On Friday, Oct. 12, Palmer Emmitt, a Wine Business MBA student at Sonoma State, won the student wine tasting competition at La Soiree in San Francisco hosted by the French American Chamber of Commerce. 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," says Emmitt. "This competition has been a great opportunity to test my wine knowledge, as well as get the chance to win some very good prizes."
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. Fourth prize was won by Sebastian Briare, who won 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 Program.
Rachel Kau-Taylor, says the competition "is a good experience to change the way you look at wine, and it really gives you more of an appreciation for what goes into making wine."
"It was a no-brainer to involve SSU in this competition," says Jacques Brix of Wines and 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." The idea to have a wine competition came from Brynhild Dumas, the Director of the French American Chamber of Commerce, who has been putting on La Soiree, an event that celebrates French food and wine for years.
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 on the location of the wine. From there they were asked to taste the wine and determine the varietal of the grape, the vintage (or year the wine was made), and the AVA/appellation (where the grapes were grown).
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," says 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."
From left to right: Sebastien Briaire (4th place), Rachel Kau-Taylor (2nd place), Shane Ryan (3rd place), Palmer Emmitt (1st place)