stages. During the first stage held at Sonoma State last month, competitors were given a basic written exam with questions about French and American wines, winemaking tactics and regulations. The top eight competitors with the best scores were chosen to move on to the second round. During the second round two weeks later, the competitors performed a blind tasting of one red French wine and one white American wine. From there, four competitors were chosen to move on to the final round at La Soiree in San Francisco.

“This competition is an opportunity to not only win great prizes, but also an opportunity for people to push and test themselves, and there is a lot of value in that,” said Ray Johnson, the director of the Wine Business Institute. “When people test themselves and compete they can reach even greater goals than they thought they might.”

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