what the hell is a somm(elier)?

24 hours ago, I was holding a glass of champagne at a hotel in Kansas City that I could barely sip. Very unlike me! I was scrolling Instagram trying to distract myself as I waited for my Level One Sommelier test results to be posted. And by posted, I mean my name being read out loud in front of the 70 people who I had just taken this exam with–in alphabetical order! The news of the arrival of Amal Clooney’s twins momentarily distracted me, I even checked in for my flight back to LA, but my mind was still racing.  Bottom line, waiting to hear my name was one of the more nerve-wracking things I’ve gone through in recent memory.

Anyway, during the two day course, I befriended two ladies who were fortunate enough to have last names that fell earlier in the alphabet. After both their names were called (congrats again Tess and Casleah!) they looked back at me and were like:

what’s your last name?

Pelletier.

They were still in the H’s so I had a minute, but dammnnnn my ego almost didn’t want me to say my name out of fear. The P’s arrived and I kid you not it felt like there were 4 “Pa” names. They both turned looking concerned.

it’s Pe” I managed to get out while thinking “it’s ok, you got this, you better get this, f***, f*** F*–“

—“Natalie Pelletier” the Master Sommelier read (pronouncing it the French way I might add!)

Thank GOD! “WOOHOOOOOO” I internally screamed and definitely did a weird shimmy dance to get my certificate and pin. Weight was off my shoulders and you better believe I was able to finish that champ right quick. Level 1 Sommelier Exam passed!

Soooooooo you might be thinking:

Ok Nat, cool (long story) but what the hell is a somm??

Riiiiight. Back to that business.

What is a Sommelier?

A sommelier, if you do a quick Google search, will define it as “a wine steward”. Some of  you might have seen the documentary Somm and think it’s a group of pretentious douche-bags who sit in circles, drink and discuss wine; people who can throw out that “the wine smells like a freshly opened can of tennis balls, grandma’s blueberry cobbler or eucalyptus.” Or maybe you think it’s a person who can do a party-trick of tasting wine and can tell you down to the year and winemaker what they’re drinking. And while I stand by that wine can smell like pie or even weird elements, a sommelier is a person of service. A person to help a guest navigate the wine list, to –in everyday language– describe and bring the guest a bombass wine pairing or new bottle to enhance their dining experience.

Simply, a sommelier is a service based beverage specialist, a “Siri/Alexa/Ok Google” source to deliver the best sips to YOU.

tess, casleah et moi!

There are levels too!

In the Court of Master Sommeliers there are 4 levels:

  1. Intro Sommelier
  2. Certified Sommelier
  3. Advanced Sommelier
  4. Master Sommelier

The level I just passed, Intro, involved a 2 day course before the exam. To say my brain was fried after the exam is very accurate. I don’t think I’ve ever received so much information within a 48-hour period. I also tried 24 fantastic wines “blind**” (spit most of it to help with info retention) to get my palate trained to know the difference between say a standard NZ Sauv Blanc and Loire Valley Sauv B.

**when I say “blind” I mean that I didn’t see the wine poured from the bottle. I wasn’t blindfolded, as seeing the color of the wine is a key indicator to help deduce the varietal.

Going in I knew a good deal, but there was plenty of newness thrown my way. Yes, I had the course book available to me from the moment I signed up, but did I look through it that much beforehand? Notttt really. I had planned on doing that two weeks leading up, but I booked a feature film (yayyy, more on that later this week!) so I was working on my script and not wine.

Anywhooooo, I digress.

I also really wanted to take this couch back to LA

Why I took it.

You know these wine videos I’m making? Well I decided it was time to get legit! I want to be a better teacher, so gotta go through the motions. Wine is something I find fascinating and like learning about, a hobby if you will. So, my plan is to study more, and continue on to level two so I’m “officially certified”. Of course I’ll keep the videos coming (potentially turn it into a show…) who knows! Knowledge is Power!!

Are you going to quit acting?

NOOOOO. Not at all. I’ve always aimed to live a full life; to pursue interests in conjunction with work. So educating myself in the beverage world is only enhancing how I’ve chosen to live.

Why did you take it in Kansas City?

The Level One classes were all full in the Southern California area for the rest of the year, so I decided to head out to the Midwest and visit a place I called home for 3 years. Shout out to my childhood bestie/friend from camp/family friends for taking me in and being THE BEST hosts. Katie, I will be sore for days from your spin/barre classes, thank you! (KC peeps go take her classes at Mojo and Bar Method!)

If you’re still reading…

That’s about all I got folks. I am so thrilled that I passed, but now your girl’s got a lot more learning to do in between acting gigs.

As always, cheers! And if you can get your hands on a glass or bottle of Austrian Strohmeier Schilcher Pet Nat buy it! It’s a tart sparkling rosé that reminds me of the soda Squirt- you’ll get those good grapefruit notes, but also sour cherry. It’s dry as hell and super refreshing!! Like a tart version of a good Italian soda.