Ever conducted or participated in a blind wine tasting? Anyone who loves wine will tell you that it’s a fun and exciting experience, especially when surrounded by fellow wine enthusiasts who have honed in on their palate. So it would be no surprise then that being tested on your blind tasting skills is an absolute thrill.
VineRoutes Founder and Editor Carmelo Giardina had a chance to sit in on one of the exams, testing his skills and hoping he would be able to brag about his results. Well, we’re not so sure about the bragging part, but he did have a blast participating in the blind tasting and written exam conducted by the Ontario chapter of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS) – Canada’s only national sommelier association – which took place on April 27th at SIPS in Toronto.
The 2022 CAPS Cup tasting challenge signaled an official return to live and in-person events this spring and featured more than 25 of the province’s best and brightest sommeliers, hospitality trade professionals and media, competing on the hour against their peers in a blind tasting event of six “mystery” wines and spirits to win bragging rights and a selection of spectacular prizes donated by high profile sponsors. For CAPS members located outside of Toronto, contestants participated live online by blind tasting the flight previously delivered to their door by SIPS.
“We wanted to give Ontario wine professionals the opportunity to hone their skills as we roll into exam season by offering an opportunity to taste a full flight of wines in a high-pressure situation,” explained James Peden, director of operations at Liberty Entertainment Group, and new 2022-2023 president of CAPS Ontario. “The funds raised from entry fees will allow us to sponsor wine professionals who need financial assistance yet still want to train for, and compete in, upcoming special events including our renowned Best Ontario Sommelier Competition (BOSC) this fall, among others.”
A toast to the winners and participants
The participants reflected the diverse wine community in Ontario and included students representing the wine education spectrum of Court of Master Sommeliers, CAPS and WSET certified professionals. Facilitated by dedicated CAPS Ontario Board volunteers and sponsors, the event was the first of many to enable CAPS Ontario to better connect with its members and advance the sense of “sommunity” within the provincial wine trade.
Marie-Claire Perotto, head sommelier of BlueBlood Steakhouse/Liberty Entertainment Group placed first in the competition, followed closely by Justin Madol, advanced sommelier, Don Alfonso 1890/Liberty Entertainment Group in second place, Sandra Enns-Arnell, sommelier and wine consultant in third, and Jakub Lipinski, proprietor and head of operations, Big Head Wines and Antonello Rota, beverage manager, Eataly, each tied for fourth place. Sponsors and prize donors included Flat Rock Cellars, Big Head Wines, Tre Amici Imports, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits, Perigon Beverage Group, Diageo, Napa Valley Vintners, Profile Wine Group, Rogers & Company Wines, Aguru and more.
“The new Board of Directors for CAPS Ontario is full of wine professionals who are deeply immersed in the industry,” continued Stephanie Guth, portfolio manager at The Living Vine Inc. and 2022-2023 Board vice-president.
“By utilizing our relationships with wineries, wine agencies and liquor distributors we were able to secure donations in addition to a vast selection of prizes. Heather McDougall of SIPS and 2022-2023 Board member donated her venue for the event, and the team volunteered their time to make the magic happen. We’re grateful to everyone who participated, and look forward to our next event,” she added.
CAPS is a pan-Canadian association that brings together the sommelier profession, restaurant services and key stakeholders of the hospitality industry. CAPS is comprised of provincial chapters based in Halifax (CAPS Atlantic), Montreal (ACSP Quebec), Toronto (CAPS Ontario), Winnipeg (CAPS Manitoba) and Vancouver (CAPS BC). Passionately dedicated to service, CAPS is committed to building a strong community of sommeliers and fostering the growth of the culture of hospitality in Canada. Visit www.sommelierscanada.com, follow @caps_bc, @ACSP-Quebec @caps_ac and @caps.ontario and tag #CAPS #sommunity #capsontario.