Texas Wine Lover was invited to the event for the purposes of this press coverage. However, all opinions, experiences, and photographs are entirely our own.
The 14th Anniversary of Iron Sommelier presented by AUTOSOL took place on November 4th. The annual wine competition and wine tasting event benefited the Periwinkle Foundation.
Like last year’s event first held during the pandemic, this year’s event followed the same path to provide a safe and socially distanced competition so both virtual and in-person opportunities were available for guests to experience the event. Individual Ticket holders were provided a tasting flight of 12 wines to enjoy at home and had access to the virtual Iron Sommelier judging presentation. In addition to the tasting flight provided for the Zoom meeting, a takeout dinner from Backstreet Café was provided. The meal I selected was provoleta, butternut squash risotto, harvest season braised beef, and rustic farmhouse apple cake.
Underwriters had access to live presentations and interactive conversations with the sommeliers at Caracol in Houston. Like previous years, all guests had access to a wine pull, auction, raffle, and Children’s Art sales.
I attended the event virtually this year again. I first picked up my tasting flight of 12 wines and my takeout dinner earlier in the day, put them in the wine cooler when I arrived home, and then made sure my Zoom system was set up for the two-hour event. Since the event started at 7:30 p.m., I enjoyed my takeout dinner earlier and it was delicious.
The tasting kit had the 12 wines that were going to be presented, but there was also a bottle just marked Pride and another bottle with a list of ingredients including Bourbon. There were no instructions on what these were or what to do with them. After the event started, we learned that Sean Beck, co-chairman, had prepared the cocktail of Elijah Craig Bourbon, Praline Pecan Liqueur, Dolin Vermouth, and spiced syrup for the Zoom audience. It was mighty tasty, and I wish I had known a little earlier what it was because I could have finished it before the wine started flowing at the event. The other co-chairman was John Clutterbuck. In addition, a special guest was Steve Pride, CEO & General Manager, of Pride Mountain Vineyards in Napa. We then learned the bottle of Pride was the winery’s Merlot.
The different sommeliers then presented the one wine that the Zoom audience had. It was confusing at first as to what wine was being presented since the hosts and sommeliers had a different presentation order than the virtual audience. It took about five wines before it was straightened out which wine we were drinking. These were the sommeliers along with their presentation theme and wine:
- David Anderson – Mastro’s Steakhouse – South Africa: The New Old World – Mullineaux Syrah
- Molly Austad – Bludorn – Climate Change – Where do we go from here? – Tablas Creek Mourvèdre 2019
- Andres Blanco – Le Jardinier – Le Jardin de La France – Undiscovered Treasures of the Loire Valley – Sancerre Rosé, Lucien Crochet 2020
- Farrah Cauley – Sonoma Wine Bar – Why not Chardonnay for breakfast? – Flowers Sonoma Coast, California 2018
- Adele Corrigan – 13 celsius Wine Bar – Take Me Down to Funky Town: Pet-Nats! – João Pato “Duckman” Fernão Pires Bairrada, Portugal 2018
- Eric Estefano – Pappas Bros. Steakhouse – Hey, what do you say… let’s drink some Gamay! – Stéphane Sérol Sparkling Rose Turbullent NV
- Austin Farina – March – Learning from the Past: Old Vines in the Age of Climate Change – Bedrock Wine Co. Evangelho Vineyard Heritage Red Wine, Contra Costa California, 2019
- John Mason – River Oaks Country Club – A Race to the Bottom: The Pursuit of Tension – Vina Aquitania “Sol del Sol” Chardonnay Malleco Valley, Chile, 2018
- Emily Tolbert – Savoir – Grapes of Wrath: Wines from Conflict Regions – Chateau Musar Cinsault Blend, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon 2000 [presented by Mark Rashap because Emily had to work]
- Justin Vann – Nancy’s Hustle – Italian White Wine: Drink it (with your mouth)! – Guido Marsella Fiano D’Avellino 2018
- Robert Waltrip – The Club at Carlton Woods – Native Sons: Autochthonous Grapes are Rooted in History – Weingut Malat “Crazy Creatures” Grüner Veltliner, Kremstal, Austria 2020
- Elyse Wilson – Camerata – Midsummer in Michigan (Wines from Mari Vineyards on Old
Each presenting sommelier described the wine that we were enjoying in the home tasting kit along with educating us on their theme. The sommeliers had to do their presentations multiple times, including in front of the in-person judges and the Zoom audience. The competing sommeliers were judged locally by Craig Collins, MS, Antonio Gianola, and Liz Palmer.
At the end of all presentations, the Zoom audience had the opportunity to vote for the Best Presentation. Usually, at the in-person event, you put a cork they give you in a bucket for each sommelier. This year because it was done virtually, the voting was done online, and it was an easy process.
The awards presented to the sommeliers were:
- 2021 Iron Sommelier: Justin Vann
- 1st runner up for 2021 Iron Sommelier: Austin Farina
- 2nd runner up for 2021 Iron Sommelier: Andres Blanco
- Best Presentation (for the Zoom audience): Adele Corrigan
- People’s Choice Award from the local audience: Austin Farina
Overall, the event was still excellent, and offering various methods to participate was an excellent idea.
The generosity of the Periwinkle community and Iron Sommelier supporters generated $390,000 to further the Periwinkle community of healing, which provides positive camps, arts, and survivor programs to children and teens challenged by cancer and other life-threatening illnesses who are treated at Texas Children’s Hospital.