David Keck, sommelier and co-owner of Camerata at Paulie’s, is now one of only two master sommeliers in Houston — and only one of eight in the entire state of Texas. (Paul Petronella of Paulie's next door is Camerata's other owner.)
Only three from across the United States were awarded the title of master sommelier after yesterday's tests in Aspen, Colorado. The results were announced this afternoon.
For the most serious wine professionals, passing all of the Court of Master Sommeliers exams is the equivalent of winning the NBA playoffs or the Super Bowl. The difference is that during testing, a sommelier is not battling anyone else for a title. It’s a matter of being able to summon years worth of study and memories of smell and taste to answer the right question at the right moments. There are four different exams: Introductory, Certified, Advanced and Master. The Master has three parts: Theory, Practical Restaurant Wine Service and Salesmanship, and Practical Tasting.
Keck had already passed the first two sections and this was his second time to attempt the tasting part. He says that he's started in the wine industry at age 18 and has been sitting exams since 2010.
The Master exam is so notorious for how tough it is that it inspired a documentary, called Somm, that followed the trials of four different sommeliers as they studied for the test.
(Corrected 5/19/2016, 5:27 p.m. to fix passing dates and order of occurrence.) Paul Roberts was first to pass in Houston in 2002 but later relocated to California to work directly with vineyards. Guy Stout, now with Glazer’s Distributors, was the second in Houston to land that honor in 2005.
Drew Hendricks was the third to become a master sommelier. He accomplished that feat in 2008 and resided in Houston for several years afterward. These days, though, he’s in Wichita, Kansas, with Vintage Marketing.
That leaves only Stout and now Keck as master sommeliers in the Houston area.
We hope neither is planning to move anytime soon.