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Where to Eat and Drink in Spain According to a Master Sommelier

Where to Eat and Drink in Spain According to a Master Sommelier

There is kind of a simple checklist when visiting Spain: Eat, drink, shop, relax, repeat. Spain’s sweetheart regions, Ribera del Duero and Rueda, have been home to historic vineyards for centuries, and the result is a portfolio of wines with character, class, and most of all, great taste. The resulting bottles can pair with anything from tacos to T-bones easily and fit everyone’s wallet, from big to budget.

Brahm Callahan, a master sommelier and the beverage director at Grill 23 & Bar & Bar, Harvest, and Post 390 (all from the Himmel Hospitality Group, Boston), is a Ribera del Duero and Rueda ambassador and regularly visits the region to explore what’s happening in both the vineyard and the bottle. “The wines here are really special and very food-friendly,” he said.

Ribera del Duero is well known for its lush, tempranillo-based red wines, and Rueda the star for bright, verdejo-based whites. Varietals from both regions made impressive dents in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Best Buys of 2016 list. Why? Wines from these regions are multi-faceted. They pair well, taste good, and are a great value.

You will regularly find wines from the region on wine lists from the world’s best restaurants — Enrique Olvera’s Cosme and Jeremy Fox’s Rustic Canyon both highlight these regions. When visiting, you’ve got to try the local cuisine as well; since it is the “land of wines,” you’d better believe the food will be amazing, too.

The regions are only 2.5 hours northwest of Madrid. So visiting the area for both winery tours and restaurant visits is easy as a day trip or weekend-long one. Hook up with a wine tourism group like TheWineJourneys, an agency that specializes in tailoring trips for wine and food lovers and guarantees you a seat at the best table in town and sips at premiere wineries with behind-the-scenes vineyard tours. If you’re more of a DIY person, Brahm has you covered. He mapped out the best of both Ribera del Duero and Rueda for the ultimate Spanish wine region retreat.

Where to Eat

Trotamundos Restaurant - Only You Atocha, Madrid

A must-try is this restaurant in the new Only You Atocha. The Latin American-Asian fusion is wicked. Favorite dishes were definitely the ribs with sweet potato and cinnamon and croquetas de Madriz al cielo (Madrid stew and corn croquettes).

BiBo, Madrid

Don’t miss this two-Michelin-starred restaurant from Dani Garcia. It’s a classic Madrid experience at a reasonable price point. With a mix of upscale tapas, as well as larger entrées and even a prix fixe option, it’s possible to have multiple dining experiences when you eat here. What to order? Try the jamón ibérico (one of the better ones I’ve had), steak tartare, creamy ham croquettes, and tuna crudo. Also, they have an awesome wine list that includes both local Spanish highlights and a strong sherry selection, with a nice presence of international bottles, too — and the pricing is very kind.

Meson de Candido, Segovia

Located across from the stunning Roman aqueducts, the oldest restaurant in town has made a name for itself by serving some of the best suckling pig around. The atmosphere is a warm throwback to the 1500s, when Segovia was one of the major power centers in Spain.

5 Gustos, Valladolid

The centerpiece of this modern dining room is the towering wine display, but there’s more to enjoy here beyond the bottles. Don’t skip the little fried balls of happiness (stuffed with cheese, ham, and herbs), a mushroom-stuffed ravioli topped with a creamy truffle sauce, and of course, more amazing jamón ibérico.

Los Zagales, Valladolid

The guys behind this iconic hotspot are heavyweights in Spain and are known for their creative tapas (they have won a national competition on the subject several times). The tapas never loos like what they are: Picture a cigar with ash that turns out to be phyllo dough stuffed with sardines, a bread bag made of edible plastic film containing calamari and spicy aïoli, and other surprises that never fail to delight.

Must-Visit Wineries

Rueda

Belondrade, Valladolid

With obvious French influences, this is a different expression of verdejo. The wine is much rounder, with more body, largely due to the influence of oak and winemaking. The level of fruit and spice is dialed up largely because of that oak influence, a benchmark example of barrel-influenced verdejo.

Vidal Soblechero, Valladolid

One of the best expressions of verdejo I have ever had, their single-vineyard wines are farmed biodynamically (using a horse to plow the vineyards, following phases of the moon, using falcons to prevent pests). They have a plethora of old bush vines, and the level of depth and concentration they are achieving while still keeping the wines bright and focused is amazing.

Ribera del Duero

Dehesa de los Canónigos, Valladolid

With an amazing tradition in the DO (more than 25 years), these wines are more focused and elegant than ever. The winemaking is modern but focused on maintaining the identity of tinto fino — with a little support from cabernet sauvignon and albillo (an indigenous white grape that traditionally was used in small amounts of the blends for red wines).

Bodegas NEO, Burgos

This winery is pushing the edge of modern in Ribera — run by a young team of friends who grew up in Ribera and decided to start out on their own, they have no qualms about making wine the way that they want to make it. All their wines are polished and lean toward a more modern edge, but at the same time there is still something distinctly Ribera about them. Their flagship wine NEO was one of the better reds we had on the trip.

Tinto Pesquera, Valladolid

Somehow, these wines continue to over-deliver. As one of the founders of the DO, they certainly have plenty of experience but also are some of the most classic examples — not just of tinto fino, but of the winemaking and sense of place that made Ribera famous.


Court of Master Sommeliers Chairman Steps Down, Group to Restructure After Outcry over Sexual Harassment

The chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers-Americas (CMS-A) stepped down Friday, Nov. 6 and the group announced plans for an overhaul, following its earlier suspension of seven male Master Sommeliers from all activities and the resignation of another. All stand accused of sexually harassing women who were pursuing certification with the group. Three additional Master Sommeliers were suspended that same day, and an independent investigator has been appointed to follow up on all allegations.

"We agree that a reformed CMS-A is the only path forward to ensuring the organization's existence and integrity, and to better protect the people who look to be educated and earn the credentials for which we have all worked so hard," wrote board vice chair Virginia Philip in a letter sent Friday to all Master Sommeliers. Philip will oversee the transition, temporarily taking over from CMS-A chairman Devon Broglie, who resigned after numerous members of the sommelier community called for his departure and shortly before allegations of his own inappropriate behavior came to public light. The group will hold a town hall with members on Nov. 11 to discuss proposed reforms and a timeline for a new board election.

On Sunday, Nov. 8, following continued criticism, the Court publicly posted that the entire 15-member board would be up for election and resign as soon as new officers were voted in.

The actions were sparked by a New York Times article detailing complaints about six of the men from 21 women who alleged that they had been groped, sent explicit texts, pressured for sex in exchange for professional favors and even raped. Many of the complaints centered around Geoff Kruth, the president of GuildSomm, an educational and networking group affiliated with the Court he has since resigned from that position and forfeited his MS title. The article spawned additional complaints to an ethics reporting hotline about five other men.

The court's initial response to the article, which amounted to vague statements of support for diversity, opposition to harassment and a disavowal of a close relationship with Kruth, left many members of the sommelier community, both women and men, unsatisfied that the organization was sufficiently addressing what many call a problematic culture. "To me, it felt more like damage control than a heartfelt apology," said Jeremy Shanker, a Master Sommelier at Michael Mina in San Francisco. "It felt like something that was designed by a PR person, not by someone who is a member of the organization who was really taking responsibility, and that's what we wanted to see."

The group's Nov. 1 follow-up did little to quell the rising anger, despite a formal apology to the 13 women identified in the Times article and the suspension of Master Sommeliers Robert Bath, Matthew Citriglia, Fred Dame, Drew Hendricks and Matt Stamp. "I was really surprised that [the Court and GuildSomm] weren't more prepared and didn't have a more thorough action plan, because they were given plenty of time to deal with the issue before it went public," said Rachel Van Til, a Houston-based sommelier who shared allegations in the Times article.

One of the board members who signed the apology, Eric Entrikin, was subsequently suspended, along with Greg Harrington. None of the suspended men have yet been stripped of their MS title. The board states that the group's bylaws require a 30-day waiting period before such a move can be taken.

That same weekend, all of the women who currently hold the title of Master Sommelier in North America—just 27 of the 158 Master Sommeliers—wrote a joint letter demanding changes within the Court, including a halt to the scheduled Nov. 11 election of new board officers, an overhaul of the bylaws and the ethics code, and a commitment to greater transparency.

"There is no place for the harm that has been done to these women and so, so many others who were hurt, bullied, abused, excluded or made to feel anything other than welcome," wrote Jill Zimorski, a Chicago-area Master Sommelier, on her Instagram account, where she posted the letter. Zimorksi, who has moved on from the restaurant world to wine education, called for even greater action. "This is a start. A sincere apology and a promise to change, reorganize, rebuild. Oh, and to clean house."

Within the week, at least three of the women—Alpana Singh of Terra & Vine in Evanston, Ill., Corkbuzz founder Laura Fiorvanti and Racines partner Pascaline Lepeltier—protested by renouncing their once-coveted title, which takes years to earn and carries with it both prestige and greater earning power. Lepeltier commented in her Instagram announcement: "There are those on the inside [of the Court], genuine women and men who are working to transform from within, but for myself, I believe this is a time for stepping back, critical introspection, and a reevaluation of how I can be a positive force for good and encourage progress for my industry going forward."

While Singh—the first woman of color to become a Master Sommelier in North America—considered staying on with the women who wanted to help rebuild the organization, she explained in a post on her website: "The question shouldn't be can this thing be salvaged but rather does it even deserve to be? The systemic issues of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia and elitism are embedded into the DNA of this organization and nothing good can be rebuilt from its foundation. It must be dismantled and we must begin again."

Stay on top of important wine stories with Wine Spectator's free Breaking News Alerts.

But Master Sommelier Emily Wines of Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurants wants to help fix the organization from the inside. “I feel like right now it’s important to step in, especially as a woman,” Wines said. “People want to see more diversity, and if I stand back and let all the guys fix it, then how am I a part of that change?”

As of Sunday, nearly 1,100 other women and men at various stages of training and certification—including at least 18 Master Sommeliers—had signed a Change.org petition calling for a boycott of the Court's future courses and exams until the entire board stepped down. The petition cited not only the sexual harassment allegations but also the board's handling of a 2018 exam-cheating scandal and what it described as a "failure to express unequivocal support" for the BIPOC community earlier this year.

"When someone has proven that they make bad decisions multiple times, they need to step down from leadership," said petition co-author Liz Huettinger, former sommelier and wine director at Wine Spectator Grand Award–winning restaurants Spago and Addison, and now national sales manager for Mayacamas Vineyards.

Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey also expressed frustration over the board’s repeated mishandlings. Working with a group of about five MS’s to present a formal complaint to the board last week felt very similar to 2018, when the same group presented concerns about lack of transparency following the cheating scandal, with no tangible outcome. Stuckey says he’s been pushing for a Human Resources department over the last three years, too. “I feel totally duped that I was asking that, asking that and asking that, and now it looks like the reason they never did it is because they were complicit doing bad things, and they didn’t want to have a neutral voice where people can voice complaints,” he said. “There was no safe environment.”

That safe environment is especially crucial for an industry inherently tied to restaurants, which Stuckey notes “has glamorized partying and excessive drinking and non-discipline for a long time, and that just lends itself to bad behavior.”

Wines agrees. “We just have to take the idea of sommeliers being rockstars off the table, because that’s what’s getting us into the trouble that we’re in.”

Under the CMS-A plan announced Friday and subsequently revised in the Sunday announcement, the upcoming election of board members will be postponed and all members will be allowed to vote to replace the entire 15-member board. The new board will elect a new chair and vice chair, hire a full-time professional CEO and revise the bylaws and the ethics policy.

