Introducing Ron Washam
September 9, 2021
When I was first employed as a sommelier, I wasn’t a sommelier. I was a wine steward. Americans were unfamiliar with the word “sommelier.” Most were unable to pronounce it, including those employed as one. If I told people I was a sommelier, they often thought I was from the Horn of Africa. I didn’t even know Africa had a Horn, but, then, I’ve never been in its way. Wine steward was much easier to understand.
I was a working sommelier in Los Angeles for nineteen years, all at the same restaurant. Twice I was named Sommelier of the Year by the California Restaurant Writers Association (1993 and 2003). There were really only about ten sommeliers in California back in those years and so we basically took turns. I usually won the evening gown competition. Hey, it’s not just wine that has legs.
I’ve been a wine judge for countless wine competitions, but recently retired when they went from Bronze, Silver and Gold Medals to Bitcoin. For about four years, I ran a wine shop in South Pasadena. For the past seven years, I’ve worked for Rodney Strong Vineyards. It’s not an exaggeration to say I’ve spent my life immersed in wine. I’m basically coq au vin.
I’m also proud to note that I won a Louis Roederer International Wine Writing Award in 2016, and was shortlisted for that same award in 2017, for my work on Tim Atkin MW’s site. Is it coincidence that the Roederer Awards have since been discontinued? Some would say not.
These notes on my otherwise drab life are a way of introducing myself to our Rodney Strong family. I love wine. I have considerable knowledge of and experience with wine. But I’m not a wine snob. I’m a wine educator. I mentor young sommeliers (“wine stewardesses” is an appalling notion), I spread the gospel of fine wine, and I do my best to educate guests at the winery. Wine has provided me with an extraordinary career and a wonderful life. If I can give back here, spreading a bit of enlightenment, then I’m content.
Ron Washam, Sommelier/Wine Educator