Congratulations to Monica Townsend, SWS, for passing the Spanish Wine Scholar exam with highest honors!
In 2007, I was a senior in college working as a hostess in a fine-dining restaurant. Each night was a frenzy of moving parts which had the appearance of a finely-tuned orchestra performing its greatest musical arrangement. I became deeply fascinated by nightly service and eager to understand the role wine played in enhancing the dining experience. However, the waitstaff was dominated by men who showed little interest in sharing their knowledge of the wine world with me. Fortunately, I bonded with the sole woman on the team - an impassioned resource for all things wine. She enthusiastically answered my questions and encouraged me to be proactive about my wine studies. She was the catalyst behind my decision to pursue wine professionally and embodied qualities that have become principles governing my career in wine: integrity and inclusivity. This is where I fell in love with hospitality and I have been in an active pursuit of wine education ever since.
As a wine professional who is black and a woman, it has been a challenge to trust that I deserve to be a part of the sommelier community. I decided to pursue certification in 2015 through the Court of Master Sommeliers to ensure my seat at the proverbial wine table.
In February 2020, I relocated from Houston, TX to San Francisco, CA to work with Paul Einbund of The Morris and Gap Year at Nico as a Server/Sommelier. Due to the global pandemic, Gap Year at Nico prematurely closed on July 4th, 2020. After months of uncertainty, the restaurant has now reopened as Maison Nico - a modern épicerie. I am their Sommelier.
My professional aspiration is to hold an upper tier beverage position which provides an avenue for me to teach others about wine while also creating a beverage program that is inclusive, focused on sustainability and pays homage to legacy. My long-term dream is to be a winemaker.
I study wine through active immersion. I have a study schedule that I follow which guides my weekly reading, map tracing and flashcards. I meet with a blind tasting study group on Sundays and dedicate 1-3 hours per day toward wine studies. I am currently enrolled in the Italian Wine Scholar (North) program. I completed Unit Two (Central & South) in August and passed with Highest Honors and a score of 96. Also, I have completed and passed the WSET Level 2 program with distinction . The Spanish Wine Scholar program contributed greatly to my base of knowledge and helped fill in “holes” in my theory. As a Certified Sommelier who is preparing for the Advanced Sommelier Examination (CMS), my participation in the Wine Scholar Guild courses has been an asset. I love having access to weekly guided instruction, e-learning modules, flashcards, quizzes and regional wine tasting flights! This model of wine education has improved my retention of the material and I would recommend these programs to anyone seriously interested in being an ambassador of the world of wine.
As a Madrid native, I have been deeply curious about the region and my participation in the SWS program has strengthened my personal passion for Spanish Wine. My credential as a Spanish Wine Scholar will further my career by demonstrating to any potential employers and clients that I am a trusted resource for the region of Spain and its culture of wine.