The announcement of these proposed changes also stated that Brian Cronin, Fred Dexheimer and Joseph Linder have been suspended from court activities "based on new reports of sexual misconduct received through the Ethics Reporting Line" and that the board has hired Margaret Bell, an attorney specializing in employment law and an independent workplace investigator, to look into all the allegations.

In his statement to members Friday afternoon, Broglie wrote, "I deeply apologize to all the women whose lives and careers have been negatively impacted by the predatory actions of any Master Sommelier. I put my best effort forward in changing the course of the organization, I recognize that my effort fell short."

Friday evening, the New York Times published a story in which a former student studying for the Master Sommelier exam accused Broglie, global beverage buyer for Whole Foods Market, of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with her. The Court has not yet issued a statement in response to that article.

According to Shanker, the Court's only chance for survival as a legitimate and trustworthy entity is "a complete rebirth." "It can't be an organization that polices itself anymore," Shanker said.

Van Til agrees. "The board must resign," she said. "Whether it's because they failed or just been perceived to fail isn't really the issue. It's that they've broken trust with the community, and the community will not trust any decisions they make going forward as long as they are in power."

The calls for reform come during a year of unprecedented challenges for the industry, with restaurants upended by the coronavirus, and uncertainty surrounding the sommelier profession itself in a post-pandemic world.

Why has it taken so long for the problems within the sommelier community to be brought to full light? Sarah Diehl, founder and principal of Empowered Hospitality, a human resources group focused on the restaurant industry, said that although there has been a "sea change" over the past five years, with more restaurant owners trying to professionalize their workplaces, subcultures within an industry or individual business "dictate how comfortable people feel speaking up."

"The more power someone holds over another individual, whether an employee or within the profession, the more intimidating it is to come forward. In this case, the power imbalance was very extreme," explained Diehl. "You have leaders in a field who have essentially established the field from the ground up in this country, and you have people dependent on those leaders for their career success."

Will the changes be enough to rehabilitate an organization that was founded to set high standards and earn respect for the profession? "The world evolved, and the Court of Master Sommeliers did not evolve with it and I think this is that reckoning," said Huettinger. While she is hopeful that change to the culture and practices will come, she acknowledged feeling conflicted about calls to disband the organization altogether and start over, adding, "If they don't make really revolutionary sweeping changes, even if they don't dissolve, they'll become irrelevant because we'll have evolved past them. People aren't going to buy into the same culture."


Court of Master Sommeliers Chairman Steps Down, Group to Restructure After Outcry over Sexual Harassment

The chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers-Americas (CMS-A) stepped down Friday, Nov. 6 and the group announced plans for an overhaul, following its earlier suspension of seven male Master Sommeliers from all activities and the resignation of another. All stand accused of sexually harassing women who were pursuing certification with the group. Three additional Master Sommeliers were suspended that same day, and an independent investigator has been appointed to follow up on all allegations.

"We agree that a reformed CMS-A is the only path forward to ensuring the organization's existence and integrity, and to better protect the people who look to be educated and earn the credentials for which we have all worked so hard," wrote board vice chair Virginia Philip in a letter sent Friday to all Master Sommeliers. Philip will oversee the transition, temporarily taking over from CMS-A chairman Devon Broglie, who resigned after numerous members of the sommelier community called for his departure and shortly before allegations of his own inappropriate behavior came to public light. The group will hold a town hall with members on Nov. 11 to discuss proposed reforms and a timeline for a new board election.

On Sunday, Nov. 8, following continued criticism, the Court publicly posted that the entire 15-member board would be up for election and resign as soon as new officers were voted in.

The actions were sparked by a New York Times article detailing complaints about six of the men from 21 women who alleged that they had been groped, sent explicit texts, pressured for sex in exchange for professional favors and even raped. Many of the complaints centered around Geoff Kruth, the president of GuildSomm, an educational and networking group affiliated with the Court he has since resigned from that position and forfeited his MS title. The article spawned additional complaints to an ethics reporting hotline about five other men.

The court's initial response to the article, which amounted to vague statements of support for diversity, opposition to harassment and a disavowal of a close relationship with Kruth, left many members of the sommelier community, both women and men, unsatisfied that the organization was sufficiently addressing what many call a problematic culture. "To me, it felt more like damage control than a heartfelt apology," said Jeremy Shanker, a Master Sommelier at Michael Mina in San Francisco. "It felt like something that was designed by a PR person, not by someone who is a member of the organization who was really taking responsibility, and that's what we wanted to see."

The group's Nov. 1 follow-up did little to quell the rising anger, despite a formal apology to the 13 women identified in the Times article and the suspension of Master Sommeliers Robert Bath, Matthew Citriglia, Fred Dame, Drew Hendricks and Matt Stamp. "I was really surprised that [the Court and GuildSomm] weren't more prepared and didn't have a more thorough action plan, because they were given plenty of time to deal with the issue before it went public," said Rachel Van Til, a Houston-based sommelier who shared allegations in the Times article.

One of the board members who signed the apology, Eric Entrikin, was subsequently suspended, along with Greg Harrington. None of the suspended men have yet been stripped of their MS title. The board states that the group's bylaws require a 30-day waiting period before such a move can be taken.

That same weekend, all of the women who currently hold the title of Master Sommelier in North America—just 27 of the 158 Master Sommeliers—wrote a joint letter demanding changes within the Court, including a halt to the scheduled Nov. 11 election of new board officers, an overhaul of the bylaws and the ethics code, and a commitment to greater transparency.

"There is no place for the harm that has been done to these women and so, so many others who were hurt, bullied, abused, excluded or made to feel anything other than welcome," wrote Jill Zimorski, a Chicago-area Master Sommelier, on her Instagram account, where she posted the letter. Zimorksi, who has moved on from the restaurant world to wine education, called for even greater action. "This is a start. A sincere apology and a promise to change, reorganize, rebuild. Oh, and to clean house."

Within the week, at least three of the women—Alpana Singh of Terra & Vine in Evanston, Ill., Corkbuzz founder Laura Fiorvanti and Racines partner Pascaline Lepeltier—protested by renouncing their once-coveted title, which takes years to earn and carries with it both prestige and greater earning power. Lepeltier commented in her Instagram announcement: "There are those on the inside [of the Court], genuine women and men who are working to transform from within, but for myself, I believe this is a time for stepping back, critical introspection, and a reevaluation of how I can be a positive force for good and encourage progress for my industry going forward."

While Singh—the first woman of color to become a Master Sommelier in North America—considered staying on with the women who wanted to help rebuild the organization, she explained in a post on her website: "The question shouldn't be can this thing be salvaged but rather does it even deserve to be? The systemic issues of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia and elitism are embedded into the DNA of this organization and nothing good can be rebuilt from its foundation. It must be dismantled and we must begin again."

Stay on top of important wine stories with Wine Spectator's free Breaking News Alerts.

But Master Sommelier Emily Wines of Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurants wants to help fix the organization from the inside. “I feel like right now it’s important to step in, especially as a woman,” Wines said. “People want to see more diversity, and if I stand back and let all the guys fix it, then how am I a part of that change?”

As of Sunday, nearly 1,100 other women and men at various stages of training and certification—including at least 18 Master Sommeliers—had signed a Change.org petition calling for a boycott of the Court's future courses and exams until the entire board stepped down. The petition cited not only the sexual harassment allegations but also the board's handling of a 2018 exam-cheating scandal and what it described as a "failure to express unequivocal support" for the BIPOC community earlier this year.

"When someone has proven that they make bad decisions multiple times, they need to step down from leadership," said petition co-author Liz Huettinger, former sommelier and wine director at Wine Spectator Grand Award–winning restaurants Spago and Addison, and now national sales manager for Mayacamas Vineyards.

Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey also expressed frustration over the board’s repeated mishandlings. Working with a group of about five MS’s to present a formal complaint to the board last week felt very similar to 2018, when the same group presented concerns about lack of transparency following the cheating scandal, with no tangible outcome. Stuckey says he’s been pushing for a Human Resources department over the last three years, too. “I feel totally duped that I was asking that, asking that and asking that, and now it looks like the reason they never did it is because they were complicit doing bad things, and they didn’t want to have a neutral voice where people can voice complaints,” he said. “There was no safe environment.”

That safe environment is especially crucial for an industry inherently tied to restaurants, which Stuckey notes “has glamorized partying and excessive drinking and non-discipline for a long time, and that just lends itself to bad behavior.”

Wines agrees. “We just have to take the idea of sommeliers being rockstars off the table, because that’s what’s getting us into the trouble that we’re in.”

Under the CMS-A plan announced Friday and subsequently revised in the Sunday announcement, the upcoming election of board members will be postponed and all members will be allowed to vote to replace the entire 15-member board. The new board will elect a new chair and vice chair, hire a full-time professional CEO and revise the bylaws and the ethics policy.

The announcement of these proposed changes also stated that Brian Cronin, Fred Dexheimer and Joseph Linder have been suspended from court activities "based on new reports of sexual misconduct received through the Ethics Reporting Line" and that the board has hired Margaret Bell, an attorney specializing in employment law and an independent workplace investigator, to look into all the allegations.

In his statement to members Friday afternoon, Broglie wrote, "I deeply apologize to all the women whose lives and careers have been negatively impacted by the predatory actions of any Master Sommelier. I put my best effort forward in changing the course of the organization, I recognize that my effort fell short."

Friday evening, the New York Times published a story in which a former student studying for the Master Sommelier exam accused Broglie, global beverage buyer for Whole Foods Market, of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with her. The Court has not yet issued a statement in response to that article.

According to Shanker, the Court's only chance for survival as a legitimate and trustworthy entity is "a complete rebirth." "It can't be an organization that polices itself anymore," Shanker said.

Van Til agrees. "The board must resign," she said. "Whether it's because they failed or just been perceived to fail isn't really the issue. It's that they've broken trust with the community, and the community will not trust any decisions they make going forward as long as they are in power."

The calls for reform come during a year of unprecedented challenges for the industry, with restaurants upended by the coronavirus, and uncertainty surrounding the sommelier profession itself in a post-pandemic world.

Why has it taken so long for the problems within the sommelier community to be brought to full light? Sarah Diehl, founder and principal of Empowered Hospitality, a human resources group focused on the restaurant industry, said that although there has been a "sea change" over the past five years, with more restaurant owners trying to professionalize their workplaces, subcultures within an industry or individual business "dictate how comfortable people feel speaking up."

"The more power someone holds over another individual, whether an employee or within the profession, the more intimidating it is to come forward. In this case, the power imbalance was very extreme," explained Diehl. "You have leaders in a field who have essentially established the field from the ground up in this country, and you have people dependent on those leaders for their career success."

Will the changes be enough to rehabilitate an organization that was founded to set high standards and earn respect for the profession? "The world evolved, and the Court of Master Sommeliers did not evolve with it and I think this is that reckoning," said Huettinger. While she is hopeful that change to the culture and practices will come, she acknowledged feeling conflicted about calls to disband the organization altogether and start over, adding, "If they don't make really revolutionary sweeping changes, even if they don't dissolve, they'll become irrelevant because we'll have evolved past them. People aren't going to buy into the same culture."


Court of Master Sommeliers Chairman Steps Down, Group to Restructure After Outcry over Sexual Harassment

The chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers-Americas (CMS-A) stepped down Friday, Nov. 6 and the group announced plans for an overhaul, following its earlier suspension of seven male Master Sommeliers from all activities and the resignation of another. All stand accused of sexually harassing women who were pursuing certification with the group. Three additional Master Sommeliers were suspended that same day, and an independent investigator has been appointed to follow up on all allegations.

