In the past, the sole problem with america's best sommeliers—the sort who can reveal the story behind a wine as effortlessly as they pour a glass of it—has been that you could only find them in restaurants. But lately, more and more former top sommeliers are heading out to start their own businesses as traveling wine educators, hosting wine parties, classes and tastings in people's homes, and sometimes even bringing along a chef friend to turn the event into a full-fledged wine-pairing dinner party.
The appeal of these gatherings, as Bay Area sommelier-for-hire Brian Cronin notes, is clear: "You're among friends, in the comfort of your own home. We're talking about a very personalized kind of attention." Here's a quick primer on the three main types of sommelier-guided tastings.
1. A Private Cellar Tasting
If you already have an extensive wine collection, one option is to hire a sommelier to lead a tasting of bottles drawn from your own cellar. Generally, the sommelier will meet with you several weeks in advance, visit your cellar (or look through a spreadsheet of its contents) and suggest wines that will make for an interesting mix. Then, during the tasting itself, the sommelier will both pour the wines and lead a discussion about them, pointing out connections or differences that most people might not notice.