The Wall Street Journal's Lettie Teague writes about the rapid growth in accredited sommeliers in Seattle.
In conversations with Joseph Linder of the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, The Court of Master Sommeliers' Shayn Bjornholm, and Chris Tanghe of Aragona, she finds that the vast majority of people currently on the wine side of the restaurant business are actively studying for tests in the various grades of master sommelier.
Although wages for a wine professional are relatively low ($40,000 to $50,000, half of what a comparable NY wine professional might earn) the quality of life and cooperative nature of the community goes a long way Students help each other, conducting mock exams, tasting sessions, etc.
Several years ago, Mr. Tanghe became a member of a selective and prestigious sommeliers-only study group of about 25 active members that meets at Canlis at least once a week to taste wines and quiz one another in a format that is borrowed from the court. Called "the grid," it's a deductive tasting process complete with its own lexicon to help professionals accurately describe wines. Sommeliers may apply to join Mr. Tanghe's group, but are usually invited—and often work their way up from so-called "feeder groups," said Mr. Tanghe. The support of the Canlis group was key to his success, said Mr. Tanghe, adding, "I couldn't have done it without them." Mr. Tanghe is still an active member of the group.
Despite the culture of education and accomplishment that thrives in Seattle, Mr. Tanghe insisted that it was the city's good quality of life that did the best job of facilitating residents' commitment to learning about wine. "A balanced life is a priority," he said.
Cortney Lease of Wild Ginger put it differently. "Seattle is an educated community. You're expected to have a level of achievement here" and that includes wine.
The article mentions that Seattle is the second most educated city in the United States. Surprisingly, the most educated city is Washington DC, hardly known for its sophistication and embrace of the arts or fine dining. And it only has two master sommeliers