Master Sommelier, Steve Morey and I have been connected on Facebook for almost two years. We’ve spoken online from time to time, but had never met in person until this summer when we had a chance to meet for a beer in Sonoma.
In today’s world of the Court of Master Sommeliers (captured in the new documentary entitled SOMM), Master Sommeliers mentor up and coming wine professionals who have aspirations of sitting for the Advanced or Master Sommelier exams. But it wasn’t always like that. Twenty years ago, Master Morey passed the exam with Tim Gaiser, MS and at that time, mentoring wasn’t allowed. There was no Guild of Sommeliers website, no Master’s helping others and if you passed the Advanced exam, you had to sit for the Master exam the following day. Over the years, literally hundreds of wine professionals and sommeliers have been mentored or learned about wine from Steve Morey, MS.
Over the summer he and his wife began the process of moving from Las Vegas back to Northern California (luckily for us!). Then, like now, Master Morey was nice enough to take time out of his day to talk shop:
Q: You’ve been a Master Sommelier for twenty years. How has the Court of Master Sommeliers (and the wine industry) changed since then?
Twenty plus years ago, the Master Sommelier examination appealed to working sommeliers with several years of experience. The exam was a measurement of one’s skills developed over time. Now, we see individuals who are inspired by the credential itself.
Q: After spending the past 8 years in Las Vegas, you’re back in Northern California. What’s the next chapter for you?
Chapter and verse includes a welcome proposition from Clouds Rest Estate Vineyards; a return to my roots as Director of Sales and Marketing and full-time ambassador to one of Sonoma County’s best kept Pinot Noir secrets. My denouement has not been written yet; although, I continue to seek new challenges and diverse opportunities – my enthusiasm for the wine business continues to drive me.
Q: Has social media helped you in your role?
Yes. I fully embrace the concept of social media; tools for staying current and relevant are appreciated in this ever evolving profession. While I continue to grow within this realm, I realize I still have much to learn to achieve its full potential.
Q: What are your top 5 wines to open during the holidays?
My dream list includes…
Trimbach “Clos Ste. Hune” Riesling 1990
Diebolt-Valois “Fleur de Passion” 1996
Clouds Rest Estate, Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir 1996
Robert Groffier, Bonnes-Mares 1989
Château Latour, Pauillac 1961
Q: What has it meant for you to be a Master Sommelier?
The remarkable feeling of being a working Sommelier concurrent with passing the exam was elating. Unwavering discipline and extremely hard work does pay off personally and professionally. With this new moniker, a Zen-like pursuit of all things wine and from different points of view is your mission. Ultimately, putting consumers at ease with a subject that can be obtuse and often confusing is your most important undertaking.
Q: Favorite wine+food pairing?
I still find the subtle and simple pairing of bone-dry Riesling with smoked trout ethereal. The juxtaposition of floral and smoky tones is layered and intricate on one’s palate. Whether you fancy smoked trout on toast points with a fresh farmer’s cheese, or relish the trout as a substitute for bacon on a classic “BLT”, your favorite Riesling is a complement to remember.
Q: You’ve travelled to various wine regions in your career. What’s one region you haven’t been to, but really want to visit?
One of the great terroirs of wine world is Tokaji, Hungary. Reflective of Burgundy with parceled vineyards, recognition of momentous vines, and homage to tradition; I simply want to see, smell, and taste more of this alluring region.
Q: What advice would you give up and coming wine professionals?
Remain respectful and humble to your mentors, peers, and eventual students. Embrace the notion that you will be better served if you remain a “student for life”; realizing that this discipline is ever changing and perhaps much more complex than first imagined. Nurture curiosity and élan in your chosen path.
Q: There’s a sea of wine related “stuff” and content online that can be confusing for the average wine lover. What do you think the average wine drinker should know when selecting a bottle of wine to enjoy?
First, identify your specific taste preferences and descriptions; flavors, acidity, tannins. Whether novice or practiced imbiber, be true to your palate. This will assist your local and online wine merchants with custom recommendations. In lieu of personal guidance, be watchful of elevated alcohol levels, and overly effusive descriptions that don’t describe how the wine might taste. Levels above 14.0% can be indicative of a particularly ripe fruit vintage and a pronounced sense of heat on your palate.
Thank you for taking a few moments out of your day to talk shop.