A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to have the greatest meal of my (relatively) young life at Eric Ripert’s Manhattan restaurant, Le Bernardin. There was me, my buddy East Coast Dave, Dave’s fiancé Nikki from Hawaii, and it was, in a word, absofuckinglutelymindblowinglyawesome. I wrote about said dinner in glowing, effusive detail here and, over the course of about 19,000 words of fawning praise for Ripert, his crew, the FOH staff and basically everyone involved in the construction and execution of the meal, managed to spare a few to focus on the grinning, bold excellence of our sommelier for the night, one Aldo Sohm.
“Ripert left us in the competent hands of one of the best floor staffs in the business,” I wrote, “and under the care of the single best sommelier in America, Aldo Sohm. (No exaggeration there: The guy actually won the title “Best Sommelier in America” in 2007.) Nikki loved him, wanted to kidnap him and install him in hers and Dave’s closet in Jersey City just so that he could offer pairing suggestions for Dave’s almond butter and jelly sandwiches, their frozen Trader Joe’s pesto gnocchi. I simply wanted him to keep bringing the booze…”
By the time we’d finished with dinner, four of the best hours I’d ever spent with my pants on had gone by; we’d eaten, by general consensus, eight or nine or ten of the best courses we’d ever had; and Dave, Nikki and I had drunkenly invented an entire, fictional backstory for Sohm -- one that had him fighting for Le Resistance in Paris, attending a Swiss hotel school, stowing away aboard a tramp freighter and arriving on America’s golden shore with nothing to his name but one perfect dark suit and his silver sommelier’s cup.
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We loved the guy. Seriously. And not just because he was able to make Muscat grapes interesting and somehow tie together one of his wine flights with the Super Bowl (honestly, I don’t even remember how that one had come up…), but because he had that floorman’s magic of injecting a sense of wild fun into what could very easily have become a stodgy or intimidating situation.
The reason I bring this all up again now? Aldo Sohm has just been crowned the best sommelier in the world. Held in Rome, the World Sommelier Contest pitted our guy against thirteen international challengers in tests like wine-recognition, pairing, table service and correcting a flawed wine list. It’s a title he’s competed for but missed in years past. And yet, just a couple of weeks after being drafted into serving me and my friends as VIP’d friends of the house at Le B, he goes off and brings home the crown to Ripert’s palais du poisson. Pretty goddamn cool.
So a tip of the hat and a hearty congratulations to Sohm from way out here in Denver. You deserved it, buddy. Wear it proudly.
And just think, now Nikki, Dave and I can say we knew him when…--Jason Sheehan