Our resident Sommelier Ariana Tsuchiya has returned from another wine journey! This time she had the opportunity to attend SommCon as one of it's Scholarship Recipients, and we could not be more proud of her recognition.

Here is what she shared about this fantastic experience:

1. What is SommCon?

SommCon originally started in San Diego as a result of requests from the San Diego Food and Wine Festival to include educational portions to their event. Over time, the educational component became so sought-after that it became its own entity. The movement towards educating about wine to both professionals and enthusiasts has expanded and this year was their first year holding a SommCon on the east coast. The conference attracts attendees both in and out of the industry who are wishing to pursue a higher level understanding of very specific sommelier topics. There are tastings, conversations about business, keynote sessions, certifications, and great networking opportunities in a fun and informative environment.

2. What was your most memorable experience?

My most memorable experience was meeting my fellow scholarship recipients. I feel very honored and appreciative that I was able to be a part of the Young Leaders Summit for SommCon. All of us were under the age of 30 and pursuing various sommelier certifications, but we came from all over the nation to be there. I feel like I made a mini family for the weekend because we all shared similar passions and struggles that we could relate to. I know that after this weekend I have made lifelong friends that I will continue to root and cheer for and I know they would encourage me in the same way. I feel like this community aspect of being a sommelier is very important because it helps us strive to be better and thus create a better service experience for our guests.

3. What was your most educational experience?

My most educational experience was getting to attend the lectures that I signed up for and was especially excited to attend. One of my favorites was an entire seminar on the Cabernet Franc grape held by Geoff Labitzke MW and Jay Youmans MW. It was eye opening to see all the different expressions and forms that one single varietal could hold. I enjoyed comparing and contrasting the wines based on region. Some of my other favorite lectures included topics like Roses of the Languedoc, Sake, and an entire lecture on sand. It was marvelous and I felt like I was in wine geek heaven.

4. If you had more time at SommCon, what would you do and why?

On paper, the days are seemingly long because you start in the morning and have a full day ahead filled with tasting and lectures. However, it all goes by too quick. I feel like I could have kept attending lectures for another whole week! I could only fit so many sessions into my daily schedule but some lectures I wish I could have attended if I had the opportunity would be the Madeira, Impact on Public Policy in the Wine Industry, and the Appellation Elevation seminars.

5. What advice would you give to someone that is interested in attending a SommCon in the future?

I would definitely advise any wine professionals under the age of 30 to apply for the Young Leaders Summit Scholarship and to spend a lot of time on your essays for your application. I felt very moved by the amount of people who came up to us during the conference to congratulate us and tell me that they voted for us because of the content of our essays. People going to this conference are very passionate about wine so I would recommend truly letting your passion flow through your words and resonate with a purpose. I personally feel very blessed to have had farm field trips with Alan Wong's and a Harvest Internship with Neyers winery so my essay touched on the importance of going beyond studying but truly understanding wine, produce, and the farmers that give us these soulful products. My advice to someone else applying would be to find what fuels your passion and what you stand for.

If you are planning to attend SommCon in general I would say that you should definitely take genuine care in planning which sessions you sign up for. I would recommend researching the topics and individual speakers beforehand so that you can make the decision that is right for you. I was really happy that I attended sessions that were held by Masters of Wine rather than Master Sommeliers because it gave me a different perspective and a fresher approach on how I could study when I returned home.