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The Court of Master Sommeliers Awards the Fairmont Olympic Hotel’s
Joseph Linder the Title of Master Sommelier
There are 97 Master Sommeliers in the United States

SEATTLE, WA - February 26, 2008 - The Court of Master Sommeliers has awarded The Fairmont Olympic Hotel’s Joseph Linder the internationally recognized title of Master Sommelier following the Master Sommelier Diploma Examination, which took place February 10-13 2008. Bringing more than 25 years of experience to the restaurant and wine industry, Linder is one of only four Master Sommeliers in Washington and the only one currently working for a restaurant, The Georgian. There are 97 Master Sommeliers in the United States and a total of 158 Master Sommeliers worldwide.

The Master Sommelier diploma is the highest distinction a professional can attain in fine wine and beverage service. Testing is focused on the areas needed for superior beverage department management, which include Tasting, Theory, Practical and Dining Room Application, and encompasses spirits, beers, cigars as well as global wine knowledge. 
"It is with great honor that we welcome nine new dedicated wine professionals to the Court. Each displayed the exceptional wine knowledge, precise tasting ability, and exemplary service capability that this difficult examination requires; they will be a tremendous asset to wine education and the growth of our organization," said Joseph Spellman, Chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers, American Chapter. 

The Court of Master Sommeliers awarded nine wine professionals the internationally recognized title of Master Sommelier following the Master Sommelier Diploma Examination, which took place 10-13 February 2008 at the Hotel Healdsburg in Healdsburg, California. The other eight winners were:
Emily Wines of Fifth Floor Restaurant, in San Francisco, CA 
Jesse Becker, Sommelier at Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, CO; 
Chris Blanchard, Wine Director and Sommelier at REDD Restaurant in Napa, CA; 
Drew Hendricks, Wine Director at Charlie Palmer at the Joule in Dallas, TX; 
Geoff Kruth, Wine Director at the Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant in Forestville, CA; 
Joseph Phillips, Sommelier at Sensi at Bellagio Resort in Las Vegas, CA; 
Steven Poe, Beverage Director at Big Canyon Country Club, Newport Beach, CA; and 
Sean Razee, Beverage Director of Spago at The Ritz-Carlton in Bachelor Gulch, CO.

“The value was in the journey rather than the destination and I am looking forward to many years of personal wine growth,” says Linder, who began his career at the Bad Gleichenberg Restaurant and Hotel School in Austria and who also spent nine years in New York working at Le Bernardin and Daniel. “My biggest satisfaction will come from giving back to other candidates - encouraging, teaching, training and helping them.”

Having worked for such prestigious establishments as the Ritz-Carlton in London and Chef Joel Robuchon’s restaurant Les Celebritées at the Hotel Nikko in Paris, Linder has a uniquely international savoir-faire.  

“I feel very privileged to have had this chance to experience years of testing and studying. It takes dedication, passion and commitment to succeed in earning the Diploma,” remarked Linder, who trained with the Seattle Tasting Group. “But now I am wondering what to do without my daily routine of studying and more studying.  I keep drifting back to my books.” 

Linder is interested in the wine regions of Spain and Portugal, but is a big admirer of Washington wines and feels they keep improving, rivaling some of the better-known wines. When relaxing at home, he “loves whatever is in my glass at the moment. It is always changing and it never gets boring.” When not having a glass of wine, he reaches for a cold Pilsner. 

In The Georgian, The Fairmont Olympic Hotel’s fine dining restaurant featuring French-inspired Pacific Northwest cuisine, Linder oversees an extensive wine list, constantly changing it to reflect what’s best and to complement the different dishes offered in the restaurant. “I love that I get to meet a lot of interesting people in The Georgian and talk to them about my favorite thing – wine!”

Washington has three other Master Sommeliers: Angelo Tavernaro, who is an educator and wine consultant in Prosser, WA; Greg Harrington, who is the owner and winemaker of Gramercy Cellars, a boutique winery in Walla Walla, WA; and Shayn Bjornholm, the Washington Wine Commission education director who is based in Seattle, WA.

