What happens when you are a rising star in the wine world and recently crowned Texas’ Best Sommelier 2011 at TexSomm? You get asked to host videos, host a VIP reception at Chef’s Under Fire, host #SommChat, host elegant wine dinners and you get job offers. That’s right, Wines.com and the soon to be opened Red Room Wine Lounge lured Bill Elsey way from Duchman Family Winery to be their new Sales Manager and Sommelier.
This is a big win for Alexander Andrawes and the folks at Wines.com and a big loss for Duchman. Not only is Bill exquisitely knowledgeable about wine and the beverage industry, but he’s also a delightful conversationalist who puts people at ease. His customer service skills seem innate and he says, “My philosophy is to make people feel comfortable and welcome first and foremost.”
Here is a young guy that has been on a fast track to success. He started from ground zero and has worked hard to be one of the top wine experts in the state – he won the Best Sommelier title five years to the day after starting in the wine industry.
Bill got started in the wine industry by joining Duchman Family Winery right out of college. He grew up in nearby Wimberly, Texas in a foodie home that prized cooking and gardening and cooking, but wasn’t wine-centric. Once he joined the winery as a part-time tasting room grunt, he fell in love with the industry right away. He soon started working full time and began studying wine, and in particular Italian He soon became the bar manager Trattoria Lisina, the Italian restaurant on the Duchman property, and learned more about wine and food pairings.
His experience at the restaurant stirred a desire to become a certified sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers. He took the introductory course and realized he was woefully under prepared. While he passed, he vowed to never be that under-prepared again. He hit the books and took the certified exam a year later and passed it as well. He also joined the Society of Wine Educators, to continue learning and tasting because being a normal somm isn’t enough for this guy. Through the second program he also became a Certified Specialist in Spirits as well as a Champagne and Cork Specialist. Up next, in November he will take the final exam to become a Certified Sommelier. He is self admittedly obsessed with learning. His roommate recently commented that Bill hadn’t left the table for 10 hours on a Saturday because he studying. Come on Bill. . .
All of this hard work has led to the next step in his career. He shared a little bit with me about the job change. “Deciding to change jobs didn’t come easily. I had really grown into my role with the Duchman Winery and felt a strong sense of connection to the owners, winemaker, and the wines. Working there for the past 5 years has been the single greatest influence on my wine career thus far. That being said, I think I reached a point where I wanted to challenge myself in a new environment and allow my knowledge of wine to grow. Working for Alex not only allows me to be in a role as a wine buyer and sommelier for Wines.com, but I will also be working in a wine ‘lounge’ setting when we open the Red Room. Having the ability to be around some of the best wines in world on a regular basis was a big reason I decided to take the position.”
Bill is looking forward to expanding the reach of Wines.com. He is excited about The Red Room Lounge concept and bringing the wine bar-come- lounge to life. Oh, and he’s also hosting a Wines.com Iberian wine cruise next May that sails from Barcelona, Spain to Southampton, England. Sounds like a tough assignment.
How do I get that job? Bill has some advice for aspiring sommeliers. Spend $100 to get a membership to the Guild of Master Sommeliers website. It has a massive database of study guides and review quizzes to help you study. Also join a study group of similarly determined wine enthusiasts.