Industry & Culture

The Wayward Somm: Certifiable Part 2 - Exam Day

By Trevor Bernatchez

Before joining BevSpot, Trevor Bernatchez spent over 15 years in the world of restaurants and wine retail.  After becoming a Certified Sommelier in 2015, Trevor was looking for new challenges for his career in the beverage industry. As BevSpot’s Sr. Manager of Customer Education, Trevor uses his years of experience and education to help others become more successful with their bars and restaurants.

I had entered a kind of zen-like phase of understanding. After months of studying, there wasn’t really anything else I could do at this point that would change the outcome of the test...



This is Part 2 of The Wayward Somm: Certifiable...click here to read Part 1
 


Besides the temperature and nerves being high, I was feeling pretty good as I arrived to the exam site at 8:00 AM. I had entered a kind of zen-like phase of understanding. After months of studying, there wasn’t really anything else I could do at this point that would change the outcome of the test.

First was the theory exam which was then immediately followed by the blind tasting portion of the day. Within an hour or so of being in the building I was already ⅔ of the way done with the day, and honestly, not even ⅔ of me was sure I had gotten anything right up to that point. It was such a blur that it was hard to revisit some of it in my mind to reassure myself. Either way, there was no looking back, and as I handed in my tasting sheet I was given a return time of 11:00 AM for the service portion of the day.

I would need to serve a Master Sommelier in a real-world, restaurant setting and answer rapid fire questions about an imaginary dinner menu and wine list while opening a bottle of sparkling wine to the Master’s standards. If that sentence doesn’t give you some level of anxiety, you haven’t been in the F&B industry long enough!

When that rollercoaster successfully came to a stop, I had to wait for six hours until they announced the results. That brings us full-circle back to where we started this post...wandering around Boston’s Back Bay in a full suit, 91 degree weather, and not knowing if I was going to pass or fail.

We all know that this story has a happy ending by now, but the last true test was when they announced the names of everybody who passed. They gather you all in a room, give you a glass of champagne, and start reading off names. If they call your name you step forward to receive your certification and pin. If they don’t...well I think you get the idea.

Naturally after the test was over I was relieved and incredibly proud of the accomplishment. That night I went out with my wife and friends to celebrate. The first thing I ordered was...anything but wine! That’s right, I said it. Much like a bad tequila experience, I couldn’t get wine past my lips for months after that. Don’t worry though, I’ve since recovered and more than made up for lost time in the last few years.

Wine Waste

(Pour one out: my apartment's kitchen table the day after my exam. Not pictured, the other 36 bottles I used to practice blind tasting!)

In Closing:

At the end of the day, after all the struggle and stress, taking this exam was one of the best experiences of my life, and I feel that I’m a better person for having gone through it. Not necessarily because it opened a lot of doors for me because it really didn’t. That might be surprising to hear, but remember, pieces of paper that say ‘Certified’ can only take you so far. At that point it’s up to you to open that door and make it happen for yourself.

 

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