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2003 Young Sommeliers Competition

Winner: Andre Mack, Bohanan's, San Antonio        
2nd Place: David Asam, Four Seasons, Santa Barbara
3rd Place (Tie):
Jason Alexander, Restaurant Gary Danko, San Francisco     
Thomas Combescot-Lepere, Savona Restaurant, Gulph Mills, PA


Competitors Roberto Viernes, Gillian Balance, Keith Fergel, David Orchard, Eoin Connors, Dan Westland, Brett Randall, Marita Leonard, and Thomas Combescot-Lepere.

Scroll down for information about the winner, competitors and judges.

IMAGINE THIS SCENARIO . . . At 6:30, three gentlemen and a lady are seated in the restaurant where you are employed as Sommelier. They have informed the host upon arrival that one guest must leave to catch a flight in two hours. They are obviously weary from a tough day at the office and are anxiously looking forward to a smooth end to the day.

The server has just taken their order for a shared appetizer platter, 4 different entrees and 2 different desserts (described below). They are looking at the wine list when you arrive. The table greets you with reluctance. Without looking up to acknowledge your presence, the lady perusing the wine list orders a bottle 1997 Domaine St. Faux Trophie Cabernet Sauvingon for $75.00. She goes on to tell you the price is rather high but she has had the wine before and knows everyone will like it.

Your mission is to sell 3 wines to each guest at the table for the same total $75.00 price. They do not have to be 750 ml bottles. Each guest need not have the same wine though this is acceptable. Feel free to suggest half bottles, wines by the glass, or any combination as long as each guest is served three different wines and you do not exceed $75.00. State the vintage, region of origin, producer and price of whatever you recommend and write your convincing response as if you are speaking tableside. After all, you are one of the best Sommeliers in the country.  By the way, no one at the table likes white wine, and there is no convincing them otherwise. Time Limit: 10 minutes.


Shared Appetizers

Peeky Toe Crab Cake with Sauce Aioli, Scallop Ceviche, Shitake Mushrooms Pan-sautéed with Sundried Tomatoes and Kalamata Olives

4 Different Entrees

Classic Steak Frites

Tuscan Tuna with Fresh Tomatoes and a Stew of English Peas, Garbanzo Beans, and Italian Parsley

Amish Roasted Chicken with a Mélange of Baby Vegetables

Dover Sole Meunier on Rice Pilaf with Haricots Verts

2 Different Desserts

Chocolate Pâté with fresh Raspberries and Raspberry Coulis

New Orleans Bread Pudding with Crème Anglaise and Raisin-Rum Sauce

This was one of two scenarios in a section of the exam called “Food and Wine Harmony,” one of four parts of the National Finals of the Young Sommelier competition held at the Southern Wine and Spirits Beverage Center of Florida International University in Miami May 17, 2003.

Competitors, all between the ages of 23 and 32, were winners of their region’s competitions.. They arrived in Miami, along with coordinators and judges, from as far away as Hawaii to face a test consisting of 60 written questions on wine, wine service, and crafted beverages; two blind tastings, one a flight of 6 white wines and one of 6 red; and the section on food and wine pairing.

At the end of a day of concentrated effort writing, swirling, sniffing and tasting, winners were decided, and that evening, at a gala dinner, certificates were presented to all competitors and awards were bestowed on the winners. Winning first place and the Gold Medal was Andre Mack, Sommelier at Bohanan’s in San Antonio. The Silver Medalist was Jason Alexander, Assistant Sommelier at Restaurant Gary Danko in San Francisco. There was a tie for third place between David Asam, Maître d’ and Sommelier at the Four Seasons Resort in Santa Barbara, and Thomas Combescot-Lepere, Wine Director and Head Sommelier at Savona Restaurant, located in Gulph Mills, a suburb of Philadelphia.
                                                                             By Jeannette M. Boucher, Chambellan National

About the Winner . . . ANDRE MACK

How do you get to be best of the best? Maybe because you are dedicating your entire life to just that, according to 30-year-old winner Andre Mack. What’s especially remarkable is that it was only two years ago that Andre discovered his true calling..

Andre spent six years working at Darden Restaurants, beginning as a dishwasher and ending when he was corporate service trainer, plus two years in banking, before he accepted a position at The Palm in San Antonio, a move that changed his life.. While working there that he saw a video by Doug Frost and read Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Complete Wine Course, and suddenly wine became his passion. He began to cultivate his palate by challenging it continually with blind tastings and devouring every relevant video, book and periodical he could get his hands on. He also spend many hours online studying the wine lists of fine restaurants and took the initiative to make personal visits to some of them, most notably Charlie Trotter’s.

Less than one year ago, Andre helped open Bohanan’s in San Antonio as its sommelier. He shares his passion and knowledge with the restaurant staff by offering them frequent blind tasting opportunities and believes in providing value for the customer by pricing wine fairly. He especially enjoys leading guests off the beaten path by introducing them to interesting wine finds, with one of his current favorites being the white wines from Dão, Portugal.

In 2002, Andre received both the Wine and Spirits Education Trust Intermediate Certificate and the Court of Master Sommeliers Basic Certificate. He is currently pursuing further advancement within each society. Of his fellow competitors in Miami, Andre says he loved the camaraderie they immediately established with each other and was impressed with the fine establishments where they work. Does that mean future visits? His fellow competitors certainly hope so.


National Finalists
and Regional Coordinators
by Region

Finalist: Thomas

Coordinator: Echanson Provinciale Rachel Cohen

South Central
Finalist: Raul Moreno
Coordinator: Echanson Provincial Glenn Scott

Finalist: Robert Mulroy
Coordinator: Echanson Provincial Charles Radlauer

Finalist: D. James Hallett
Coordinator: Vice Chargee de Presse Patricia Wamhoff

Finalist: Andre Mack
Coordinator: Echanson Provincial Jim Pozzi

Pacific Northwest
Finalist: Jason Alexander
Coordinator: Vice Conseiller Culinaire Hon. Fred Dame

Far West
Finalist: David Asam
Coordinator: Echanson Provincial Hal Small

Hawaii/Pacific Islands
Finalist: Christopher Linn
Coordinator: Echanson Provincial John Doty




Andre Mack


Competition Organizers Larry O'Brien, Grand Echanson Shelly Margolis
and Echanson Provincial Charles Radlauer

Judges Chip Cassidy, Keith Fergel, Vice Chancelier-Argentier Alfred Walleser, Grand Echanson Shelly Margolis, Echanson Provincial Charles Radlauer, Larry O'Brien and Eric Hemer

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