There’s a new wine king in town. The annual Iron Sommelier competition took place yesterday evening at Hugo’s and the Backstreet Cafe in a shared virtual-at-home and in-person format in order to reduce and socially distance the typically large crowd – which occurs in normal years in the Houstonian Gathered. Every year Iron Sommelier benefits from the Periwinkle Foundation, where the city’s most renowned sommeliers compete against each other in a friendship competition. Each sommelier selected wine to match their theme, focusing on a particular wine region, grape, or style. They then presented their wines to a jury in front of the event and offered ticket holders a home-tasting of a dozen of the wines.
Long-standing competitor Evan Turner not only took home the crown for the second time (his first win was in 2015) with its theme “Meet and Greek: Rare Grapes of Greece”, but also won the other important titles of the competition: the newly coined Best Film Presentation and People’s categories Choice Award. He poured Domaine de Kalathas Koumarianou / Mavro Potamisi to Kokkino Epitrapezios, Oenos in 2018 and Domaine Nerantzi Koniaros PGI Serres in 2013.
“Greek wine won. That won, ”said Turner. “That and The Periwinkle Foundation – that’s what it’s about. To face a captive audience who clearly love wine and say, “Hey, I don’t know if you’ve ever thought of Greek wine, but let’s go!” That’s why I do a Greek theme every year. These wonderful winemakers in Greece sometimes only do a few hundred cases. To be able to bring it in front of people – it couldn’t be better. Besides, I had so much fun. It was a really good time. Everyone is so warm and wonderful, the guests are amazing and we should have Sean Beck put on a parade – especially this year when everything is turned upside down. “
Turner, a wine pro who has worked in Houston for decades for Helen Greek Food & Wine, Ouzo Bay, and Loch Bar, recently went to a Boston restaurant. It turns out he’s back after taking a vacation. This has happened to many industry professionals due to the COVID-19 enforced closings of restaurants and bars.
Julie Dalton from Mastro’s Steakhouse came in second. Photo by Sandra Crittenden.
The winner of the Iron Sommelier 2018 came in second: Julie Dalton from Mastro’s Steakhouse, whose subject was “I see the sea.” She poured the exquisite 2018 Bisson Marea, Cinque Terra, Italy and 2018 Cassis Rouge, France, the Domaine du Bagnol Cuvée Marquis de Fesques.
Iron Somm First Runner Up went on Justin Vann of Public Services Wine & Whiskey and Theodore Rex. His subject was “Natural Enemies: Varietal Correctness vs. Natural Wine” and he poured the unique Julien Guillot 2017, the Clos des Vignes du Mayne Gamay, Macon, France, and the Meinklang Prosa Petillant Naturel Rosé 2019, Burgenland, Austria.
Guests watch on a monitor as H Town Restaurant Group’s beverage director Sean Beck prepares to present the Iron Sommelier 2020 trophy.
Other competitors were:
- Farrah Cauley the Sonoma Wine Bar with “California Mountain Vineyard Cabernet”, in which Matthiasson No. 2 Village Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley and 2017 Barnett Sangiacamo Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley to be poured.
- Adele Corrigan of 13 degrees Celsius with “Weeping of Antiquity”, Orgo Saperavi Kakheti, Georgia, 2018 and Zorah Areni Noir Ararat Valley, Armenia, 2017.
- Matt Crawford of State of Grace and La Lucha with “The Next Chapter”, which will be pouring Julian hair “1,000 l” Riesling, Mosel Valley, Germany in 2019 and Bedrock Wine Co., Evangelho Vineyard Heritage, Contra Costa County, California, in 2018.
- Eric Estefano from Pappas Bros. Steakhouse with “You don’t have to take out a loan; Just drink Savigny-lès-Beaune ”, pour 2016 Domaine Dublère, Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Aux Vergelesses, France and 2017 Domaine Mongeard-Mugneret, Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Les Narbanton, France.
- Marcus Gausepohl from Brennan’s of Houston with “Burgundy without blinkers, wine for 99%”, 2015 Mouton, 1er Cru Clos Jus, Givry, France and 2015 Huguenot, Marsannay, France.
- Whitney Seng of the Coronado Club with “Dried out grapes: wines from the driest places on earth”, pouring 2015 Falernia Reserva Syrah, Elqui Valley, Chile and Hidalgo Villapanés Oloroso Seco Sherry, Jerez, Spain.
- Lindsay Thomas of River Oaks Country Club with “Always a Bridesmaid; Syrah and why you should finally put a ring on it, ”poured Savage Wines Girl Next Door, Cape Town, South Africa in 2018 and Stolpman Vineyards Angeli, California in 2012.
- Emily Tolbert von Savoir: “Gas, Gras or A **; Nobody drives for free ”, so Château Beaucastel Châteauneuf-de-Pape 2006 and 2019 Yealands Single Block Sauvignon Blanc, Awatere Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand. Emily had to present herself because of an illness.
- Jeffrey Young by Georgia James with Fifty Shades of Greywacke pouring 2014 Trinity Hill, the Gimblett Cabernet Franc Blend, Gimblett Gravels, New Zealand and 2016 DuMOL Eddie’s Patch Syrah, Greywacke Vineyard, Russian River Valley, California.
The judges were master sommeliers June Rodil by Rosie Cannonball and Craig Collins from Vintus as well Antonio Gianola by Houston Wine Merchant. They assessed the participants on their wine selection, presentation, creativity and knowledge.
The Evergreen Foundation develops and offers life improvement programs for children, young adults and families as they address the challenges of cancer and other life-threatening diseases. The Iron Sommelier Contest is one of their biggest fundraising drives each year. For more information on how you can donate to this good cause, see your website to learn more.
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