Jeremy Reed recently joined the elite ranks of local wine professionals. On April 23, Reed earned his advanced sommelier certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers. Only one other sommelier in Sacramento can claim this distinction: Keith Fergel of Taylor’s Kitchen.
Less than 30 percent pass the advanced sommelier exam, an exhaustive three-day test of wine theory, blind-tasting and service skills. Those who pass may then be invited to test to become a master sommelier. The pass rate for master sommelier certification is a mere 10 percent.
Reed, a sommelier at The Kitchen, is gearing up for more testing and to become a certified cicerone, the beer equivalent of a sommelier.
Here’s what he had to say about the test and his new life.
After all the studying and three days of exams, how did you react to the news that you’d earned advanced sommelier status?
Oh man, it was crazy. It was very emotional because it was something I had studied so diligently for. Hearing the news that I passed on my first attempt was incredible. It really cemented the idea that this is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life.
When did you start studying for the exam? I hear that preparing for the advanced and master sommelier exams can take a toll on family life.
I didn’t start studying until about a year ago, but it was 12 months of very rigorous, intense stuff with book work and flash cards. I was paying extra days for my son to go to preschool so I could get some extra studying in. … I sacrificed a lot of time with my son and leisure activities, and it was very difficult. But as we speak, I’m out by the pool with my son and having a beer. It all paid off in the end.
It sounds like the local wine community really helped with getting you ready for the test.
My tasting group in Sacramento has really grown into something amazing. It started with Ryan Bailey (The Kitchen) and I, then Kara Sheffield (58 Degrees), then Tyler Stacy from Enotria – and probably a dozen people have rotated in and out of the group that are so influential, from servers to bartenders and reps for wine distributors.
Sommeliers often talk about getting razed during the service portion of the exam, where you have to tend to a table of master sommeliers. How did that go for you?
That was very difficult. When you step up to the advanced level it’s like a restaurant with a section of tables. … At one point I was decanting their wine – you have 12 minutes per table – and one of them said, “This is taking forever. I want a beer.” … I didn’t have a specific recommendation for a gueze, which is a lambic beer, and they said, “What kind of sommelier are you?”
You don’t always get happy guests at restaurants, but you have to carry on with charisma, and grace and diplomacy.
So what’s next? Do your taste buds need a break at this point?
My ultimate goal is to become a master sommelier, no doubt. I’ve put myself on a two-year plan and hope to be invited in 2016. In the meantime, one of my biggest fallbacks at the advanced exam was with beer knowledge. … I’m taking the rest of the year to study beer and attempt to get my cicerone certification.
I’m going to have dinner this week at The Kitchen. My wife really wants to eat there, so I took the day off to have dinner there. I’m going to bring some Krug (champagne). That’ll be my celebratory bottle.