When he’s not overseeing the wine program at The Fairmont Olympic Hotel, Linder can be found tasting wine with Seattle’s top Sommeliers or teaching up-and-coming young Sommeliers. He lives in Seattle with his wife, Karla, and four children, Chase, Jack, Leo, and Hans; as well as his German Shepard Luna, two cats and a 90-gallon fish tank with African cichlids. 

About the Court of Master Sommeliers
1. How does someone become a Master Sommelier?

A candidate must past three levels of examinations. The first level is the Introductory Sommelier Course. Next are the Certified Sommelier Exam, Advanced Sommelier Course, and lastly, the Master Sommelier Diploma exams. When a candidate has successfully passed all three levels, he or she earns the Master Sommelier diploma and can be referred to as a Master Sommelier.

2. What is the difference between a Master Sommelier and a Master of Wine?

The Master Sommelier diploma is the highest distinction a professional can attain in fine wine and beverage service. Testing is focused on the areas needed for superior beverage department management, which include Tasting, Theory, Practical and Dining Room Application, and also encompasses spirits, beers, cigars as well as global wine knowledge.

The Master of Wine program is designed to measure knowledge in a more academic form than the Master Sommelier. The Master of Wine program is popular among négociants, writers, winemakers, and other members of the trade. It is not focused on beverage department management and service, nor does the curriculum include spirits, beer and cigars in the same way as the Master Sommelier program. The Court class is much more “hands on� and practical whereas the MW program is more theory.

3. What are the benefits of having a Master Sommelier diploma?

The Master Sommelier diploma distinguishes a service professional worthy of the title, and is known throughout the hospitality business worldwide. It guarantees to a potential employer that a candidate is among the most qualified in the industry, with outstanding tasting and evaluation skills, wine knowledge and outstanding abilities in service and beverage department management.

4. How many Master Sommeliers are there? How many are women?

There are 87 professionals who hold the title Master Sommelier in North America. Of the North American Master Sommeliers, 73 are men and 14 are women. There are a total of 158 Master Sommeliers worldwide.

5. What is the Introductory Course? How should I prepare for it?

The Introductory Sommelier Course content includes a fast-paced review of the world's wine producing regions, elements of wine service, and several tasting exercises. The Introductory Sommelier Course is a mandatory step in the three stages of testing, and is highly recommended to give a flavor for the programs comprehensiveness. An Introductory Course syllabus can be found on the website. At the end of the second (and final) day of the course, a multiple-choice exam is given. All subjects for-which candidates are to be examined on are covered during the two days, although students should arrive with a working knowledge of wine. The pass rate for this class is about 95%. Students are not tested/graded on tasting at this point. Unlike the more rigorous Advanced and Masters levels, this course is meant to be less intense. Whether or not someone chooses to pursue the MS diploma, this class provides excellent education and training. The level of skill needed to pass the MS Advanced Course rises dramatically. Outside preparation, study, and tasting is essential at this level. A suggested reading list is available for anyone wishing to receive it.

contact info: Kathleen Lewis -

A leader in the global hospitality industry, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts is an extraordinary collection of luxury hotels, which includes iconic landmarks like The Fairmont Banff Springs, Fairmont Monte Carlo and New York's The Plaza. Fairmont hotels are one-of-a-kind properties where sophisticated travellers can discover culturally rich experiences that are authentic to the destination. Situated in some of the most exclusive and pristine areas in the world, Fairmont is committed to responsible tourism and is an industry leader in sustainable hotel management with its award-winning Green Partnership program. Fairmont's portfolio includes 55 distinctive hotels, with plans to develop over 20 new properties in the coming years in destinations as diverse as Beijing, Abu Dhabi and South Africa.

Fairmont is owned by Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, a leading global hotel company with over 85 hotels worldwide under the Raffles, Fairmont and Swissôtel brands. The company also owns Fairmont and Raffles branded Residences, Estates and luxury private residence club properties.  For more information or reservations, please call 1-800-441-1414 or visit


Meg Paynor 
Public Relations Manager 

Also See: Greg Tresner Becomes Arizona's First-Ever Master Sommelier / April 2000
The Court of Master Sommeliers Awards Three Wine Professionals the Master Sommelier Diploma / Mar 2001


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