"We agree that a reformed CMS-A is the only path forward to ensuring the organization's existence and integrity, and to better protect the people who look to be educated and earn the credentials for which we have all worked so hard," wrote board vice chair Virginia Philip in a letter sent Friday to all Master Sommeliers. Philip will oversee the transition, temporarily taking over from CMS-A chairman Devon Broglie, who resigned after numerous members of the sommelier community called for his departure and shortly before allegations of his own inappropriate behavior came to public light. The group will hold a town hall with members on Nov. 11 to discuss proposed reforms and a timeline for a new board election.

On Sunday, Nov. 8, following continued criticism, the Court publicly posted that the entire 15-member board would be up for election and resign as soon as new officers were voted in.

The actions were sparked by a New York Times article detailing complaints about six of the men from 21 women who alleged that they had been groped, sent explicit texts, pressured for sex in exchange for professional favors and even raped. Many of the complaints centered around Geoff Kruth, the president of GuildSomm, an educational and networking group affiliated with the Court he has since resigned from that position and forfeited his MS title. The article spawned additional complaints to an ethics reporting hotline about five other men.

The court's initial response to the article, which amounted to vague statements of support for diversity, opposition to harassment and a disavowal of a close relationship with Kruth, left many members of the sommelier community, both women and men, unsatisfied that the organization was sufficiently addressing what many call a problematic culture. "To me, it felt more like damage control than a heartfelt apology," said Jeremy Shanker, a Master Sommelier at Michael Mina in San Francisco. "It felt like something that was designed by a PR person, not by someone who is a member of the organization who was really taking responsibility, and that's what we wanted to see."

The group's Nov. 1 follow-up did little to quell the rising anger, despite a formal apology to the 13 women identified in the Times article and the suspension of Master Sommeliers Robert Bath, Matthew Citriglia, Fred Dame, Drew Hendricks and Matt Stamp. "I was really surprised that [the Court and GuildSomm] weren't more prepared and didn't have a more thorough action plan, because they were given plenty of time to deal with the issue before it went public," said Rachel Van Til, a Houston-based sommelier who shared allegations in the Times article.

One of the board members who signed the apology, Eric Entrikin, was subsequently suspended, along with Greg Harrington. None of the suspended men have yet been stripped of their MS title. The board states that the group's bylaws require a 30-day waiting period before such a move can be taken.

That same weekend, all of the women who currently hold the title of Master Sommelier in North America—just 27 of the 158 Master Sommeliers—wrote a joint letter demanding changes within the Court, including a halt to the scheduled Nov. 11 election of new board officers, an overhaul of the bylaws and the ethics code, and a commitment to greater transparency.

"There is no place for the harm that has been done to these women and so, so many others who were hurt, bullied, abused, excluded or made to feel anything other than welcome," wrote Jill Zimorski, a Chicago-area Master Sommelier, on her Instagram account, where she posted the letter. Zimorksi, who has moved on from the restaurant world to wine education, called for even greater action. "This is a start. A sincere apology and a promise to change, reorganize, rebuild. Oh, and to clean house."

Within the week, at least three of the women—Alpana Singh of Terra & Vine in Evanston, Ill., Corkbuzz founder Laura Fiorvanti and Racines partner Pascaline Lepeltier—protested by renouncing their once-coveted title, which takes years to earn and carries with it both prestige and greater earning power. Lepeltier commented in her Instagram announcement: "There are those on the inside [of the Court], genuine women and men who are working to transform from within, but for myself, I believe this is a time for stepping back, critical introspection, and a reevaluation of how I can be a positive force for good and encourage progress for my industry going forward."

While Singh—the first woman of color to become a Master Sommelier in North America—considered staying on with the women who wanted to help rebuild the organization, she explained in a post on her website: "The question shouldn't be can this thing be salvaged but rather does it even deserve to be? The systemic issues of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia and elitism are embedded into the DNA of this organization and nothing good can be rebuilt from its foundation. It must be dismantled and we must begin again."

Stay on top of important wine stories with Wine Spectator's free Breaking News Alerts.

But Master Sommelier Emily Wines of Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurants wants to help fix the organization from the inside. “I feel like right now it’s important to step in, especially as a woman,” Wines said. “People want to see more diversity, and if I stand back and let all the guys fix it, then how am I a part of that change?”

As of Sunday, nearly 1,100 other women and men at various stages of training and certification—including at least 18 Master Sommeliers—had signed a Change.org petition calling for a boycott of the Court's future courses and exams until the entire board stepped down. The petition cited not only the sexual harassment allegations but also the board's handling of a 2018 exam-cheating scandal and what it described as a "failure to express unequivocal support" for the BIPOC community earlier this year.

"When someone has proven that they make bad decisions multiple times, they need to step down from leadership," said petition co-author Liz Huettinger, former sommelier and wine director at Wine Spectator Grand Award–winning restaurants Spago and Addison, and now national sales manager for Mayacamas Vineyards.

Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey also expressed frustration over the board’s repeated mishandlings. Working with a group of about five MS’s to present a formal complaint to the board last week felt very similar to 2018, when the same group presented concerns about lack of transparency following the cheating scandal, with no tangible outcome. Stuckey says he’s been pushing for a Human Resources department over the last three years, too. “I feel totally duped that I was asking that, asking that and asking that, and now it looks like the reason they never did it is because they were complicit doing bad things, and they didn’t want to have a neutral voice where people can voice complaints,” he said. “There was no safe environment.”

That safe environment is especially crucial for an industry inherently tied to restaurants, which Stuckey notes “has glamorized partying and excessive drinking and non-discipline for a long time, and that just lends itself to bad behavior.”

Wines agrees. “We just have to take the idea of sommeliers being rockstars off the table, because that’s what’s getting us into the trouble that we’re in.”

Under the CMS-A plan announced Friday and subsequently revised in the Sunday announcement, the upcoming election of board members will be postponed and all members will be allowed to vote to replace the entire 15-member board. The new board will elect a new chair and vice chair, hire a full-time professional CEO and revise the bylaws and the ethics policy.

The announcement of these proposed changes also stated that Brian Cronin, Fred Dexheimer and Joseph Linder have been suspended from court activities "based on new reports of sexual misconduct received through the Ethics Reporting Line" and that the board has hired Margaret Bell, an attorney specializing in employment law and an independent workplace investigator, to look into all the allegations.

In his statement to members Friday afternoon, Broglie wrote, "I deeply apologize to all the women whose lives and careers have been negatively impacted by the predatory actions of any Master Sommelier. I put my best effort forward in changing the course of the organization, I recognize that my effort fell short."

Friday evening, the New York Times published a story in which a former student studying for the Master Sommelier exam accused Broglie, global beverage buyer for Whole Foods Market, of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with her. The Court has not yet issued a statement in response to that article.

According to Shanker, the Court's only chance for survival as a legitimate and trustworthy entity is "a complete rebirth." "It can't be an organization that polices itself anymore," Shanker said.

Van Til agrees. "The board must resign," she said. "Whether it's because they failed or just been perceived to fail isn't really the issue. It's that they've broken trust with the community, and the community will not trust any decisions they make going forward as long as they are in power."

The calls for reform come during a year of unprecedented challenges for the industry, with restaurants upended by the coronavirus, and uncertainty surrounding the sommelier profession itself in a post-pandemic world.

Why has it taken so long for the problems within the sommelier community to be brought to full light? Sarah Diehl, founder and principal of Empowered Hospitality, a human resources group focused on the restaurant industry, said that although there has been a "sea change" over the past five years, with more restaurant owners trying to professionalize their workplaces, subcultures within an industry or individual business "dictate how comfortable people feel speaking up."

"The more power someone holds over another individual, whether an employee or within the profession, the more intimidating it is to come forward. In this case, the power imbalance was very extreme," explained Diehl. "You have leaders in a field who have essentially established the field from the ground up in this country, and you have people dependent on those leaders for their career success."

Will the changes be enough to rehabilitate an organization that was founded to set high standards and earn respect for the profession? "The world evolved, and the Court of Master Sommeliers did not evolve with it and I think this is that reckoning," said Huettinger. While she is hopeful that change to the culture and practices will come, she acknowledged feeling conflicted about calls to disband the organization altogether and start over, adding, "If they don't make really revolutionary sweeping changes, even if they don't dissolve, they'll become irrelevant because we'll have evolved past them. People aren't going to buy into the same culture."


Court of Master Sommeliers Chairman Steps Down, Group to Restructure After Outcry over Sexual Harassment

The chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers-Americas (CMS-A) stepped down Friday, Nov. 6 and the group announced plans for an overhaul, following its earlier suspension of seven male Master Sommeliers from all activities and the resignation of another. All stand accused of sexually harassing women who were pursuing certification with the group. Three additional Master Sommeliers were suspended that same day, and an independent investigator has been appointed to follow up on all allegations.

"We agree that a reformed CMS-A is the only path forward to ensuring the organization's existence and integrity, and to better protect the people who look to be educated and earn the credentials for which we have all worked so hard," wrote board vice chair Virginia Philip in a letter sent Friday to all Master Sommeliers. Philip will oversee the transition, temporarily taking over from CMS-A chairman Devon Broglie, who resigned after numerous members of the sommelier community called for his departure and shortly before allegations of his own inappropriate behavior came to public light. The group will hold a town hall with members on Nov. 11 to discuss proposed reforms and a timeline for a new board election.

On Sunday, Nov. 8, following continued criticism, the Court publicly posted that the entire 15-member board would be up for election and resign as soon as new officers were voted in.

The actions were sparked by a New York Times article detailing complaints about six of the men from 21 women who alleged that they had been groped, sent explicit texts, pressured for sex in exchange for professional favors and even raped. Many of the complaints centered around Geoff Kruth, the president of GuildSomm, an educational and networking group affiliated with the Court he has since resigned from that position and forfeited his MS title. The article spawned additional complaints to an ethics reporting hotline about five other men.

The court's initial response to the article, which amounted to vague statements of support for diversity, opposition to harassment and a disavowal of a close relationship with Kruth, left many members of the sommelier community, both women and men, unsatisfied that the organization was sufficiently addressing what many call a problematic culture. "To me, it felt more like damage control than a heartfelt apology," said Jeremy Shanker, a Master Sommelier at Michael Mina in San Francisco. "It felt like something that was designed by a PR person, not by someone who is a member of the organization who was really taking responsibility, and that's what we wanted to see."

The group's Nov. 1 follow-up did little to quell the rising anger, despite a formal apology to the 13 women identified in the Times article and the suspension of Master Sommeliers Robert Bath, Matthew Citriglia, Fred Dame, Drew Hendricks and Matt Stamp. "I was really surprised that [the Court and GuildSomm] weren't more prepared and didn't have a more thorough action plan, because they were given plenty of time to deal with the issue before it went public," said Rachel Van Til, a Houston-based sommelier who shared allegations in the Times article.

One of the board members who signed the apology, Eric Entrikin, was subsequently suspended, along with Greg Harrington. None of the suspended men have yet been stripped of their MS title. The board states that the group's bylaws require a 30-day waiting period before such a move can be taken.

That same weekend, all of the women who currently hold the title of Master Sommelier in North America—just 27 of the 158 Master Sommeliers—wrote a joint letter demanding changes within the Court, including a halt to the scheduled Nov. 11 election of new board officers, an overhaul of the bylaws and the ethics code, and a commitment to greater transparency.

"There is no place for the harm that has been done to these women and so, so many others who were hurt, bullied, abused, excluded or made to feel anything other than welcome," wrote Jill Zimorski, a Chicago-area Master Sommelier, on her Instagram account, where she posted the letter. Zimorksi, who has moved on from the restaurant world to wine education, called for even greater action. "This is a start. A sincere apology and a promise to change, reorganize, rebuild. Oh, and to clean house."

