How does one become the first of something? Ask Eddie Osterland, the first American Master Sommelier, and he’ll tell you it ‘was crazy.’ In 1973, when he passed the exams in London, you couldn’t pull him off the ceiling.
“I remember having to tell people what it was,” says Master Osterland. “It was before people even started drinking wine seriously.”
Since the documentary SOMM by director Jason Wise premiered at the Napa Valley Film Festival in 2012, Osterland doesn’t have to explain what a Sommelier is anymore. The awareness increased so much so that he and boutique wine importer Damon Goldstein decided to bring educational side-by-side tastings to your doorstep with My Cellar Master.
Master Osterland will hold your hand through the wine tasting experience in a video guided tasting. Wine flights are organized by introductory to advanced level, so it’s a delicious adventure for everyone from Susie Homemaker to Joe the Plumber or Larry Ellison. Novices can taste California pinot noir next to Burgundy, while experts can taste village level Chablis next to Premier Cru.
Not sure what to pair with your wine? Every wine flight comes with food pairing tips with everything from take-out to home-cooked meals.
Think you’ve got what it takes to be a Master Sommelier? Test your skills at Around the World in 80 Sips San Diego. Master Osterland will be hosting a blind tasting at the My Cellar Master table. If you get the wine right, you’ll get free tickets to the San Diego Spirits Festival August 23-25 (while supplies last). And if you can’t make it to San Diego for the fun, test your blind tasting skills with My Cellar Master’s wine flights!
Read on for our Q&A with Master Osterland.
Q&A with Eddie Osterland
How did you get into wine?
I was going to graduate school in Honolulu. One night, the real Somm called in sick and the Maitre D told me I had to do his job. I said no way because I had never drank wine. He said, ‘it’s easy’. Red wine goes with meat. White wine goes with fish. I ran around the room that night providing guests with BS, and people believed it! And I was hooked.
Once you got the wine bug, how did you study before the Internet?
Back then, there wasn’t anywhere to study wine in the U.S. I saved my money and left everything behind. I went to the University of Bordeaux, and got a (D.U.A.D) Diplôme Universitaire D’aptitude A la Dégustation Des Vins degree. It’s basically a professional degree for people in the wine business.
As a student, how did you study wine in French on a shoestring budget?
I tape recorded all my school lessons to learn French. I used to study French with a half bottle of wine. My favorite was the 1967 vintage of Château Pétrus, and it only cost me $5. I drank more classified growths when I was 30 than I do now [laughing].
When were you introduced to the Court of Master Sommeliers?
I went to London in 1973 after hearing about this thing called Master Sommelier. I was working in Burgundy at Hôtel de la Poste. On that day, I got lucky and passed all three parts of the exam. It was a thrill. The day they told me I was a Master, it took 3 days to peel me off the ceiling.
What inspired you to create My Cellar Master?
I always realized that it’s hard to taste a wine, then taste another 10 minutes later, and actually remember how it compares. That’s why side-by-side comparisons are important for educational purposes. For the past 35 years of my life, I’ve run educational schools with comparisons and even wrote a book about it, Power Entertaining. After doing it all my life, Damon and I thought it was a great idea to offer people the learning experience. We wanted people to think about: What does it taste like? What does it go with?
Most people drink wine and treat it like a beverage, but it’s more like a condiment. The wine and food should amplify each other’s assets. You wouldn’t put lemon juice in your mouth after the fish, so why do that with wine? If you have food and wine together simultaneously, we see the light bulbs go on.
We’re offering something pretty unique at My Cellar Master. It’s an experience you’ll want to share with your friends or give as a gift to make a lasting impression.
Photo Credit: Eddie Osterland