The Court of Master Sommeliers has issued an apology and will launch an independent investigation after a New York Times report.

By Jelisa Castrodale
November 04, 2020
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Last week, the New York Times published the accounts of 21 women who said they have endured sexual harassment, intimidation, and sexual assault by members of the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas. Some of the women who shared their stories said that they were no longer pursuing their certification as sommeliers, that they had changed careers, or that they felt like they had to move to a different state. 

A spokesperson for the court told the Times that it expected its members to "uphold the highest standards of professional conduct and integrity at all times" and that it had "investigated every accusation of such conduct" that had been reported. The Times has since reported that the court has suspended seven of its master sommeliers from participating in court activities. Those men—Robert Bath, Matthew Citrigilia, Fred Dame, Eric Entrikin, Greg Harrington, Drew Hendricks, and Matt Stamp—will all face a future "hearing process and an investigation conducted by an external organization."

Greg Kruth, the president of the nonprofit wine-education organization GuildSomm, has resigned from both the Court of Master Sommeliers and from GuildSomm. He has been accused of making "unwanted sexual advances" towards 11 women, which range from "[sliding] his fingers inside [one woman's] underpants," exposing himself to another, and sending sexually explicit material to a third.

Earlier this week, all 27 female members of the court released a statement in support of the women who reported being sexually harassed. "We acknowledge that our personal efforts as women of the CMS-A in this regard are late in coming, and feel deep regret and shame for the suffering this has caused our sisters in the article, and the unnamed others known and unknown to us, including Women, Black, Indigenous, Persons of Color, and members of the LGBTQIA Community, at all levels of the journey, present and past," they wrote. 

"We grieve that we cannot in any way make up for the hurtful human toll that has ensued, the brilliant talent that we have lost through those who were turned away due to our actions and inactions. We will work to build your trust with concrete efforts to turn the tide." 

They also said that they will invoke their rights under the organization's bylaws to call a special meeting to address a number of issues, including an independent investigation of all the allegations that have been made against court members; to postpone the board elections that have been scheduled for next week; to "overhaul" the court's bylaws; and to discuss how the court can become more inclusive and transparent going forward.

The court has also released a second statement about the allegations, which was posted to its website. "The Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas recognizes that it has failed its membership, our industry, and most importantly, the women who bravely shared their stories. We are profoundly sorry and offer our sincerest apologies to Jane Lopes, Courtney Schiessl, Christina Chilcoat, Rachel van Til, Rania Zayyat, Ivy Anderson, Victoria James, Madeleine Thompson, Liz Dowty Mitchell, Alexandra Fox, J.R. Ayala, Courtney Keeling, Kate Ham, and any woman who has experienced similar incidents of harassment and violence," it wrote. "The CMS-A hears you. We understand there are major changes that need to be made to our organization [...] We will work to regain the trust of the sommelier community and the confidence in our certifications through our actions."