Within the week, at least three of the women—Alpana Singh of Terra & Vine in Evanston, Ill., Corkbuzz founder Laura Fiorvanti and Racines partner Pascaline Lepeltier—protested by renouncing their once-coveted title, which takes years to earn and carries with it both prestige and greater earning power. Lepeltier commented in her Instagram announcement: "There are those on the inside [of the Court], genuine women and men who are working to transform from within, but for myself, I believe this is a time for stepping back, critical introspection, and a reevaluation of how I can be a positive force for good and encourage progress for my industry going forward."

While Singh—the first woman of color to become a Master Sommelier in North America—considered staying on with the women who wanted to help rebuild the organization, she explained in a post on her website: "The question shouldn't be can this thing be salvaged but rather does it even deserve to be? The systemic issues of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia and elitism are embedded into the DNA of this organization and nothing good can be rebuilt from its foundation. It must be dismantled and we must begin again."

Stay on top of important wine stories with Wine Spectator's free Breaking News Alerts.

But Master Sommelier Emily Wines of Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurants wants to help fix the organization from the inside. “I feel like right now it’s important to step in, especially as a woman,” Wines said. “People want to see more diversity, and if I stand back and let all the guys fix it, then how am I a part of that change?”

As of Sunday, nearly 1,100 other women and men at various stages of training and certification—including at least 18 Master Sommeliers—had signed a Change.org petition calling for a boycott of the Court's future courses and exams until the entire board stepped down. The petition cited not only the sexual harassment allegations but also the board's handling of a 2018 exam-cheating scandal and what it described as a "failure to express unequivocal support" for the BIPOC community earlier this year.

"When someone has proven that they make bad decisions multiple times, they need to step down from leadership," said petition co-author Liz Huettinger, former sommelier and wine director at Wine Spectator Grand Award–winning restaurants Spago and Addison, and now national sales manager for Mayacamas Vineyards.

Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey also expressed frustration over the board’s repeated mishandlings. Working with a group of about five MS’s to present a formal complaint to the board last week felt very similar to 2018, when the same group presented concerns about lack of transparency following the cheating scandal, with no tangible outcome. Stuckey says he’s been pushing for a Human Resources department over the last three years, too. “I feel totally duped that I was asking that, asking that and asking that, and now it looks like the reason they never did it is because they were complicit doing bad things, and they didn’t want to have a neutral voice where people can voice complaints,” he said. “There was no safe environment.”

That safe environment is especially crucial for an industry inherently tied to restaurants, which Stuckey notes “has glamorized partying and excessive drinking and non-discipline for a long time, and that just lends itself to bad behavior.”

Wines agrees. “We just have to take the idea of sommeliers being rockstars off the table, because that’s what’s getting us into the trouble that we’re in.”

Under the CMS-A plan announced Friday and subsequently revised in the Sunday announcement, the upcoming election of board members will be postponed and all members will be allowed to vote to replace the entire 15-member board. The new board will elect a new chair and vice chair, hire a full-time professional CEO and revise the bylaws and the ethics policy.

The announcement of these proposed changes also stated that Brian Cronin, Fred Dexheimer and Joseph Linder have been suspended from court activities "based on new reports of sexual misconduct received through the Ethics Reporting Line" and that the board has hired Margaret Bell, an attorney specializing in employment law and an independent workplace investigator, to look into all the allegations.

In his statement to members Friday afternoon, Broglie wrote, "I deeply apologize to all the women whose lives and careers have been negatively impacted by the predatory actions of any Master Sommelier. I put my best effort forward in changing the course of the organization, I recognize that my effort fell short."

Friday evening, the New York Times published a story in which a former student studying for the Master Sommelier exam accused Broglie, global beverage buyer for Whole Foods Market, of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with her. The Court has not yet issued a statement in response to that article.

According to Shanker, the Court's only chance for survival as a legitimate and trustworthy entity is "a complete rebirth." "It can't be an organization that polices itself anymore," Shanker said.

Van Til agrees. "The board must resign," she said. "Whether it's because they failed or just been perceived to fail isn't really the issue. It's that they've broken trust with the community, and the community will not trust any decisions they make going forward as long as they are in power."

The calls for reform come during a year of unprecedented challenges for the industry, with restaurants upended by the coronavirus, and uncertainty surrounding the sommelier profession itself in a post-pandemic world.

Why has it taken so long for the problems within the sommelier community to be brought to full light? Sarah Diehl, founder and principal of Empowered Hospitality, a human resources group focused on the restaurant industry, said that although there has been a "sea change" over the past five years, with more restaurant owners trying to professionalize their workplaces, subcultures within an industry or individual business "dictate how comfortable people feel speaking up."

"The more power someone holds over another individual, whether an employee or within the profession, the more intimidating it is to come forward. In this case, the power imbalance was very extreme," explained Diehl. "You have leaders in a field who have essentially established the field from the ground up in this country, and you have people dependent on those leaders for their career success."

Will the changes be enough to rehabilitate an organization that was founded to set high standards and earn respect for the profession? "The world evolved, and the Court of Master Sommeliers did not evolve with it and I think this is that reckoning," said Huettinger. While she is hopeful that change to the culture and practices will come, she acknowledged feeling conflicted about calls to disband the organization altogether and start over, adding, "If they don't make really revolutionary sweeping changes, even if they don't dissolve, they'll become irrelevant because we'll have evolved past them. People aren't going to buy into the same culture."


Court of Master Sommeliers Chairman Steps Down, Group to Restructure After Outcry over Sexual Harassment

The chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers-Americas (CMS-A) stepped down Friday, Nov. 6 and the group announced plans for an overhaul, following its earlier suspension of seven male Master Sommeliers from all activities and the resignation of another. All stand accused of sexually harassing women who were pursuing certification with the group. Three additional Master Sommeliers were suspended that same day, and an independent investigator has been appointed to follow up on all allegations.

"We agree that a reformed CMS-A is the only path forward to ensuring the organization's existence and integrity, and to better protect the people who look to be educated and earn the credentials for which we have all worked so hard," wrote board vice chair Virginia Philip in a letter sent Friday to all Master Sommeliers. Philip will oversee the transition, temporarily taking over from CMS-A chairman Devon Broglie, who resigned after numerous members of the sommelier community called for his departure and shortly before allegations of his own inappropriate behavior came to public light. The group will hold a town hall with members on Nov. 11 to discuss proposed reforms and a timeline for a new board election.

On Sunday, Nov. 8, following continued criticism, the Court publicly posted that the entire 15-member board would be up for election and resign as soon as new officers were voted in.

The actions were sparked by a New York Times article detailing complaints about six of the men from 21 women who alleged that they had been groped, sent explicit texts, pressured for sex in exchange for professional favors and even raped. Many of the complaints centered around Geoff Kruth, the president of GuildSomm, an educational and networking group affiliated with the Court he has since resigned from that position and forfeited his MS title. The article spawned additional complaints to an ethics reporting hotline about five other men.

The court's initial response to the article, which amounted to vague statements of support for diversity, opposition to harassment and a disavowal of a close relationship with Kruth, left many members of the sommelier community, both women and men, unsatisfied that the organization was sufficiently addressing what many call a problematic culture. "To me, it felt more like damage control than a heartfelt apology," said Jeremy Shanker, a Master Sommelier at Michael Mina in San Francisco. "It felt like something that was designed by a PR person, not by someone who is a member of the organization who was really taking responsibility, and that's what we wanted to see."

The group's Nov. 1 follow-up did little to quell the rising anger, despite a formal apology to the 13 women identified in the Times article and the suspension of Master Sommeliers Robert Bath, Matthew Citriglia, Fred Dame, Drew Hendricks and Matt Stamp. "I was really surprised that [the Court and GuildSomm] weren't more prepared and didn't have a more thorough action plan, because they were given plenty of time to deal with the issue before it went public," said Rachel Van Til, a Houston-based sommelier who shared allegations in the Times article.

One of the board members who signed the apology, Eric Entrikin, was subsequently suspended, along with Greg Harrington. None of the suspended men have yet been stripped of their MS title. The board states that the group's bylaws require a 30-day waiting period before such a move can be taken.

That same weekend, all of the women who currently hold the title of Master Sommelier in North America—just 27 of the 158 Master Sommeliers—wrote a joint letter demanding changes within the Court, including a halt to the scheduled Nov. 11 election of new board officers, an overhaul of the bylaws and the ethics code, and a commitment to greater transparency.

"There is no place for the harm that has been done to these women and so, so many others who were hurt, bullied, abused, excluded or made to feel anything other than welcome," wrote Jill Zimorski, a Chicago-area Master Sommelier, on her Instagram account, where she posted the letter. Zimorksi, who has moved on from the restaurant world to wine education, called for even greater action. "This is a start. A sincere apology and a promise to change, reorganize, rebuild. Oh, and to clean house."

Within the week, at least three of the women—Alpana Singh of Terra & Vine in Evanston, Ill., Corkbuzz founder Laura Fiorvanti and Racines partner Pascaline Lepeltier—protested by renouncing their once-coveted title, which takes years to earn and carries with it both prestige and greater earning power. Lepeltier commented in her Instagram announcement: "There are those on the inside [of the Court], genuine women and men who are working to transform from within, but for myself, I believe this is a time for stepping back, critical introspection, and a reevaluation of how I can be a positive force for good and encourage progress for my industry going forward."

While Singh—the first woman of color to become a Master Sommelier in North America—considered staying on with the women who wanted to help rebuild the organization, she explained in a post on her website: "The question shouldn't be can this thing be salvaged but rather does it even deserve to be? The systemic issues of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia and elitism are embedded into the DNA of this organization and nothing good can be rebuilt from its foundation. It must be dismantled and we must begin again."

Stay on top of important wine stories with Wine Spectator's free Breaking News Alerts.

But Master Sommelier Emily Wines of Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurants wants to help fix the organization from the inside. “I feel like right now it’s important to step in, especially as a woman,” Wines said. “People want to see more diversity, and if I stand back and let all the guys fix it, then how am I a part of that change?”

As of Sunday, nearly 1,100 other women and men at various stages of training and certification—including at least 18 Master Sommeliers—had signed a Change.org petition calling for a boycott of the Court's future courses and exams until the entire board stepped down. The petition cited not only the sexual harassment allegations but also the board's handling of a 2018 exam-cheating scandal and what it described as a "failure to express unequivocal support" for the BIPOC community earlier this year.

"When someone has proven that they make bad decisions multiple times, they need to step down from leadership," said petition co-author Liz Huettinger, former sommelier and wine director at Wine Spectator Grand Award–winning restaurants Spago and Addison, and now national sales manager for Mayacamas Vineyards.

Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey also expressed frustration over the board’s repeated mishandlings. Working with a group of about five MS’s to present a formal complaint to the board last week felt very similar to 2018, when the same group presented concerns about lack of transparency following the cheating scandal, with no tangible outcome. Stuckey says he’s been pushing for a Human Resources department over the last three years, too. “I feel totally duped that I was asking that, asking that and asking that, and now it looks like the reason they never did it is because they were complicit doing bad things, and they didn’t want to have a neutral voice where people can voice complaints,” he said. “There was no safe environment.”

That safe environment is especially crucial for an industry inherently tied to restaurants, which Stuckey notes “has glamorized partying and excessive drinking and non-discipline for a long time, and that just lends itself to bad behavior.”

Wines agrees. “We just have to take the idea of sommeliers being rockstars off the table, because that’s what’s getting us into the trouble that we’re in.”

