After three days of recalling wine theory and demonstrating a sophisticated tasting ability, Arro manager Scott Ota has a new title to add to his name. He’s not only an advanced sommelier — a level of wine specialist only below master sommelier — but he also scored the highest on the recent exam that 52 other people took in the hopes of becoming advanced sommeliers.
Twelve others also passed the exam, held last week in Irving. The Advanced Sommelier Exam is the third in a series of four increasingly challenging tests of knowledge and skill offered by the Court of Master Sommeliers, requiring candidates for the title to know answers about service and theory and perform well in blind tastings.
Because Ota did the best on the exam, he earned the $5,000 Rudd Scholarship, offered by the Guild of Sommeliers, which will go toward funding the coursework he’ll need to prepare for the Masters Exam. Additionally, he received an invitation to attend the prestigious Rudd Masters Roundtable in Napa Valley.
The road leading up to the Advanced Sommelier Exam is a grueling one. By the time candidates are ready to take it, they’ve often invested years of study into their wine education and have spent plenty of time working in or around the beverage industry. The ones who pass the exam and then decide to prepare for the next and highest level of sommelier don’t exactly have it any easier, either. Only 219 people worldwide have ever managed to pass the Court’s Master Sommelier Diploma Exam (but Ota’s scholarship might help his chances with that).
Last year, he was also named Texas’ Best Sommelier at TEXSOM, a professional wine education conference and sommelier competition in Texas, after going against 25 others to take home the top prize. That gave him a $2,500 scholarship to help him take more wine education courses, an award he received just before he started as a manager at Arro, a casual French restaurant in Austin.
At the July 1-3 Advanced Exam, the 53 test takers came from 18 states and four countries. One other sommelier who passed is also from Austin: Brian Phillips works for Eddie V’s.