Sommelier Updates

Now that we have moved our website to, it was suggested that I use this site to start an actual wine blog. Bear with me, as I am new to this entire process.
The Arrowhead Wine Enthusiasts, grew out of the need for a new approach to learning about wine in a fun social manner. The original club started out at the Lake Gregory Wine Club, well before I moved up to Lake Arrowhead. At that time, Joe Herpin was the president of the club, and was also a distributor with Young's Market. All the wines were from his portfolio. When Joe stepped down as President, I took over that original club. Wine had been a hobby for me, and I loved learning about new wines, and how they paired with food. My approach was to keep the club open for new members and try new and different wines. As the club grew, it became apparent that there were differences of opinion on how the club should move forward. Some wanted to keep it a small club and taste wines that they could easily buy in the grocery store, and others wanted to keep it open to anyone that would like to attend, and try different wines/varietals from around the world. I think it was around 2006, that we decided to split the club in two, and the Arrowhead Wine Enthusiasts (AWE) was formed.

As someone who liked to learn about wine I decided it would be a good idea for me to learn more, and then I could share that information with the rest of our club. In 2008, I explored all the different educational options to learn about wine, and chose what I thought was the most extensive program: The International Sommelier Guild (ISG). I completed level I and Level II with the ISG in the Spring of 2009. I loved what I could share with the rest of our club, and took many of my classroom experiences to the club. The next step was a big one...going for full certification as a Sommelier, and completing the Level III diploma course. The course consisted of 26 weeks of instruction, 9 hours each course, and that didn't include the 3 hour drive (each way) to attend the course, or the 2 - 3 hours of reading, and homework projects every night. Needless to say, this was a lot of information to absorb. During the course, I was given a project, to develop a restaurant. I had to develop a beverage training program, inventory management system, inventory of beverages, menu, pairing menu, and full concept for the restaurant. This project was used for one of my final exams: service exam, where we served a customer, and made recommendations based on our menu, and wine list. We were required to use proper technique to serve a sparkling wine and a decanted wine.

Additional course exams included: 200 Multiple Choice Questions (probably the most difficult test); 10 Essay questions; 2 Service, short answer questions; 22 Blind tastings; and 4 Pairing menus with recommendation of beverages for four to five courses on each menu, and rationale for those pairings. We were required to achieve a minimum of 70% on each of the exams. If any one of these was below 70%, then we would have to retake the exam at a later date.

The wait, for results, was painstaking, as it took three months to learn our results. Out of the 12 people that started the diploma course, only five of us passed the exams. Last night, we officially received our diplomas, and Sommelier pins.

Now I am continuing the education. As was pointed, out, wine has dramatic changes at least two times a year, when the new vintages from the northern and southern hemisphere are released. There is so much to learn, and the only way to do it is to continue to explore. I recently took the WSET (Wine & Spirits Educational Trust), level II exam, and passed that with no problems, Next year, I'll be taking the level III course/exam, when offered. I am also trying to get a small study group together for the Society of Wine Educators course. This is a self study group, that allows you to take the exam when you are ready.

Well that's it for my first wine blog for the Lake Arrowhead Wine club, better known as the Arrowhead Wine Enthusiasts. Send me your ideas on what you'd like me to discuss, and I will do my best to contribute.

Jim Newcomb
Certified Sommelier/President AWE


  1. Interesting start. Hopefully some more to follow

  2. What wines do you recommend with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner? Thank you. JB Nadal

  3. know the answer to this depends! What are the side dishes, and style of the dinner you will be making? Go with the predominant flavors. Last year, we tried a Falanghina, and a fruity Zinfandel, as well as an Alsatian Riesling. They all worked. I would stay away from heavy tannic wines.