Under the CMS-A plan announced Friday and subsequently revised in the Sunday announcement, the upcoming election of board members will be postponed and all members will be allowed to vote to replace the entire 15-member board. The new board will elect a new chair and vice chair, hire a full-time professional CEO and revise the bylaws and the ethics policy.

The announcement of these proposed changes also stated that Brian Cronin, Fred Dexheimer and Joseph Linder have been suspended from court activities "based on new reports of sexual misconduct received through the Ethics Reporting Line" and that the board has hired Margaret Bell, an attorney specializing in employment law and an independent workplace investigator, to look into all the allegations.

In his statement to members Friday afternoon, Broglie wrote, "I deeply apologize to all the women whose lives and careers have been negatively impacted by the predatory actions of any Master Sommelier. I put my best effort forward in changing the course of the organization, I recognize that my effort fell short."

Friday evening, the New York Times published a story in which a former student studying for the Master Sommelier exam accused Broglie, global beverage buyer for Whole Foods Market, of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with her. The Court has not yet issued a statement in response to that article.

According to Shanker, the Court's only chance for survival as a legitimate and trustworthy entity is "a complete rebirth." "It can't be an organization that polices itself anymore," Shanker said.

Van Til agrees. "The board must resign," she said. "Whether it's because they failed or just been perceived to fail isn't really the issue. It's that they've broken trust with the community, and the community will not trust any decisions they make going forward as long as they are in power."

The calls for reform come during a year of unprecedented challenges for the industry, with restaurants upended by the coronavirus, and uncertainty surrounding the sommelier profession itself in a post-pandemic world.

Why has it taken so long for the problems within the sommelier community to be brought to full light? Sarah Diehl, founder and principal of Empowered Hospitality, a human resources group focused on the restaurant industry, said that although there has been a "sea change" over the past five years, with more restaurant owners trying to professionalize their workplaces, subcultures within an industry or individual business "dictate how comfortable people feel speaking up."

"The more power someone holds over another individual, whether an employee or within the profession, the more intimidating it is to come forward. In this case, the power imbalance was very extreme," explained Diehl. "You have leaders in a field who have essentially established the field from the ground up in this country, and you have people dependent on those leaders for their career success."

Will the changes be enough to rehabilitate an organization that was founded to set high standards and earn respect for the profession? "The world evolved, and the Court of Master Sommeliers did not evolve with it and I think this is that reckoning," said Huettinger. While she is hopeful that change to the culture and practices will come, she acknowledged feeling conflicted about calls to disband the organization altogether and start over, adding, "If they don't make really revolutionary sweeping changes, even if they don't dissolve, they'll become irrelevant because we'll have evolved past them. People aren't going to buy into the same culture."


Court of Master Sommeliers Chairman Steps Down, Group to Restructure After Outcry over Sexual Harassment

The chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers-Americas (CMS-A) stepped down Friday, Nov. 6 and the group announced plans for an overhaul, following its earlier suspension of seven male Master Sommeliers from all activities and the resignation of another. All stand accused of sexually harassing women who were pursuing certification with the group. Three additional Master Sommeliers were suspended that same day, and an independent investigator has been appointed to follow up on all allegations.

"We agree that a reformed CMS-A is the only path forward to ensuring the organization's existence and integrity, and to better protect the people who look to be educated and earn the credentials for which we have all worked so hard," wrote board vice chair Virginia Philip in a letter sent Friday to all Master Sommeliers. Philip will oversee the transition, temporarily taking over from CMS-A chairman Devon Broglie, who resigned after numerous members of the sommelier community called for his departure and shortly before allegations of his own inappropriate behavior came to public light. The group will hold a town hall with members on Nov. 11 to discuss proposed reforms and a timeline for a new board election.

On Sunday, Nov. 8, following continued criticism, the Court publicly posted that the entire 15-member board would be up for election and resign as soon as new officers were voted in.

The actions were sparked by a New York Times article detailing complaints about six of the men from 21 women who alleged that they had been groped, sent explicit texts, pressured for sex in exchange for professional favors and even raped. Many of the complaints centered around Geoff Kruth, the president of GuildSomm, an educational and networking group affiliated with the Court he has since resigned from that position and forfeited his MS title. The article spawned additional complaints to an ethics reporting hotline about five other men.

The court's initial response to the article, which amounted to vague statements of support for diversity, opposition to harassment and a disavowal of a close relationship with Kruth, left many members of the sommelier community, both women and men, unsatisfied that the organization was sufficiently addressing what many call a problematic culture. "To me, it felt more like damage control than a heartfelt apology," said Jeremy Shanker, a Master Sommelier at Michael Mina in San Francisco. "It felt like something that was designed by a PR person, not by someone who is a member of the organization who was really taking responsibility, and that's what we wanted to see."

The group's Nov. 1 follow-up did little to quell the rising anger, despite a formal apology to the 13 women identified in the Times article and the suspension of Master Sommeliers Robert Bath, Matthew Citriglia, Fred Dame, Drew Hendricks and Matt Stamp. "I was really surprised that [the Court and GuildSomm] weren't more prepared and didn't have a more thorough action plan, because they were given plenty of time to deal with the issue before it went public," said Rachel Van Til, a Houston-based sommelier who shared allegations in the Times article.

One of the board members who signed the apology, Eric Entrikin, was subsequently suspended, along with Greg Harrington. None of the suspended men have yet been stripped of their MS title. The board states that the group's bylaws require a 30-day waiting period before such a move can be taken.

That same weekend, all of the women who currently hold the title of Master Sommelier in North America—just 27 of the 158 Master Sommeliers—wrote a joint letter demanding changes within the Court, including a halt to the scheduled Nov. 11 election of new board officers, an overhaul of the bylaws and the ethics code, and a commitment to greater transparency.

"There is no place for the harm that has been done to these women and so, so many others who were hurt, bullied, abused, excluded or made to feel anything other than welcome," wrote Jill Zimorski, a Chicago-area Master Sommelier, on her Instagram account, where she posted the letter. Zimorksi, who has moved on from the restaurant world to wine education, called for even greater action. "This is a start. A sincere apology and a promise to change, reorganize, rebuild. Oh, and to clean house."

Within the week, at least three of the women—Alpana Singh of Terra & Vine in Evanston, Ill., Corkbuzz founder Laura Fiorvanti and Racines partner Pascaline Lepeltier—protested by renouncing their once-coveted title, which takes years to earn and carries with it both prestige and greater earning power. Lepeltier commented in her Instagram announcement: "There are those on the inside [of the Court], genuine women and men who are working to transform from within, but for myself, I believe this is a time for stepping back, critical introspection, and a reevaluation of how I can be a positive force for good and encourage progress for my industry going forward."

While Singh—the first woman of color to become a Master Sommelier in North America—considered staying on with the women who wanted to help rebuild the organization, she explained in a post on her website: "The question shouldn't be can this thing be salvaged but rather does it even deserve to be? The systemic issues of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia and elitism are embedded into the DNA of this organization and nothing good can be rebuilt from its foundation. It must be dismantled and we must begin again."

Stay on top of important wine stories with Wine Spectator's free Breaking News Alerts.

But Master Sommelier Emily Wines of Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurants wants to help fix the organization from the inside. “I feel like right now it’s important to step in, especially as a woman,” Wines said. “People want to see more diversity, and if I stand back and let all the guys fix it, then how am I a part of that change?”

As of Sunday, nearly 1,100 other women and men at various stages of training and certification—including at least 18 Master Sommeliers—had signed a Change.org petition calling for a boycott of the Court's future courses and exams until the entire board stepped down. The petition cited not only the sexual harassment allegations but also the board's handling of a 2018 exam-cheating scandal and what it described as a "failure to express unequivocal support" for the BIPOC community earlier this year.

"When someone has proven that they make bad decisions multiple times, they need to step down from leadership," said petition co-author Liz Huettinger, former sommelier and wine director at Wine Spectator Grand Award–winning restaurants Spago and Addison, and now national sales manager for Mayacamas Vineyards.

Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey also expressed frustration over the board’s repeated mishandlings. Working with a group of about five MS’s to present a formal complaint to the board last week felt very similar to 2018, when the same group presented concerns about lack of transparency following the cheating scandal, with no tangible outcome. Stuckey says he’s been pushing for a Human Resources department over the last three years, too. “I feel totally duped that I was asking that, asking that and asking that, and now it looks like the reason they never did it is because they were complicit doing bad things, and they didn’t want to have a neutral voice where people can voice complaints,” he said. “There was no safe environment.”

That safe environment is especially crucial for an industry inherently tied to restaurants, which Stuckey notes “has glamorized partying and excessive drinking and non-discipline for a long time, and that just lends itself to bad behavior.”

Wines agrees. “We just have to take the idea of sommeliers being rockstars off the table, because that’s what’s getting us into the trouble that we’re in.”

Under the CMS-A plan announced Friday and subsequently revised in the Sunday announcement, the upcoming election of board members will be postponed and all members will be allowed to vote to replace the entire 15-member board. The new board will elect a new chair and vice chair, hire a full-time professional CEO and revise the bylaws and the ethics policy.

The announcement of these proposed changes also stated that Brian Cronin, Fred Dexheimer and Joseph Linder have been suspended from court activities "based on new reports of sexual misconduct received through the Ethics Reporting Line" and that the board has hired Margaret Bell, an attorney specializing in employment law and an independent workplace investigator, to look into all the allegations.

In his statement to members Friday afternoon, Broglie wrote, "I deeply apologize to all the women whose lives and careers have been negatively impacted by the predatory actions of any Master Sommelier. I put my best effort forward in changing the course of the organization, I recognize that my effort fell short."

Friday evening, the New York Times published a story in which a former student studying for the Master Sommelier exam accused Broglie, global beverage buyer for Whole Foods Market, of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with her. The Court has not yet issued a statement in response to that article.

According to Shanker, the Court's only chance for survival as a legitimate and trustworthy entity is "a complete rebirth." "It can't be an organization that polices itself anymore," Shanker said.

Van Til agrees. "The board must resign," she said. "Whether it's because they failed or just been perceived to fail isn't really the issue. It's that they've broken trust with the community, and the community will not trust any decisions they make going forward as long as they are in power."

The calls for reform come during a year of unprecedented challenges for the industry, with restaurants upended by the coronavirus, and uncertainty surrounding the sommelier profession itself in a post-pandemic world.

Why has it taken so long for the problems within the sommelier community to be brought to full light? Sarah Diehl, founder and principal of Empowered Hospitality, a human resources group focused on the restaurant industry, said that although there has been a "sea change" over the past five years, with more restaurant owners trying to professionalize their workplaces, subcultures within an industry or individual business "dictate how comfortable people feel speaking up."

"The more power someone holds over another individual, whether an employee or within the profession, the more intimidating it is to come forward. In this case, the power imbalance was very extreme," explained Diehl. "You have leaders in a field who have essentially established the field from the ground up in this country, and you have people dependent on those leaders for their career success."

Will the changes be enough to rehabilitate an organization that was founded to set high standards and earn respect for the profession? "The world evolved, and the Court of Master Sommeliers did not evolve with it and I think this is that reckoning," said Huettinger. While she is hopeful that change to the culture and practices will come, she acknowledged feeling conflicted about calls to disband the organization altogether and start over, adding, "If they don't make really revolutionary sweeping changes, even if they don't dissolve, they'll become irrelevant because we'll have evolved past them. People aren't going to buy into the same culture."


