Ever seen a sommelier sweat? Round 1 threw out all (okay, most) of the rules of front-of-house propriety in exchange for the intensity of the game show format, complete with red buzzers and a live (sommelier) studio audience. Dexheimer assumed the host role, and led the way as our somms were challenged with blind tastings, trivia, and a cheese pairing showdown, presented by Michele Buster
of Forever Cheese. The prize wasn't cash—it was the right to move onto Day 2.
Only six competitors emerged from the polite mayhem of Round 1, but those who did certainly earned the right to pair a select cabinet of wines with surprise dishes prepared by Chef Justin Bogle
of NYC's Gilt
. It's the craft of the sommelier under a microscope—and on a timer.
Day Tree featured the top two competitors, pairing mavens who earned the right to go mano a mano (and bottle to bottle) against their sommelier match. Dishes by Chicago Chef Dirk Flanigan
challenged their palates, along with a blind tasting and mystery challenge.
This year's winner will walk away with a weeklong, all-expenses-paid tour of the Rhône Valley with a stop at the annual Côte Rôtie festival—not to mention a year's worth of bragging rights.