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Sonoma's own Palmer Emmitt wins wine tasting competition in San Francisco

By Emily Bartz
On November 6, 2012

On Oct. 12, four students from Sonoma State's wine business program participated in a wine tasting competition in San Francisco hosted by the French American Chamber of Commerce. Palmer Emmitt, a wine business MBA student, proudly took first place and was rewarded with a one week, all expense paid trip to the Champagne region of France.
"It pays to participate in whatever extracurricular events are offered at SSU- I didn't know when I showed up for the opening round of the competition that first prize was going to be a free trip to France, but now I'm going to Champagne." said Emmitt.
Three other Sonoma State wine business students took home prizes as well for placing second through fourth. Rachel Kau-Taylor placed second and won a two-night stay in Napa as well as a $400 prize to spend on wine during her trip.
Third place winner Shane Ryan was rewarded a private tour, picnic and $200 to a local Sonoma winery. Rounding off the group of winners was Sebastian Briare, who won a wine tasting at Lynmar winery and a $100 cash prize.
Wine business students were encouraged to participate in this competition, which consisted of three very different but equally difficult rounds.
"I love any opportunity to test my wine knowledge," said Emmitt. "I briefly refreshed myself by skimming a few wine books-some from SSU and some from my sommelier training courses."
The first round consisted of 20 multiple-choice questions, quizzing the contestants' knowledge of wine regions, varietals, wine making, wine sales and marketing, food and wine pairings and the global wine industry. After answering a grueling set of questions, only the top half of the participants moved forward in the competition.
The second round was a blind taste test in which the students were required to taste a white wine from California and a red wine from France. Students were then asked to identify the varietal (specific kind of grape used to make the wine), region, vintage (year the wine was made) and price.
In the third and final round, competitors were once again asked to do a blind taste test, one white and one red.
"We were on a stage in front of a crowd with bright lights shining on us; it was a little bit stressful. Adding to the stress was the fact that the wines were very atypical and not easy to figure out," said Emmitt.
Students were asked to specify the country of origin, varietal region, price, vintage and alcohol level of each wine.
"I correctly identified the white wine as a Grenache Blanc from Provence, earning me the victory and a trip to France."
A dramatic tiebreaker at the end of the competition kept the participants and the crowd guessing, as students were prompted to estimate how many wineries are in North America. Emmitt guessed, with incredible accuracy, a total of 7841 wineries, a mere 12 away from the actual total.
"The best way to learn about wine is to always try new things. I won the competition not because of superior knowledge or experience, but because I've tasted enough obscure white wines to have recognized Marsanne and Grenache Blanc," said Emmitt.
Whatever their approach, each of the four SSU winners prove to be doing something right in their wine-tasting endeavors, and are sure to enjoy the rewards of their hard work and success.

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