Earning the Master Sommelier Diploma in the Court of Master Sommeliers is an unbelievably difficult task. The exam has three sections: a verbal wine knowledge test, a blind tasting of six wines in 25 minutes, and test of the candidate’s ability to provide and beverage service in a fine setting. Since its inception in 1977 in England, only 227 people have reached the rarified air of the Master Somm. Only 147 people in the U.S. have passed the test since 1987.
Until the summer of 2011 there were zero Master Somms in Austin, but then Devon Broglie and Craig Collins became the first two in town. Now, June Rodil, beverage director for Maguire Moorman Hospitality Group, becomes the third in Austin, the seventh in Texas and one of 23 women in the world to hold the distinction. She has completed the four stages of testing that include Introductory Sommelier Course; Certified Sommelier Exam; Advanced Sommelier Course; and Master Sommelier Diploma (read about the process in So You Want to be a Sommelier).
I first met June four years ago right after she passed the Advanced exam. It was clear that her bubbly personality, keen intelligence and unrestrained drive to succeed would propel her to the Master level. Armed with her signature sharp wit and that mischievous gleam in her eye, June shared a behind the scenes look at her quest to become a Master Sommelier.
What Are You Drinking?: How long did you study for the exam?
June Rodil: I got my Intro pin in 2007 when I started with Uchi Restaurant Group.
WAYD?: How certain were you that you had passed?
JR: HA! That’s a good one.
WAYD?: Who was the first person you called after you earned the Master Sommelier title?
JR: I handed my phone to Aaron (my boyfriend/S.O.) to pick up and respond when necessary. I was in a room full of my peers and some of my best friends. My mentors were present as well. It was very special to have so many people there in person. Then, I called my parents and my grandparents (cause, duh). And then work.
WAYD?: Who was the most helpful in you preparation for the exam?
JR: You have to find a good study partner. I skyped endless hours with David Keck and Jill Zimorski. The day before the exam, I locked myself in a hotel room with Josh Orr and Jordan Salcito to review “the world of beverages” for about 12 hours. All these people are rad so it’s not so bad to spend so much time with them. It’s also beneficial to have a super supportive S.O. who doesn’t mind it if you’re studying every moment away from your normal 12 hour work day. Find your people. They will help you get there. Don’t spend your time being in too many study groups or having a very large one. Things get complicado.
WAYD?: What did you drink after the ceremony?
JR: Oh, but the question is what did we drink BEFORE we went to get our results….
WAYD?: Who was the first person who made a masturbator joke?
JR: You know there’s a Master Bates, right? Christopher Bates, MS. No joke. Just real life.
WAYD?: If you were single/unattached, would you use your new title to get laid?
WAYD?: What is the one thing you would never drink? (wine, spirit, cocktail, beer)
JR: Pickle Juice.
WAYD?: Would you refuse service to anyone who ordered it? (yes or no)
JR: Yes. Because if it accidentally touched my skin, I would start dry-heaving.