The SOMM Journal

April / May 2016

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Page 46 of 108

arose, and before she turned them loose, emphasized the importance of accuracy in adding up to 100 milliliters. "There's always a team that has a final blend of 110 percent or 90 percent," and while everyone laughed, her predictions would prove prescient by the end. The Finale Full from a three-course lunch, back in their lab coats and seats, one-by-one, the somms gave their earnest thoughts about their own final blends—talk of balance, structure, core strength and finesse. It was hard to believe, some said, that the finished blends came from the same base wines. But above all, each would be proud to serve any of the final blends in their respective restaurants. Then, Jean-Charles Boisset gave his impressions. "The wines have an amazing base," he said, continuing to punctuate each word with more effort than the last. "Every one has power, legs and energy—and every one of your personalities is showing in every single blend here. I'm so grateful to all of your for being here and I've voted 100 for each of you!" he exalted. And while JCB may have pronounced everyone a winner, it would be Putnam who, donning the winemaker cap, announced the results all had been anticipating. "There are no losers here," said Putnam, adding a resounding, "but . . ." to much laughter. In the end, the final blend was announced to rounds of applause and cheering. (As Putnam had predicted there would be one blend that over-achieved—clocking in at an impossible 110 percent out of 100.) Although one team's blend had edged out the others, all of the sommelier's decided together on what the winning creation would be as the Raymond Sommelier Selection is always considered a collabora - tive effor t of all the sommeliers as a group, with each somm contr ibuting equally to the project. As the excitement and applause wound down, Todd Lipman, Head Sommelier of Boston's Bistro du Midi, remarked, "As som - meliers, we taste a lot of wine. However, we don't usually take those wines and try to come up with something that is greater than the sum of their parts. And although this exercise may have only involved five base wines—it called upon years and years of experience in tasting." After the blending session, Jean-Charles Boisset shared a bottle of the highly allo - cated 2012 Chablis Premier Cru "Vaillons" from J. Moreau & Fils, part of the Boisset Collection of French wineries, in a celebra - tory toast dedicated to the sommeliers' collaborative and creative spirit and energy that brought everyone together from across all regions of the country for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. The Teams and Their Approach Todd Rushing, CEO, Concentrics Restaurant Group, Atlanta, GA. Yannick Benjamin, Sommelier, University Club, New York City, NY. Danielle Kuzinich, GM, The Hidden Vine Wine Bar, San Francisco, CA. Ashley Ceraolo, Buyer, California Pizza Kitchen, Los Angeles, CA. Gregory Mayer, Wine Director, Bern's Steakhouse, Tampa, FL. Nico Snyman, Sommelier and Assistant Manager, Joël Robuchon, Las Vegas, NV. "With the Napa fruit as our backbone we were looking for the right combination to round out our blend. The Sonoma Cab gives us that round character that has nice edges, and the Lake County offers more fruit," said Rushing. Both Benjamin and Snyman are working towards their MS, so there was a level of trust in their interaction and in their balance percep- tions. "We went through fives wines originally and wrote down key factors, trying to create a whole donut," remarked Benjamin. Snyman pointed to a barrel sample and said it was the ring of the donut, "with a lot of oak—and then we filled the hole with the Sonoma and Napa Cab," which "has the most noblesse, intensity and power. The final challenge was to find the right "icing," said Snyman. Ceraolo had previously blended with clonal selections of the same grape, while Kuzinich had also participated in blending. "We're trying to make a complex wine with balance," said Ceraolo. "We are working on balancing fruiti- ness with tannins in our blend," said Kuzinich.

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