Court of Master Sommeliers Chairman Steps Down, Group to Restructure After Outcry over Sexual Harassment

The chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers-Americas (CMS-A) stepped down Friday, Nov. 6 and the group announced plans for an overhaul, following its earlier suspension of seven male Master Sommeliers from all activities and the resignation of another. All stand accused of sexually harassing women who were pursuing certification with the group. Three additional Master Sommeliers were suspended that same day, and an independent investigator has been appointed to follow up on all allegations.

"We agree that a reformed CMS-A is the only path forward to ensuring the organization's existence and integrity, and to better protect the people who look to be educated and earn the credentials for which we have all worked so hard," wrote board vice chair Virginia Philip in a letter sent Friday to all Master Sommeliers. Philip will oversee the transition, temporarily taking over from CMS-A chairman Devon Broglie, who resigned after numerous members of the sommelier community called for his departure and shortly before allegations of his own inappropriate behavior came to public light. The group will hold a town hall with members on Nov. 11 to discuss proposed reforms and a timeline for a new board election.

On Sunday, Nov. 8, following continued criticism, the Court publicly posted that the entire 15-member board would be up for election and resign as soon as new officers were voted in.

The actions were sparked by a New York Times article detailing complaints about six of the men from 21 women who alleged that they had been groped, sent explicit texts, pressured for sex in exchange for professional favors and even raped. Many of the complaints centered around Geoff Kruth, the president of GuildSomm, an educational and networking group affiliated with the Court he has since resigned from that position and forfeited his MS title. The article spawned additional complaints to an ethics reporting hotline about five other men.

The court's initial response to the article, which amounted to vague statements of support for diversity, opposition to harassment and a disavowal of a close relationship with Kruth, left many members of the sommelier community, both women and men, unsatisfied that the organization was sufficiently addressing what many call a problematic culture. "To me, it felt more like damage control than a heartfelt apology," said Jeremy Shanker, a Master Sommelier at Michael Mina in San Francisco. "It felt like something that was designed by a PR person, not by someone who is a member of the organization who was really taking responsibility, and that's what we wanted to see."

The group's Nov. 1 follow-up did little to quell the rising anger, despite a formal apology to the 13 women identified in the Times article and the suspension of Master Sommeliers Robert Bath, Matthew Citriglia, Fred Dame, Drew Hendricks and Matt Stamp. "I was really surprised that [the Court and GuildSomm] weren't more prepared and didn't have a more thorough action plan, because they were given plenty of time to deal with the issue before it went public," said Rachel Van Til, a Houston-based sommelier who shared allegations in the Times article.

One of the board members who signed the apology, Eric Entrikin, was subsequently suspended, along with Greg Harrington. None of the suspended men have yet been stripped of their MS title. The board states that the group's bylaws require a 30-day waiting period before such a move can be taken.

That same weekend, all of the women who currently hold the title of Master Sommelier in North America—just 27 of the 158 Master Sommeliers—wrote a joint letter demanding changes within the Court, including a halt to the scheduled Nov. 11 election of new board officers, an overhaul of the bylaws and the ethics code, and a commitment to greater transparency.

"There is no place for the harm that has been done to these women and so, so many others who were hurt, bullied, abused, excluded or made to feel anything other than welcome," wrote Jill Zimorski, a Chicago-area Master Sommelier, on her Instagram account, where she posted the letter. Zimorksi, who has moved on from the restaurant world to wine education, called for even greater action. "This is a start. A sincere apology and a promise to change, reorganize, rebuild. Oh, and to clean house."

Within the week, at least three of the women—Alpana Singh of Terra & Vine in Evanston, Ill., Corkbuzz founder Laura Fiorvanti and Racines partner Pascaline Lepeltier—protested by renouncing their once-coveted title, which takes years to earn and carries with it both prestige and greater earning power. Lepeltier commented in her Instagram announcement: "There are those on the inside [of the Court], genuine women and men who are working to transform from within, but for myself, I believe this is a time for stepping back, critical introspection, and a reevaluation of how I can be a positive force for good and encourage progress for my industry going forward."

While Singh—the first woman of color to become a Master Sommelier in North America—considered staying on with the women who wanted to help rebuild the organization, she explained in a post on her website: "The question shouldn't be can this thing be salvaged but rather does it even deserve to be? The systemic issues of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia and elitism are embedded into the DNA of this organization and nothing good can be rebuilt from its foundation. It must be dismantled and we must begin again."

Stay on top of important wine stories with Wine Spectator's free Breaking News Alerts.

But Master Sommelier Emily Wines of Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurants wants to help fix the organization from the inside. “I feel like right now it’s important to step in, especially as a woman,” Wines said. “People want to see more diversity, and if I stand back and let all the guys fix it, then how am I a part of that change?”

As of Sunday, nearly 1,100 other women and men at various stages of training and certification—including at least 18 Master Sommeliers—had signed a Change.org petition calling for a boycott of the Court's future courses and exams until the entire board stepped down. The petition cited not only the sexual harassment allegations but also the board's handling of a 2018 exam-cheating scandal and what it described as a "failure to express unequivocal support" for the BIPOC community earlier this year.

"When someone has proven that they make bad decisions multiple times, they need to step down from leadership," said petition co-author Liz Huettinger, former sommelier and wine director at Wine Spectator Grand Award–winning restaurants Spago and Addison, and now national sales manager for Mayacamas Vineyards.

Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey also expressed frustration over the board’s repeated mishandlings. Working with a group of about five MS’s to present a formal complaint to the board last week felt very similar to 2018, when the same group presented concerns about lack of transparency following the cheating scandal, with no tangible outcome. Stuckey says he’s been pushing for a Human Resources department over the last three years, too. “I feel totally duped that I was asking that, asking that and asking that, and now it looks like the reason they never did it is because they were complicit doing bad things, and they didn’t want to have a neutral voice where people can voice complaints,” he said. “There was no safe environment.”

That safe environment is especially crucial for an industry inherently tied to restaurants, which Stuckey notes “has glamorized partying and excessive drinking and non-discipline for a long time, and that just lends itself to bad behavior.”

Wines agrees. “We just have to take the idea of sommeliers being rockstars off the table, because that’s what’s getting us into the trouble that we’re in.”

Under the CMS-A plan announced Friday and subsequently revised in the Sunday announcement, the upcoming election of board members will be postponed and all members will be allowed to vote to replace the entire 15-member board. The new board will elect a new chair and vice chair, hire a full-time professional CEO and revise the bylaws and the ethics policy.

The announcement of these proposed changes also stated that Brian Cronin, Fred Dexheimer and Joseph Linder have been suspended from court activities "based on new reports of sexual misconduct received through the Ethics Reporting Line" and that the board has hired Margaret Bell, an attorney specializing in employment law and an independent workplace investigator, to look into all the allegations.

In his statement to members Friday afternoon, Broglie wrote, "I deeply apologize to all the women whose lives and careers have been negatively impacted by the predatory actions of any Master Sommelier. I put my best effort forward in changing the course of the organization, I recognize that my effort fell short."

Friday evening, the New York Times published a story in which a former student studying for the Master Sommelier exam accused Broglie, global beverage buyer for Whole Foods Market, of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with her. The Court has not yet issued a statement in response to that article.

According to Shanker, the Court's only chance for survival as a legitimate and trustworthy entity is "a complete rebirth." "It can't be an organization that polices itself anymore," Shanker said.

Van Til agrees. "The board must resign," she said. "Whether it's because they failed or just been perceived to fail isn't really the issue. It's that they've broken trust with the community, and the community will not trust any decisions they make going forward as long as they are in power."

The calls for reform come during a year of unprecedented challenges for the industry, with restaurants upended by the coronavirus, and uncertainty surrounding the sommelier profession itself in a post-pandemic world.

Why has it taken so long for the problems within the sommelier community to be brought to full light? Sarah Diehl, founder and principal of Empowered Hospitality, a human resources group focused on the restaurant industry, said that although there has been a "sea change" over the past five years, with more restaurant owners trying to professionalize their workplaces, subcultures within an industry or individual business "dictate how comfortable people feel speaking up."

"The more power someone holds over another individual, whether an employee or within the profession, the more intimidating it is to come forward. In this case, the power imbalance was very extreme," explained Diehl. "You have leaders in a field who have essentially established the field from the ground up in this country, and you have people dependent on those leaders for their career success."

Will the changes be enough to rehabilitate an organization that was founded to set high standards and earn respect for the profession? "The world evolved, and the Court of Master Sommeliers did not evolve with it and I think this is that reckoning," said Huettinger. While she is hopeful that change to the culture and practices will come, she acknowledged feeling conflicted about calls to disband the organization altogether and start over, adding, "If they don't make really revolutionary sweeping changes, even if they don't dissolve, they'll become irrelevant because we'll have evolved past them. People aren't going to buy into the same culture."


Court of Master Sommeliers Chairman Steps Down, Group to Restructure After Outcry over Sexual Harassment

The chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers-Americas (CMS-A) stepped down Friday, Nov. 6 and the group announced plans for an overhaul, following its earlier suspension of seven male Master Sommeliers from all activities and the resignation of another. All stand accused of sexually harassing women who were pursuing certification with the group. Three additional Master Sommeliers were suspended that same day, and an independent investigator has been appointed to follow up on all allegations.

"We agree that a reformed CMS-A is the only path forward to ensuring the organization's existence and integrity, and to better protect the people who look to be educated and earn the credentials for which we have all worked so hard," wrote board vice chair Virginia Philip in a letter sent Friday to all Master Sommeliers. Philip will oversee the transition, temporarily taking over from CMS-A chairman Devon Broglie, who resigned after numerous members of the sommelier community called for his departure and shortly before allegations of his own inappropriate behavior came to public light. The group will hold a town hall with members on Nov. 11 to discuss proposed reforms and a timeline for a new board election.

On Sunday, Nov. 8, following continued criticism, the Court publicly posted that the entire 15-member board would be up for election and resign as soon as new officers were voted in.

The actions were sparked by a New York Times article detailing complaints about six of the men from 21 women who alleged that they had been groped, sent explicit texts, pressured for sex in exchange for professional favors and even raped. Many of the complaints centered around Geoff Kruth, the president of GuildSomm, an educational and networking group affiliated with the Court he has since resigned from that position and forfeited his MS title. The article spawned additional complaints to an ethics reporting hotline about five other men.

The court's initial response to the article, which amounted to vague statements of support for diversity, opposition to harassment and a disavowal of a close relationship with Kruth, left many members of the sommelier community, both women and men, unsatisfied that the organization was sufficiently addressing what many call a problematic culture. "To me, it felt more like damage control than a heartfelt apology," said Jeremy Shanker, a Master Sommelier at Michael Mina in San Francisco. "It felt like something that was designed by a PR person, not by someone who is a member of the organization who was really taking responsibility, and that's what we wanted to see."

The group's Nov. 1 follow-up did little to quell the rising anger, despite a formal apology to the 13 women identified in the Times article and the suspension of Master Sommeliers Robert Bath, Matthew Citriglia, Fred Dame, Drew Hendricks and Matt Stamp. "I was really surprised that [the Court and GuildSomm] weren't more prepared and didn't have a more thorough action plan, because they were given plenty of time to deal with the issue before it went public," said Rachel Van Til, a Houston-based sommelier who shared allegations in the Times article.

One of the board members who signed the apology, Eric Entrikin, was subsequently suspended, along with Greg Harrington. None of the suspended men have yet been stripped of their MS title. The board states that the group's bylaws require a 30-day waiting period before such a move can be taken.

That same weekend, all of the women who currently hold the title of Master Sommelier in North America—just 27 of the 158 Master Sommeliers—wrote a joint letter demanding changes within the Court, including a halt to the scheduled Nov. 11 election of new board officers, an overhaul of the bylaws and the ethics code, and a commitment to greater transparency.

