If you’re looking for not just the best bottle of wine, but the best person to select it for you, look no further than Vancouver’s Sean Nelson, who was recently named British Columbia’s best sommelier of 2018.
Nelson, who plies his trade as the wine steward at Vij’s Restaurant, won the honour at the fourth annual competition. hosted by the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers British Columbia Chapter (CAPS BC).
The event was held in the Captains Room at Rogers Arena, where Nelson, also a finalist in 2016, beat out a crowded field of accomplished sommeliers from across the province, including Matthew Landry of the Stable House Bistro and Todd Prucyk of Hawksworth Restaurant. Landry and Prucyk finished second and third, respectively.
Winning the distinction is no small feat. The contest began with a written theory exam and a blind tasting. Following that, top three scoring sommeliers underwent a series of tests, including executing a sparkling wine service, spotting errors in a written wine menu, a food and wine pairing, and a blind wine/spirit and cocktail tasting, all of which was done live in front of over one hundred spectators.
Nelson’s palette was his greatest advantage. He was also awarded “Best Taster” at the event.
“A huge congratulations Sean,” said CAPS BC president Lesley Brown at the post competition reception and dinner, “and to both Matt and Todd for an incredible day of competition; and, a congratulations to all of the 13 competitors today…everyone should be proud of what they have accomplished.”
The 2018 competition was judged by Barbara Philip MW, Michaela Morris, and Sebastien Le Goff.
This year’s competition had a new wrinkle as well: the New Aspiring Sommelier Competition 2018, designed for sommeliers just getting their start.
The winner of this inaugural competition was Ian Wharton of Blue Water Café, who edged out Alex Anderson of Tap Restaurant.
Wharton was awarded a $1000 Education Bursary to further his professional development in the industry.
Established in 1989, CAPS is a pan-Canadian association aimed at bringing together individuals within the sommelier profession, restaurant services, and other sectors of the wine industry.
The annual competition, emceed by Shane Taylor, winner of 2017 Best Sommelier BC Competition, attracted sommeliers from across the province to compete in the Captains Room at Rogers Arena for the title of Best Sommelier of British Columbia. The competition included an intense written exam in the morning, with the top three scoring sommeliers from the written exam advancing through to a series of practical tests, such as opening and pouring sparkling wine perfectly, spotting errors in a written wine menu, and blind tasting and identifying wines; all in front of 100 spectators.
This year’s competition judges were Barbara Philip, Michaela Morris, and Sebastien Le Goff.
The full list of competitors:
- Christina Hartigan, Botanist
- Calen Macdonald, Blue Water Cafe
- Michael Hiram, AnnaLena
- Matthew Landry, The Stable House Bistro
- Shane Lobsinger, Sonora Resort
- Adam Mayhew, Yew at Four Seasons Hotel
- Scott Mitchell, AnnaLena
- Sean Nelson, Vij’s
- Jayton Paul, Hawksworth Restaurant
- Todd Prucyk, Hawksworth Restaurant
- Tereza Roux, Wedgewood Hotel
- Peter Van de Reep, Campagnolo
- Jesse Walters, Burdock & Co.
New Aspiring Sommelier Competition:
New and as a first in Canada this year, CAPS BC hosted the 2018 BC Aspiring Sommelier Competition. This event was for any member of CAPS BC who earns at least 50% of their income from hospitality employment in any role, and who has an interest in participating in future Best Sommelier BC competitions. The event mimics the Best Sommelier BC format in order to give aspiring sommeliers the opportunity to understand what the competition is all about.
Winner of the inaugural Aspiring Sommelier Competition is Ian Wharton of Blue Water Cafe. The runner up: Alex Anderson of Tap Restaurant.
Also competing were:
- Noel Hollett, Vancouver Club
- Jasmin Kohli-Bryans, AnnaLena
- Michael Wong, Chambar
- Eliza Bashkirova, Botanist
Jason Yamasaki (Wine Director of the Joey Restaurant Group and Best Sommelier in BC 2015) and Mark Shipway (Director of Professional Development, CAPS – BC) oversaw the new competition. Jason mentioned as part of the awards announcement that “BC is leading the way with this competition. The sommelier community continues to build in BC and it is truly something special.”