As entrant Thomas Price of Metropolitan Grill pointed out, winner Emily Papach works for contest organizer Geoff Kruth at Forestville's Farmhouse Inn, where Kruth serves as wine director.
"This is not sour grapes," Price says, inadvertently raising the question of whether sommeliers always speak in wine-related expressions. "She's getting terrific mentoring. It's well-deserved."
Sommeliers from the French Laundry and Benu rounded out the group bound for national competition. A sommelier from San Francisco's Coi won the TopNewSomm division.
The TopSomm event, now in its third year, mimics the Master Sommelier exam in format. It was designed to reward and recognize sommeliers who dedicate years to acquiring the wine knowledge needed to pass what's been called the world's hardest test.
"It's such a good practice run, just to feel the nerves," Price says of TopSomm. "It was so awesome."
Although point totals weren't revealed to competitors, Price suspects the final scores were very close. He felt he performed extremely well.
"If this was an MS (Master Sommelier) exam, I felt I would have had a really strong chance to pass," Price says.
Price has already passed the practical portion of the tripartite exam. This May, he'll again try to pass the other sections and gain his MS credentials.