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Philly Sommelier Takes Top Spot at New York Wine Competition

by Ben Lemoine on Apr 21, 2016 in Wine

Justin Timsit, currently the Wine Director at The Rittenhouse and Lacroix, made waves this Monday at “Austria Uncorked” (a triathlon of Austrian wine in NYC) when he won it all, including the title of “New York’s Best Sommelier.”  Sponsored by the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, the contest aimed to highlight the diversity and versatility of the country’s wines through the talent of New York’s vibrant sommelier community.  The field narrowed by half (leaving about 30 contestants) after a rapidly timed quiz, and the remaining elite competitors were almost exclusively New York City locals hailing from Michelin-starred restaurants and the hottest wine bars in the five boroughs.

This time, it was the "Sixth Borough" (as Philly is often called) that brought it home. The daylong tournament included an exhaustive theory exam, blind tasting, and finally, a 5-course wine pairing and bottle presentation that played to Mr. Timsit’s strengths. “We practice a really high level of service at the hotel,” says Timset, “so a lot of the things that people have to think about in service exams come as habit. When that’s the case, you can focus on other things” — like the brutal bombardment of questions about Austrian wine coming from the judges mid-pour.  Justin’s love and knowledge of Austrian wine, citing its sense of place and menu friendly character, helped him take the top spot in this tough competition. “They’re some of the most versatile wines in the world when it comes to pairing with food,” says Timsit. “I would say [Austrian wine] is a passion of mine.”

Rewarded with a trip to the VieVinum International Wine Festival in Vienna this summer, Justin is riding high but is keeping focused on the real prize — achieving his Master Sommelier diploma.  “I feel comfortable and confident, but you never know,” he says about the impending exam, which is famed for its difficulty.  Show Justin some love and order a crisp glass of Austrian Grüner Veltliner at The Rittenhouse’s Bar210 or The Library Bar for a perfect springtime wine. 

Photos via Flickr user Stewart & the Rittenhouse Hotel


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