Since 1977, The Court of Master Sommeliers has been promoting a high level of professionalism and excellence in the hotel and restaurant beverage service industry. The Court offers four levels of increasingly difficult coursework and examination that ultimately groom its candidates for the Master Sommelier Diploma Examination. On July 12, Miklos Katona, Wine Manager at Costa di Mare at Wynn Las Vegas, passed the Advanced Sommelier Examination in Phoenix, Arizona. He was one of two Las Vegas-based sommeliers to earn his green pin, and one of only eighteen total sommeliers to pass the exam.

The Advanced Sommelier Examination is only offered three times each year, and is given in three parts: practical restaurant beverage service and salesmanship in a dining room setting, written theory and deductive tasting of six wines. One must earn a minimum score of 60% in each section in order to pass the examination, and cannot continue onto the Master Sommelier Diploma Examination without successfully completing all three prior exams. We asked Katona to share a little bit about his latest experience with us, and he graciously obliged.

Was this your first attempt at taking the Advanced exam?

No, it was not. It was my fourth time!

How long did you study for the test?

The last eight months were all about this exam. Work and study, and work and more study with blind tastings twice a week.

What was the best study tool for you?

Maps. They really helped me to have a deeper understanding of the regions and their geographical aspect.

Did you take any classes to prepare for the exam?

No. I studied on my own but I went to as many tasting events as I could to talk to the winemakers and ask questions.

What was the most difficult part about taking the exam?

The theory portion was extremely complex and challenging. The preparation and sacrifice I made in my personal life was very difficult, and finding the energy and motivation to stay consistent with studying every single day, many times at night after work, took dedication.

Did you have any mentors assist you during this process?

Yes, this is not a one man show. You can’t do it without mentors and support. I’d like to say thank you to the following people: Ira Harmon MS, Joe Phillips MS, Will Costello MS, Lindsey Geddes MS, Derek Engles and Trini Bustos.

How will having your Advanced pin change your career?

I’ve become a better service professional but not just because of the new pin. I think people have tons of respect for the Court of Master Sommeliers, and employers look for the higher level of experience. There are so many talented sommeliers out there, so when it comes to hiring, the green pin will stand out. The guests recognize it too.

Are you going to work towards your Master pin?

Yes, but right now I will take my time to properly celebrate the green pin and travel.

We are thankful to have had the opportunity to be a part of Katona’s journey, and wish him much success on his continued path through the Court of Master Sommeliers. But first, as Katona said, let’s take time to celebrate his going green. Cheers!