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What it Takes to be a Sommelier

Becoming a dedicated sommelier entails years of practice, industry experience, training and a series of incredibly difficult tests. We asked two of our talented sommeliers, Chris Shackelford and Jenna Congdon, some of our burning questions of what it takes to become a sommelier.

Chris Shackelford - Chef, Sommelier and Owner of Trelio Food & Wine in Clovis, California and Sommelier Captain for the World of Pinot Noir

Jenna Congdon - Certified Sommelier for Mission Wine Imports and Schatzi Wines throughout Central California

What started your passion for wine?

Chris: I was lucky to work as a cook and as a waiter in the San Ynez Valley over 25 years ago. A lot of the winemakers and winery owners frequented the restaurant and I was able to pick-up quite a bit of knowledge which helped me get my first wine specific job.

What advice do you have for aspiring sommeliers?

Jenna: Tip #1: Travel! Visit wine regions and vineyards, either domestically or abroad, really puts what's in the bottle into perspective. Even if it's through books, Google Earth or bottles of wine purchased, go outside your local offerings and push your palate. 

Tip #2: Be humble! Sommeliers are service providers. It's not just about tasting wines, calling out a wine blind or the best wines in the world. It's about meeting someone's needs through wine. Often times that means recommending or serving wines that you personally would not drink, but in the end it's not about you. 

What was the most difficult thing to master while becoming a sommelier?

Chris: Italy, still to this day.

Jenna: Cocktails and liquor.

What do you think is the most important thing a consumer should pay attention to when choosing and tasting wine?

Jenna: How the wine is made, how the grapes were farmed. If more consumers demand better farming and more transparency in winemaking, then more wineries and vineyard owners will take notice. 

What future trends in the wine industry should consumers pay attention to?

Chris: Regions that are emerging sources of world class wines such as the Canary Islands,          Kakheti Region of Georgia, most of Greece, Slovenia and the dry wines of Hungary. 

Our amazing sommeliers’ professionalism, passion and knowledge of wine is what makes World of Pinot Noir event such an extraordinary experience. You can learn more about Chris Shackelford and Jenna Congdon here.

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