"There is no place for the harm that has been done to these women and so, so many others who were hurt, bullied, abused, excluded or made to feel anything other than welcome," wrote Jill Zimorski, a Chicago-area Master Sommelier, on her Instagram account, where she posted the letter. Zimorksi, who has moved on from the restaurant world to wine education, called for even greater action. "This is a start. A sincere apology and a promise to change, reorganize, rebuild. Oh, and to clean house."

Within the week, at least three of the women—Alpana Singh of Terra & Vine in Evanston, Ill., Corkbuzz founder Laura Fiorvanti and Racines partner Pascaline Lepeltier—protested by renouncing their once-coveted title, which takes years to earn and carries with it both prestige and greater earning power. Lepeltier commented in her Instagram announcement: "There are those on the inside [of the Court], genuine women and men who are working to transform from within, but for myself, I believe this is a time for stepping back, critical introspection, and a reevaluation of how I can be a positive force for good and encourage progress for my industry going forward."

While Singh—the first woman of color to become a Master Sommelier in North America—considered staying on with the women who wanted to help rebuild the organization, she explained in a post on her website: "The question shouldn't be can this thing be salvaged but rather does it even deserve to be? The systemic issues of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia and elitism are embedded into the DNA of this organization and nothing good can be rebuilt from its foundation. It must be dismantled and we must begin again."

Stay on top of important wine stories with Wine Spectator's free Breaking News Alerts.

But Master Sommelier Emily Wines of Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurants wants to help fix the organization from the inside. “I feel like right now it’s important to step in, especially as a woman,” Wines said. “People want to see more diversity, and if I stand back and let all the guys fix it, then how am I a part of that change?”

As of Sunday, nearly 1,100 other women and men at various stages of training and certification—including at least 18 Master Sommeliers—had signed a Change.org petition calling for a boycott of the Court's future courses and exams until the entire board stepped down. The petition cited not only the sexual harassment allegations but also the board's handling of a 2018 exam-cheating scandal and what it described as a "failure to express unequivocal support" for the BIPOC community earlier this year.

"When someone has proven that they make bad decisions multiple times, they need to step down from leadership," said petition co-author Liz Huettinger, former sommelier and wine director at Wine Spectator Grand Award–winning restaurants Spago and Addison, and now national sales manager for Mayacamas Vineyards.

Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey also expressed frustration over the board’s repeated mishandlings. Working with a group of about five MS’s to present a formal complaint to the board last week felt very similar to 2018, when the same group presented concerns about lack of transparency following the cheating scandal, with no tangible outcome. Stuckey says he’s been pushing for a Human Resources department over the last three years, too. “I feel totally duped that I was asking that, asking that and asking that, and now it looks like the reason they never did it is because they were complicit doing bad things, and they didn’t want to have a neutral voice where people can voice complaints,” he said. “There was no safe environment.”

That safe environment is especially crucial for an industry inherently tied to restaurants, which Stuckey notes “has glamorized partying and excessive drinking and non-discipline for a long time, and that just lends itself to bad behavior.”

Wines agrees. “We just have to take the idea of sommeliers being rockstars off the table, because that’s what’s getting us into the trouble that we’re in.”

Under the CMS-A plan announced Friday and subsequently revised in the Sunday announcement, the upcoming election of board members will be postponed and all members will be allowed to vote to replace the entire 15-member board. The new board will elect a new chair and vice chair, hire a full-time professional CEO and revise the bylaws and the ethics policy.

The announcement of these proposed changes also stated that Brian Cronin, Fred Dexheimer and Joseph Linder have been suspended from court activities "based on new reports of sexual misconduct received through the Ethics Reporting Line" and that the board has hired Margaret Bell, an attorney specializing in employment law and an independent workplace investigator, to look into all the allegations.

In his statement to members Friday afternoon, Broglie wrote, "I deeply apologize to all the women whose lives and careers have been negatively impacted by the predatory actions of any Master Sommelier. I put my best effort forward in changing the course of the organization, I recognize that my effort fell short."

Friday evening, the New York Times published a story in which a former student studying for the Master Sommelier exam accused Broglie, global beverage buyer for Whole Foods Market, of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with her. The Court has not yet issued a statement in response to that article.

According to Shanker, the Court's only chance for survival as a legitimate and trustworthy entity is "a complete rebirth." "It can't be an organization that polices itself anymore," Shanker said.

Van Til agrees. "The board must resign," she said. "Whether it's because they failed or just been perceived to fail isn't really the issue. It's that they've broken trust with the community, and the community will not trust any decisions they make going forward as long as they are in power."

The calls for reform come during a year of unprecedented challenges for the industry, with restaurants upended by the coronavirus, and uncertainty surrounding the sommelier profession itself in a post-pandemic world.

Why has it taken so long for the problems within the sommelier community to be brought to full light? Sarah Diehl, founder and principal of Empowered Hospitality, a human resources group focused on the restaurant industry, said that although there has been a "sea change" over the past five years, with more restaurant owners trying to professionalize their workplaces, subcultures within an industry or individual business "dictate how comfortable people feel speaking up."

"The more power someone holds over another individual, whether an employee or within the profession, the more intimidating it is to come forward. In this case, the power imbalance was very extreme," explained Diehl. "You have leaders in a field who have essentially established the field from the ground up in this country, and you have people dependent on those leaders for their career success."

Will the changes be enough to rehabilitate an organization that was founded to set high standards and earn respect for the profession? "The world evolved, and the Court of Master Sommeliers did not evolve with it and I think this is that reckoning," said Huettinger. While she is hopeful that change to the culture and practices will come, she acknowledged feeling conflicted about calls to disband the organization altogether and start over, adding, "If they don't make really revolutionary sweeping changes, even if they don't dissolve, they'll become irrelevant because we'll have evolved past them. People aren't going to buy into the same culture."


Court of Master Sommeliers Chairman Steps Down, Group to Restructure After Outcry over Sexual Harassment

The chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers-Americas (CMS-A) stepped down Friday, Nov. 6 and the group announced plans for an overhaul, following its earlier suspension of seven male Master Sommeliers from all activities and the resignation of another. All stand accused of sexually harassing women who were pursuing certification with the group. Three additional Master Sommeliers were suspended that same day, and an independent investigator has been appointed to follow up on all allegations.

"We agree that a reformed CMS-A is the only path forward to ensuring the organization's existence and integrity, and to better protect the people who look to be educated and earn the credentials for which we have all worked so hard," wrote board vice chair Virginia Philip in a letter sent Friday to all Master Sommeliers. Philip will oversee the transition, temporarily taking over from CMS-A chairman Devon Broglie, who resigned after numerous members of the sommelier community called for his departure and shortly before allegations of his own inappropriate behavior came to public light. The group will hold a town hall with members on Nov. 11 to discuss proposed reforms and a timeline for a new board election.

On Sunday, Nov. 8, following continued criticism, the Court publicly posted that the entire 15-member board would be up for election and resign as soon as new officers were voted in.

The actions were sparked by a New York Times article detailing complaints about six of the men from 21 women who alleged that they had been groped, sent explicit texts, pressured for sex in exchange for professional favors and even raped. Many of the complaints centered around Geoff Kruth, the president of GuildSomm, an educational and networking group affiliated with the Court he has since resigned from that position and forfeited his MS title. The article spawned additional complaints to an ethics reporting hotline about five other men.

The court's initial response to the article, which amounted to vague statements of support for diversity, opposition to harassment and a disavowal of a close relationship with Kruth, left many members of the sommelier community, both women and men, unsatisfied that the organization was sufficiently addressing what many call a problematic culture. "To me, it felt more like damage control than a heartfelt apology," said Jeremy Shanker, a Master Sommelier at Michael Mina in San Francisco. "It felt like something that was designed by a PR person, not by someone who is a member of the organization who was really taking responsibility, and that's what we wanted to see."

The group's Nov. 1 follow-up did little to quell the rising anger, despite a formal apology to the 13 women identified in the Times article and the suspension of Master Sommeliers Robert Bath, Matthew Citriglia, Fred Dame, Drew Hendricks and Matt Stamp. "I was really surprised that [the Court and GuildSomm] weren't more prepared and didn't have a more thorough action plan, because they were given plenty of time to deal with the issue before it went public," said Rachel Van Til, a Houston-based sommelier who shared allegations in the Times article.

One of the board members who signed the apology, Eric Entrikin, was subsequently suspended, along with Greg Harrington. None of the suspended men have yet been stripped of their MS title. The board states that the group's bylaws require a 30-day waiting period before such a move can be taken.

That same weekend, all of the women who currently hold the title of Master Sommelier in North America—just 27 of the 158 Master Sommeliers—wrote a joint letter demanding changes within the Court, including a halt to the scheduled Nov. 11 election of new board officers, an overhaul of the bylaws and the ethics code, and a commitment to greater transparency.

"There is no place for the harm that has been done to these women and so, so many others who were hurt, bullied, abused, excluded or made to feel anything other than welcome," wrote Jill Zimorski, a Chicago-area Master Sommelier, on her Instagram account, where she posted the letter. Zimorksi, who has moved on from the restaurant world to wine education, called for even greater action. "This is a start. A sincere apology and a promise to change, reorganize, rebuild. Oh, and to clean house."

Within the week, at least three of the women—Alpana Singh of Terra & Vine in Evanston, Ill., Corkbuzz founder Laura Fiorvanti and Racines partner Pascaline Lepeltier—protested by renouncing their once-coveted title, which takes years to earn and carries with it both prestige and greater earning power. Lepeltier commented in her Instagram announcement: "There are those on the inside [of the Court], genuine women and men who are working to transform from within, but for myself, I believe this is a time for stepping back, critical introspection, and a reevaluation of how I can be a positive force for good and encourage progress for my industry going forward."

While Singh—the first woman of color to become a Master Sommelier in North America—considered staying on with the women who wanted to help rebuild the organization, she explained in a post on her website: "The question shouldn't be can this thing be salvaged but rather does it even deserve to be? The systemic issues of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia and elitism are embedded into the DNA of this organization and nothing good can be rebuilt from its foundation. It must be dismantled and we must begin again."

Stay on top of important wine stories with Wine Spectator's free Breaking News Alerts.

But Master Sommelier Emily Wines of Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurants wants to help fix the organization from the inside. “I feel like right now it’s important to step in, especially as a woman,” Wines said. “People want to see more diversity, and if I stand back and let all the guys fix it, then how am I a part of that change?”

As of Sunday, nearly 1,100 other women and men at various stages of training and certification—including at least 18 Master Sommeliers—had signed a Change.org petition calling for a boycott of the Court's future courses and exams until the entire board stepped down. The petition cited not only the sexual harassment allegations but also the board's handling of a 2018 exam-cheating scandal and what it described as a "failure to express unequivocal support" for the BIPOC community earlier this year.

"When someone has proven that they make bad decisions multiple times, they need to step down from leadership," said petition co-author Liz Huettinger, former sommelier and wine director at Wine Spectator Grand Award–winning restaurants Spago and Addison, and now national sales manager for Mayacamas Vineyards.

Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey also expressed frustration over the board’s repeated mishandlings. Working with a group of about five MS’s to present a formal complaint to the board last week felt very similar to 2018, when the same group presented concerns about lack of transparency following the cheating scandal, with no tangible outcome. Stuckey says he’s been pushing for a Human Resources department over the last three years, too. “I feel totally duped that I was asking that, asking that and asking that, and now it looks like the reason they never did it is because they were complicit doing bad things, and they didn’t want to have a neutral voice where people can voice complaints,” he said. “There was no safe environment.”

