Somm Squad Goals: An Auction with a Cause

Do you want that yumyum juice AND a tax write-off? Do you relish the thrill of the hunt? Do you want to help wine people who don’t sit on their laurels when the going gets tough but do something about it instead? Let me tell you, if you want to feel good about where your wine dollars are going, the United Sommelier Foundation Auction , open until October 24th, has a bevy of gems. And an Imperial (6L) of Château Montrose could be yours. I think people forget that sommeliers are restaurant workers, subject to many of the same hardships as the rest of a restaurant staff. Sure, somm life looks plush on Instagram—hashtag SommLife! They can post pictures of all the baller bottles they pop, and oh yes, they get to at least taste a lot of high-quality wine. That’s the part of the job visible to the public. The somm is the one parading through the dining room, decanters held high! But the job is also lifting heavy boxes, doing inventory in frigid cellars, running around like crazy, making sure glasses are full (or cleared!), and getting carpal tunnel pulling cork after cork after cork. And oh, hi, there are three magnums of Corton Grand Cru sitting at 280 dollars (as I write), my friends. That’s bananas. Working in a restaurant is challenging, but things got even tougher for somms when lockdown hit at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even restaurants that stayed open during the pandemic didn’t need most of their front-of-house staff. And even when opening back up, a sommelier was one of the last roles struggling restaurants would put on the payroll. The United Sommeliers Foundation is a 501c(3) co-founded by Cristie Norman, Lead Sommelier of Delilah Las Vegas, and Chris Blanchard, a Master Sommelier. They acted swiftly when the shutdown happened and hurtled into action to help sidelined somms faster than I can take down a bottle of Tavel. You may be wondering, why is it still necessary? Well, applications for assistance are currently open for those affected by Hurricane Ian. Before that, the foundation was helping those affected by the floods. The pandemic may be dwindling, but global warming and the environmental impacts are, if anything, accelerating. Not to mention being a somm is a job one needs to be hale and hearty for; unexpected health issues or injuries can take a somm off the job, and like many other restaurant workers, there may not be such a thing as “sick days”. Just missed income. Speaking of, if you’d like to spend some of yours, Heitz and Jordan donated verticals. The yearly auction makes up a good part of the Foundation’s funding and is fun to partake in. Since the bidding opened last Thursday, I’ve been perusing it nightly, seeing which wines are “in the lead” so to speak, and noting some insane bargains based on the current bid. Full disclosure, I was on the team that sought donations for the auction. I won’t tell you the lot I secured, but I will say it’s a winery I’ve included in at least a couple of my Old World v New pieces, and it’s a magnum. So go forth and bid. The lots aren’t all just bottles; there’s a private tour of Perrier-Jouët , plus a bottle; I mean, you’ll have to get yourself to France, but still…and if you don’t want to go abroad, a visit to BOND , along with a magnum of their Vecina could be yours. It sits at 1,700 bucks right now, but omg have you EVEN had BOND? I never considered myself a Napa gal, but I got to taste them just the once and became a Bond Girl. You could be too. But really, auctions are fun; you’ll end up with some delicious wines and help your favorite wine-pourers out. It’s a win-win-win. With wine. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Want to read more from Ellen? Check out her recent articles: Further Down the TikTok Rabbit Hole Riesling Part Two: Prädikats-Fine-Wine Down the TikTok Rabbit Hole: Jalapeño Rosé, Why Not? The Cans of 2022: All That Sparkles You can also listen to Ellen's podcast , The Wine Situation here . Check out her recent transcripts of the Final Five questions: Wine Situation Final Five! Agnes Hewitt Wine Situation Final Five! Meaghan Odum