Meet the Iron Sommelier Houston 2020 Winners

Evan Turner Iron Sommelier 2020

There’s a new wine king in town. The annual Iron Sommelier competition was held last night in a split virtual-at-home and in-person format at both Hugo’s and Backstreet Cafe to reduce and socially distance the typically huge crowd  — which in normal years gathers at The Houstonian. Iron Sommelier benefits The Periwinkle Foundation every year, pitting the city’s most prestigious sommeliers against each other in friendly competition. Each sommelier selected wine to match their theme, which focused on a particular wine region, grape or style. They then presented their wines to a panel of judges prior to the event as well as offered an at-home tasting of a dozen of the wines to ticket holders.

Longtime competitor Evan Turner not only took home the crown for the second time (his first win was in 2015) with his theme of “Meet and Greek: Rare Grapes of Greece,” but actually swept the other major titles of the competition: the newly minted category of Best Film Presentation and the People’s Choice Award.  He poured 2018 Domaine de Kalathas Koumarianou / Mavro Potamisi To Kokkino Epitrapezios, Oenos and 2013 Domaine Nerantzi Koniaros PGI Serres. 

“Greek wine won. That’s who won,” said Turner. “That, and the The Periwinkle Foundation — that’s what it’s all about. To get in front of a captive audience that clearly loves wine, and say, ‘Hey, I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about Greek wine, but here you go!’ That’s why I do a Greek theme every year. These wonderful wine makers in Greece sometimes make only a few hundred cases. To be able to get it in front of people — it doesn’t get any better. Also, I had so much fun. It was a really good time. Everyone is so warm and wonderful, the guests are amazing and we should be throwing Sean Beck a parade — particularly this year when everything is flipped on its head.”

Turner, a wine professional who’s worked in Houston for decades at the likes of Helen Greek Food & Wine, Ouzo Bay and Loch Bar, among others, recently left to work at a Boston restaurant. As it turns out, he’s back after being furloughed. That’s happened to many industry professionals due to restaurant and bar shutdowns forced by COVID-19.

Runner-up, Julie Dalton of Mastro’s Steakhouse. Photo by Sandra Crittenden.

Runner-up was the 2018 Iron Sommelier winner: Julie Dalton of Mastro’s Steakhouse, whose theme was “I See the Sea.” She poured the exquisite 2018 Bisson Marea, Cinque Terra, Italy and 2018 Domaine du Bagnol Cuvée Marquis de Fesques’ Cassis Rouge, France.

Iron Somm First Runner Up went to Justin Vann of Public Services Wine & Whisky and Theodore Rex. His theme was “Natural Enemies: Varietal Correctness vs. Natural Wine” and he poured the unique 2017 Julien Guillot, Clos des Vignes du Mayne Gamay, Macon, France and 2019 Meinklang Prosa Petillant Naturel Rosé, Burgenland, Austria.

sean beck iron somm cup
Guests watch on a monitor as H Town Restaurant Group beverage director Sean Beck gets ready to present the Iron Sommelier 2020 trophy.

Other competitors included: 

  • Farrah Cauley of Sonoma Wine Bar with “California Mountain Vineyard Cabernet”, pouring 2017 Matthiasson No. 2 Village Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley and 2017 Barnett Sangiacamo Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley.
  • Adele Corrigan of 13 Celsius with “Wines of the Ancient World,” pouring 2018 Orgo Saperavi Kakheti, Georgia and 2017 Zorah Areni Noir Ararat Valley, Armenia.
  • Matt Crawford of State of Grace and La Lucha with “The Next Chapter,” pouring 2019 Julian Haart “1,000L” Riesling, Mosel Valley, Germany and 2018 Bedrock Wine Co., Evangelho Vineyard Heritage, Contra Costa County, California.
  • Eric Estefano of Pappas Bros. Steakhouse with “You don’t have to take out a loan; Just drink Savigny-lès-Beaune,” pouring 2016 Domaine Dublère, Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Aux Vergelesses, France and 2017 Domaine Mongeard-Mugneret, Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Les Narbanton, France.
  • Marcus Gausepohl of Brennan’s of Houston with “Burgundy without Blinders, Wine for the 99%,” pouring 2015 Mouton, 1er Cru Clos Jus, Givry, France and 2015 Huguenot, Marsannay, France.
  • Whitney Seng of The Coronado Club with “Parched Grapes: Wines from the Driest Places on Earth,” pouring 2015 Falernia Reserva Syrah, Elqui Valley, Chile and  Hidalgo Villapanés Oloroso Seco Sherry, Jerez, Spain.
  • Lindsay Thomas of River Oaks Country Club with “Always a Bridesmaid; Syrah, and Why You Should Finally Put a Ring on It,” pouring 2018 Savage Wines Girl Next Door, Cape Town, South Africa and 2012 Stolpman Vineyards Angeli, California.
  • Emily Tolbert of Savoir: “Gas, Grass, or A**; No One Rides for Free,” pouring 2006 Château Beaucastel Châteauneuf-de-Pape and  2019 Yealands Single Block Sauvignon Blanc, Awatere Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand. Emily had to present virtually due to an illness.
  • Jeffrey Young of Georgia James with “Fifty Shades of Greywacke,” pouring 2014 Trinity Hill, The Gimblett Cabernet Franc blend, Gimblett Gravels, New Zealand and 2016 DuMOL Eddie’s Patch Syrah, Greywacke Vineyard, Russian River Valley, California.

The judges were Master Sommeliers June Rodil of Rosie Cannonball and Craig Collins of Vintus, as well as Antonio Gianola of Houston Wine Merchant. They judged contestants on their wine selections, presentation, creativity and knowledge. 

The Periwinkle Foundation develops and provides programs to enhance the lives of children, young adults and families who are dealing with the challenges of cancer and other life threatening illnesses. The Iron Sommelier competition is one of their major fundraisers every year. For more information on how to donate to this worthy cause, visit their website to learn more.


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