That safe environment is especially crucial for an industry inherently tied to restaurants, which Stuckey notes “has glamorized partying and excessive drinking and non-discipline for a long time, and that just lends itself to bad behavior.”

Wines agrees. “We just have to take the idea of sommeliers being rockstars off the table, because that’s what’s getting us into the trouble that we’re in.”

Under the CMS-A plan announced Friday and subsequently revised in the Sunday announcement, the upcoming election of board members will be postponed and all members will be allowed to vote to replace the entire 15-member board. The new board will elect a new chair and vice chair, hire a full-time professional CEO and revise the bylaws and the ethics policy.

The announcement of these proposed changes also stated that Brian Cronin, Fred Dexheimer and Joseph Linder have been suspended from court activities "based on new reports of sexual misconduct received through the Ethics Reporting Line" and that the board has hired Margaret Bell, an attorney specializing in employment law and an independent workplace investigator, to look into all the allegations.

In his statement to members Friday afternoon, Broglie wrote, "I deeply apologize to all the women whose lives and careers have been negatively impacted by the predatory actions of any Master Sommelier. I put my best effort forward in changing the course of the organization, I recognize that my effort fell short."

Friday evening, the New York Times published a story in which a former student studying for the Master Sommelier exam accused Broglie, global beverage buyer for Whole Foods Market, of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with her. The Court has not yet issued a statement in response to that article.

According to Shanker, the Court's only chance for survival as a legitimate and trustworthy entity is "a complete rebirth." "It can't be an organization that polices itself anymore," Shanker said.

Van Til agrees. "The board must resign," she said. "Whether it's because they failed or just been perceived to fail isn't really the issue. It's that they've broken trust with the community, and the community will not trust any decisions they make going forward as long as they are in power."

The calls for reform come during a year of unprecedented challenges for the industry, with restaurants upended by the coronavirus, and uncertainty surrounding the sommelier profession itself in a post-pandemic world.

Why has it taken so long for the problems within the sommelier community to be brought to full light? Sarah Diehl, founder and principal of Empowered Hospitality, a human resources group focused on the restaurant industry, said that although there has been a "sea change" over the past five years, with more restaurant owners trying to professionalize their workplaces, subcultures within an industry or individual business "dictate how comfortable people feel speaking up."

"The more power someone holds over another individual, whether an employee or within the profession, the more intimidating it is to come forward. In this case, the power imbalance was very extreme," explained Diehl. "You have leaders in a field who have essentially established the field from the ground up in this country, and you have people dependent on those leaders for their career success."

Will the changes be enough to rehabilitate an organization that was founded to set high standards and earn respect for the profession? "The world evolved, and the Court of Master Sommeliers did not evolve with it and I think this is that reckoning," said Huettinger. While she is hopeful that change to the culture and practices will come, she acknowledged feeling conflicted about calls to disband the organization altogether and start over, adding, "If they don't make really revolutionary sweeping changes, even if they don't dissolve, they'll become irrelevant because we'll have evolved past them. People aren't going to buy into the same culture."


Court of Master Sommeliers Chairman Steps Down, Group to Restructure After Outcry over Sexual Harassment

The chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers-Americas (CMS-A) stepped down Friday, Nov. 6 and the group announced plans for an overhaul, following its earlier suspension of seven male Master Sommeliers from all activities and the resignation of another. All stand accused of sexually harassing women who were pursuing certification with the group. Three additional Master Sommeliers were suspended that same day, and an independent investigator has been appointed to follow up on all allegations.

"We agree that a reformed CMS-A is the only path forward to ensuring the organization's existence and integrity, and to better protect the people who look to be educated and earn the credentials for which we have all worked so hard," wrote board vice chair Virginia Philip in a letter sent Friday to all Master Sommeliers. Philip will oversee the transition, temporarily taking over from CMS-A chairman Devon Broglie, who resigned after numerous members of the sommelier community called for his departure and shortly before allegations of his own inappropriate behavior came to public light. The group will hold a town hall with members on Nov. 11 to discuss proposed reforms and a timeline for a new board election.

On Sunday, Nov. 8, following continued criticism, the Court publicly posted that the entire 15-member board would be up for election and resign as soon as new officers were voted in.

The actions were sparked by a New York Times article detailing complaints about six of the men from 21 women who alleged that they had been groped, sent explicit texts, pressured for sex in exchange for professional favors and even raped. Many of the complaints centered around Geoff Kruth, the president of GuildSomm, an educational and networking group affiliated with the Court he has since resigned from that position and forfeited his MS title. The article spawned additional complaints to an ethics reporting hotline about five other men.

The court's initial response to the article, which amounted to vague statements of support for diversity, opposition to harassment and a disavowal of a close relationship with Kruth, left many members of the sommelier community, both women and men, unsatisfied that the organization was sufficiently addressing what many call a problematic culture. "To me, it felt more like damage control than a heartfelt apology," said Jeremy Shanker, a Master Sommelier at Michael Mina in San Francisco. "It felt like something that was designed by a PR person, not by someone who is a member of the organization who was really taking responsibility, and that's what we wanted to see."

The group's Nov. 1 follow-up did little to quell the rising anger, despite a formal apology to the 13 women identified in the Times article and the suspension of Master Sommeliers Robert Bath, Matthew Citriglia, Fred Dame, Drew Hendricks and Matt Stamp. "I was really surprised that [the Court and GuildSomm] weren't more prepared and didn't have a more thorough action plan, because they were given plenty of time to deal with the issue before it went public," said Rachel Van Til, a Houston-based sommelier who shared allegations in the Times article.

One of the board members who signed the apology, Eric Entrikin, was subsequently suspended, along with Greg Harrington. None of the suspended men have yet been stripped of their MS title. The board states that the group's bylaws require a 30-day waiting period before such a move can be taken.

That same weekend, all of the women who currently hold the title of Master Sommelier in North America—just 27 of the 158 Master Sommeliers—wrote a joint letter demanding changes within the Court, including a halt to the scheduled Nov. 11 election of new board officers, an overhaul of the bylaws and the ethics code, and a commitment to greater transparency.

"There is no place for the harm that has been done to these women and so, so many others who were hurt, bullied, abused, excluded or made to feel anything other than welcome," wrote Jill Zimorski, a Chicago-area Master Sommelier, on her Instagram account, where she posted the letter. Zimorksi, who has moved on from the restaurant world to wine education, called for even greater action. "This is a start. A sincere apology and a promise to change, reorganize, rebuild. Oh, and to clean house."

Within the week, at least three of the women—Alpana Singh of Terra & Vine in Evanston, Ill., Corkbuzz founder Laura Fiorvanti and Racines partner Pascaline Lepeltier—protested by renouncing their once-coveted title, which takes years to earn and carries with it both prestige and greater earning power. Lepeltier commented in her Instagram announcement: "There are those on the inside [of the Court], genuine women and men who are working to transform from within, but for myself, I believe this is a time for stepping back, critical introspection, and a reevaluation of how I can be a positive force for good and encourage progress for my industry going forward."

While Singh—the first woman of color to become a Master Sommelier in North America—considered staying on with the women who wanted to help rebuild the organization, she explained in a post on her website: "The question shouldn't be can this thing be salvaged but rather does it even deserve to be? The systemic issues of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia and elitism are embedded into the DNA of this organization and nothing good can be rebuilt from its foundation. It must be dismantled and we must begin again."

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But Master Sommelier Emily Wines of Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurants wants to help fix the organization from the inside. “I feel like right now it’s important to step in, especially as a woman,” Wines said. “People want to see more diversity, and if I stand back and let all the guys fix it, then how am I a part of that change?”

As of Sunday, nearly 1,100 other women and men at various stages of training and certification—including at least 18 Master Sommeliers—had signed a Change.org petition calling for a boycott of the Court's future courses and exams until the entire board stepped down. The petition cited not only the sexual harassment allegations but also the board's handling of a 2018 exam-cheating scandal and what it described as a "failure to express unequivocal support" for the BIPOC community earlier this year.

"When someone has proven that they make bad decisions multiple times, they need to step down from leadership," said petition co-author Liz Huettinger, former sommelier and wine director at Wine Spectator Grand Award–winning restaurants Spago and Addison, and now national sales manager for Mayacamas Vineyards.

Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey also expressed frustration over the board’s repeated mishandlings. Working with a group of about five MS’s to present a formal complaint to the board last week felt very similar to 2018, when the same group presented concerns about lack of transparency following the cheating scandal, with no tangible outcome. Stuckey says he’s been pushing for a Human Resources department over the last three years, too. “I feel totally duped that I was asking that, asking that and asking that, and now it looks like the reason they never did it is because they were complicit doing bad things, and they didn’t want to have a neutral voice where people can voice complaints,” he said. “There was no safe environment.”

That safe environment is especially crucial for an industry inherently tied to restaurants, which Stuckey notes “has glamorized partying and excessive drinking and non-discipline for a long time, and that just lends itself to bad behavior.”

Wines agrees. “We just have to take the idea of sommeliers being rockstars off the table, because that’s what’s getting us into the trouble that we’re in.”

Under the CMS-A plan announced Friday and subsequently revised in the Sunday announcement, the upcoming election of board members will be postponed and all members will be allowed to vote to replace the entire 15-member board. The new board will elect a new chair and vice chair, hire a full-time professional CEO and revise the bylaws and the ethics policy.

The announcement of these proposed changes also stated that Brian Cronin, Fred Dexheimer and Joseph Linder have been suspended from court activities "based on new reports of sexual misconduct received through the Ethics Reporting Line" and that the board has hired Margaret Bell, an attorney specializing in employment law and an independent workplace investigator, to look into all the allegations.

In his statement to members Friday afternoon, Broglie wrote, "I deeply apologize to all the women whose lives and careers have been negatively impacted by the predatory actions of any Master Sommelier. I put my best effort forward in changing the course of the organization, I recognize that my effort fell short."

Friday evening, the New York Times published a story in which a former student studying for the Master Sommelier exam accused Broglie, global beverage buyer for Whole Foods Market, of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with her. The Court has not yet issued a statement in response to that article.

According to Shanker, the Court's only chance for survival as a legitimate and trustworthy entity is "a complete rebirth." "It can't be an organization that polices itself anymore," Shanker said.

Van Til agrees. "The board must resign," she said. "Whether it's because they failed or just been perceived to fail isn't really the issue. It's that they've broken trust with the community, and the community will not trust any decisions they make going forward as long as they are in power."

The calls for reform come during a year of unprecedented challenges for the industry, with restaurants upended by the coronavirus, and uncertainty surrounding the sommelier profession itself in a post-pandemic world.

Why has it taken so long for the problems within the sommelier community to be brought to full light? Sarah Diehl, founder and principal of Empowered Hospitality, a human resources group focused on the restaurant industry, said that although there has been a "sea change" over the past five years, with more restaurant owners trying to professionalize their workplaces, subcultures within an industry or individual business "dictate how comfortable people feel speaking up."

"The more power someone holds over another individual, whether an employee or within the profession, the more intimidating it is to come forward. In this case, the power imbalance was very extreme," explained Diehl. "You have leaders in a field who have essentially established the field from the ground up in this country, and you have people dependent on those leaders for their career success."

Will the changes be enough to rehabilitate an organization that was founded to set high standards and earn respect for the profession? "The world evolved, and the Court of Master Sommeliers did not evolve with it and I think this is that reckoning," said Huettinger. While she is hopeful that change to the culture and practices will come, she acknowledged feeling conflicted about calls to disband the organization altogether and start over, adding, "If they don't make really revolutionary sweeping changes, even if they don't dissolve, they'll become irrelevant because we'll have evolved past them. People aren't going to buy into the same culture."