Friday, July 13, 2012 / 11:05 AM
His most recent Facebook post says it all: “Christopher Hoel is happy to fail instead of failing to be happy! Next year!”
He is referring to the Court of Master Sommeliers' (CMS) exam he took in Dallas this week, an invitation-only affair that's only open to Master Sommelier (MS) candidates, a group chosen from the ranks of Advanced (Level III) Sommeliers.
Before this exam, there were but 160 Master Somms in the world—the world—justifying the claim that it's “the most difficult exam on the planet.” Face it: Air doesn't get any more rarified than that.
Seven MS diplomas were awarded this week in Dallas.
It’s been a busy month for Hoel. He recently resigned his position as sommelier at The French Laundry, where he worked alongside Dennis Kelly (a recent Master Somm) who heads the wine program there.
When asked the obvious question—“Why did you leave a wine somm’s dream job?—Hoel answered quickly: “Yes, it is a dream job,” he explained, “but after four years of rubbing shoulders with the world's most discriminating diners and wine connoisseurs, I thought it was time to take that experience and all that tasting knowledge and move to the other side of the fence." Just as importantly, he added, "And I did so with [French laundry owner] Thomas Keller's blessing and recommendation."
Hoel is now a Senior Wine Advisor for Soutirage, a Napa Valley wine merchant and advisory firm, a “wine retailer with no retail location” as Hoel put it. Soutirage fills a very specific niche, acting as personal wine merchants, acquiring high-end wine for serious collectors, and performing bespoke client services. As older, rarer wines can have a lengthy (or even questionable) provenance, Soutirage deals with trusted sellers or with the specific winery whenever possible. All of its services are listed here.
Hoel is now able to further nurture the winemaker relationships he’s established in northern California and, in addition, can rebuild relationships with wine collectors in St. Louis, "more of them than you’d think,” according to Hoel.
Hopefully the move will allow him more time to contribute to St. Louis Magazine, where his "Liquid Assets" column has appeared for the last 4 years. In this piece, he "tasted history," in the form of a 100-year-old champagne recovered in a shipwreck.
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