Rudd Round Table 2020

Maddy Jimerson, Sommelier at Cache Cache, Aspen, recounts her experience at the Rudd Round Table.

I always check in 24 hours before my flight because I have to get a window seat. Looking down on everything from up above gives me perspective, and I love the moments of introspection I have as I gaze out over the ground below.

I was headed from Aspen, Colorado to Napa, California for the Rudd Round Table—a two-day educational opportunity put on by the Rudd Foundation and the SommFoundation to help advanced sommeliers prepare for the Master Sommelier exam. As we began our ascent over the Rockies during the short flight to San Francisco, I couldn’t help but reflect on the journey that had brought me here.

I’d moved to Aspen four years prior with a case of leftover wine samples from my sales job in San Francisco, whatever personal belongings that I could fit into my Chevy Equinox, and a -10 degree sleeping bag (in case I had to sleep in my car). I knew no one but had lined up a seasonal job as a back waiter at The Little Nell. I wanted respite from city life but I was still very hungry to pursue a career in wine. Aspen was a good

I had been preparing for the Advanced Exam and continued to do so after moving, and I’d gotten to know others in Aspen who were doing the same. I was overwhelmed by the amount of support I received—colleagues who offered to taste with me, peers who wanted to study theory, and Master Sommeliers who generously gave their time to mentor me. Over the course of four years, I went from knowing no one to meeting a group of wine professionals who had become my family and who wanted to help me succeed. Had it not been for the connections I made through my education with the Court of Master Sommeliers, I would have never found this community. I feel deep gratitude for the relationships that I’ve built while living in Aspen—the place I still call home.

I experienced the same sense of gratitude during my time in Napa at the Rudd Round Table, thanks to the immense support and generosity of the Rudd Family for sponsoring the event, the Master Sommeliers who attended, and the SommFoundation for putting it together—all in an effort to help people like me pursue their goals.

Over the course of two days, the twelve Rudd Round Table attendees had the opportunity to learn from and connect with 14 Master Sommeliers. We did a series of blind tastings, discussed best practices for preparing for the Master’s exam, and got to know talented sommeliers from all over the country.

Upon arriving in Napa, we visited the Rudd Estate in Oakville where we blind-tasted a themed lineup of iconic wines from all over the world. That night the team at the restaurant PRESS welcomed us with incredible hospitality and superb service for an unforgettable dinner, paired with the Rudd Estate wines. The following evening at the wine bar Compline, dinner was accompanied by old and rare wine from the SommFoundation’s cellar including Scharzhofberger Spätlese, Penfolds Grange 1998, Clos de Tart 1996, Tignanello 1990.

From a window seat on my return to Aspen, while looking out over the landscape thousands of feet below, I had another moment of reflection and appreciation, this time for my newfound community in Napa. Being surrounded by so much talent was inspiring, and I left feeling empowered and excited to be on this next stage of my journey.

I remain extremely thankful for the Rudd Foundation and SommFoundation for the opportunity to be part of such an incredible event. The Rudd Scholarship will be fundamental in helping me prepare for and cover the cost of the Master Sommelier exam. Furthermore, the experience itself has inspired me to strive to be the very best that I can be so that I too can provide the same type of mentorship and support that I have received along my own journey. —Maddy Jimerson