Now in its sixth year, the annual Iron Sommelier competition has become a major event on the city's fine wine calendar.
Not only does it give guests an opportunity to taste a wide array of classic and unusual wines with the city's leading sommeliers, it also draws some of the country's top wine professionals to Houston, a destination that has firmly established itself in recent years as an A-list stop on the international fine wine circuit.
This year, three Master Sommeliers will be judging the prestigious event, which benefits Houston's Periwinkle Foundation.
When he's not pouring wine at his Friulian-themed restaurant Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colorado, Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey (above) is one of the country's most in-demand speakers and wine educators. His connection to Houston run deep: For years now, he's mentored Houston-based Master Sommelier candidates and has often hosted them in Boulder as they prepare for the grueling blind tasting examination required by the Court of Master Sommeliers to obtain the coveted title.
This year, he will be joined in judging the competition by Jack Mason, a newly minted Master Sommelier who left Houston a few years ago to work in New York where he quickly rose to the top of the sommelier heap. Today, he's the beverage director for legendary Manhattan restaurateur Danny Meyer's Italian concept Marta in New York City. And his wine list, with its focus on sexy grower Champagne, is literally the toast of the town.
The trio will be rounded out by Austin-based Master Sommelier Craig Collins, who currently serves as beverage director for the Elm restaurant group, which include's four of Austin's hottest restaurants and wine lists. His date with Houston is just one of the many judging, speaking, and consulting gigs that he does throughout the U.S. each year.
The judges will evaluate the Houston competitors for their wine service, wine knowledge, and their flair in presenting and discussing wines they have selected to offer to mock "guests."
Iron Sommelier is co-chaired by one of our city's favorite sommeliers, Sean Beck, who has won the title the first three years the event was held (2007, 2009, and 2011, when the competition was held in alternating years). In 2012, when he decided "to retire" as a competitor, he was asked to become a board member.
Last year, when Steven McDonald took home the Iron Sommelier title, the event raised 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."
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This year's competition will take place this year on Thursday, October 1 at 6 p.m. at the Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa at 111 North Post Oak Lane. It is open to the public ($150 per person advance sales; $175 per person, the day of).
Currently, 14 Houston sommeliers are expected to compete.
For more information and registration, visit the Iron Sommelier website.
It's a fantastic way to get to mingle, interact, and taste with our city's top wine professionals and some of our country's celebrity sommeliers. Attendees might even rub elbows with a Houston-based wine writer or two.