As a sea of Houston wine lovers cheered them on, Evan Turner of Helen Food and Wine was awarded the top prize of Iron Somm while Nathan Smith of Dolce Vita Pizzeria and Enoteca took home second place and Angie Chang of Sonoma Wine Bar and Restaurant was named second runner up.
Each of the competing sommeliers presented a flight of wines at their respective stands throughout the night and at some point was visited by the competition's three judges, Master Sommeliers Bobby Stuckey from Boulder, Colorado, Craig Collins from Austin, and Jack Mason, a Houstonian who now works in New York City.
The competition participants poured and discussed their selections with the judges who then quizzed them on the wines.
As glamorous and allegro as the evening may have been, the competition was no walk in the park. Stuckey, Collins, and Mason are some of the nation's leading wine professionals and while they conducted their judging with brio, there were no soft-ball questions.
Not all of the night's awards were decided by the judges.
Adele Corrigan of 13 Celsius Wine Bar won the Grand Tasting Room award after she and each of the competing sommeliers presented a single wine to a group of high-roller guests who selected the winner. Carla Cardini of the Houston Wine Merchant MC'd the raucous tasting.
Sam Governale of Fleming's Prime Steakhouse won the People's Choice award, an accolade conferred by the hoi polloi guests who voted by dropping a wine cork into a bucket at their chosen sommelier's stand.
In the event's premium private tasting in the Champions Room (where a table could be had for $10,000), no competition was held but guests were served wines by past Iron Somm winners Sean Beck of Caracol (who also co-chairs the event), Christian Varas of the River Oaks Country Club, and Steven McDonald of Pappas Bros. Steakhouse. They were also joined by sommelier Antonio Gianola of the Houston Wine Merchant. Gianola has never competed in the event but he enjoys emeritus status among his peers because of his elevated station in the Houston fine wine community.
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The mood was bright and the crowd eager to taste wines with their favorite Houston wine professionals. A Houston-based wine writer in attendance noted that the caliber of wines selected and served, even in the event's main walk-around tasting, was extraordinary for a gathering of this size.
The amount of money raised by the charity event was not available as of the filing of this story. But last year, when Steven McDonald took home the Iron Somm title, the event brought in more than $230,000 for the Periwinkle Foundation, which "develops and provides programs that positively change the lives of children, young adults, and families who are challenged by cancer and other life-threatening illnesses and are cared for at Texas Children’s Hospital."