MATTHEW STAMP OF THE FRENCH LAUNDRY WINS
TOP|SOMM – THE U.S. SOMMELIER CHAMPIONSHIP OF 2010
TOP|SOMM Champion Matt Stamp Mondavi Winemaker Rich Arnold with Jasion Heller, Matt Stamp & Michael Meagher
The title of 2010 U.S. TOP|SOMM has been awarded to Matthew Stamp of Yountville’s acclaimed French Laundry restaurant. Stamp won the honor during yesterday’s inaugural U.S. Sommelier Championships held at the Hotel Monaco in downtown San Francisco. To win, Stamp competed against nine other sommeliers from across the country in a grueling test of wine and wine service knowledge.
Stamp’s career in the hospitality business began in Omaha, Nebraska where, from 2000 to 2009, he worked for V. Mertz Restaurant. Rising up through the ranks, he was named General Manager and Wine Director in late 2005. At V. Mertz, Stamp assembled a Wine Enthusiast "Award of Unique Distinction"-winning wine list and embarked on his goal of professional wine certification. In 2008, he gained both his CWS through the Society of Wine Educators and an Advanced Certification through the Court of Master Sommeliers, earning a Rudd Scholarship for his best-in-class performance. In the summer of 2009, he moved to California’s wine country, joining the staff at the Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant in Forestville before moving over to the French Laundry in Napa Valley.
Jason Heller of REDD (also in Yountville), and Michael Meagher of Vineyard Road in Waltham, MA, were awarded second and third place prizes, respectively. Heller was also named “Best New Sommelier.” Jason Heller’s professional experience with wine started in Hawaii in 2005. After moving to Napa Valley in 2008, he ran the beverage program for Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bistro in Yountville before moving down the street to become Wine Director at REDD. Heller passed his Advanced through the Court of Master Sommeliers in 2008 receiving the Rudd Scholarship. He was awarded first place at the National Chaine des Rotisseurs Young Sommelier National Finals competition in 2009 and Wine and Spirits magazine named him a “Best New Sommelier” in 2009.
Michael Meagher entered into the hospitality industry working for a catering company in Beverly, MA while pursuing his undergraduate degree. He later enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America. Meagher has since worked in the beverage departments at several award-winning establishments including BOKX 109, Sel de la Terre and L’Espalier. Currently, he works for Vineyard Road, a boutique importer and distributor of quality wines from around the world. Michael is in the process of completing his Diploma of Wine Studies from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust in London and was the winner of the 2010 Chaine des Rotisseurs Best Young Sommelier competition.
“This was the most impressive group of sommeliers I have ever had the opportunity to judge. The level of skill and knowledge shown by each of the ten competitors was truly impressive,” noted Guild of Sommeliers President Fred Dame, MS. “Mr. Stamp is one of the most gifted sommeliers I have ever encountered. He beat the best of the best in the United States and is truly deserving of winning the inaugural U.S. Sommelier Championship and the title of TOP|SOMM."
Rich Arnold, Winemaker for Robert Mondavi Winery, presented the winner’s trophy, named the Robert Mondavi Trophy in honor of the late winemaker. “Mr. Mondavi believed passionately in furthering wine education and always striving to learn and do better as a wine professional,” said Arnold. The Sommelier Guild established the Robert Mondavi Trophy this year, to pay tribute to the man and his impact on the sommelier profession in the United States. The trophy will reside permanently at the Robert Mondavi Winery next to a photograph of each year’s winner. Mr. Stamp took home a smaller trophy, and also won a trip for two to visit the Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley and a $1,000 scholarship. The second and third place winners were also given a trip to Napa Valley and a $1,000 scholarship each.
TOP|SOMM Finalists and Joy Sterling of Iron Horse Vineyards
This year’s competition was the inaugural Top Somm championship event in the U.S. The competition was administered by The Guild of Sommeliers and judged by Master Sommeliers. The 2010 Top Somm competition began with 185 competitors vying for the title. Following an online test, the list was narrowed to fifty contestants who qualified to compete at one of five regional competitions. Ten competitors advanced to the championship in San Francisco to compete in the live championship event. Judges Nunzio Alioto, Randall Bertao, Brian Cronin, Fred Dame, Tim Gaiser, Jay James, Geoff Kruth and Reggie Narito selected the winners.
The Guild of sommeliers extends special thanks to Robert Mondavi Winery, Iron Horse vineyards, Schott Zwiesel Crystal and Kimpton Hotels for their support of the competition. Guests at the Hotel Monaco enjoyed Iron Horse sparkling wine before the awards ceremony and library selections of Robert Mondavi wines with their dinner, including a 1990 Reserve Cabernet poured from three liter. Each of the finalists received a custom etched magnum of Iron Horse Sparkling wine. All guests at the event received four crystal Bordeaux glasses from Schott Zwiesel who provided the stemware for the competition.