CAPS Ontario crowns Best Ontario Sommelier 2017

Best Ontario Sommelier Competition

Ontario has a new sommelier champion, after an intense day of competition before a live audience at George Brown College’s Culinary and Hospitality Campus on Sunday March 5th, 2017.

Twenty-four intrepid, highly skilled certified working sommeliers came out early in the morning to write a demanding theory exam and engage in a competitive ‘blind’ wine tasting.  After a program of ‘Somm Games’ sponsored by Lifford Wine & Spirits and a luncheon sponsored by Southbrook Vineyards, the three top finalists were announced. The five frontrunners had very close results, which meant that the judges had to be particularly diligent when grading and crosschecking final scores. Once the three finalists were announced, each competitor, took their turn facing a series of challenges designed to test their wine knowledge, their tasting, service, theory and stamina, live in front of an audience of peers and members of the public.

CAPS Ontario congratulates Emily Pearce-Bibona of Femmes du Vins and sommelier at Barberian’s Steak House in Toronto, who claimed the coveted top spot as winner of the Best Ontario Sommelier Competition. José Luis Fernández, sommelier at Quatrefoil restaurant in Dundas, Ontario, finished in second place. Nathan Morrell, sommelier at Bar Isabel in Toronto, was the third place sommelier. The winners were cheered on by the audience and toasted with a glass of Inniskillin Icewine.

Jose Emily Nathan

José Luis Fernández, Emily Pearce-Bibona and Nathan Morrell

Ms. Pearce-Bibona also won the Lifford Wine and Spirits Award for Best Taster, presented by honorary event judge and sponsor, Steven Campbell of Lifford Wine and Spirits. She attributes her success to three factors:

Patience practice and perseverance. This is a quote that I adopted from Thomas Keller – and it’s patience – taking the time to learn your craft and truly being patient to learn the intricacies of your trade. Perfection never happens and it probably never will but repetition brings you closer to performing at that high level. Finally, perseverance – especially for the women in the industry – never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something or you can’t achieve something or you can’t be something. Work hard and pursue your goals.

The event’s distinguished judges included John Szabo, Master Sommelier (MS) and author of Volcanic Wines; Sara d’Amato, president of CAPS Ontario and critic at WineAlign, and Brent Fraser, sommelier at Toronto’s Granite Club. The competition’s technical committee is comprised of director Alexandra Evans, Serge Janic (Best Serbian Sommelier, 2014) and Jennifer Huether, Master Sommelier (MS) of Jackson Family Wines in California.

Winners and Judges

CAPS Ontario wishes to acknowledge our generous event sponsors  and the great contribution of our team of volunteers who provided assistance throughout the day of the event.

The complete list of sponsors for the Best Ontario Sommelier Competition:

See photos from the event on the CAPS Ontario Facebook page. Photo credits to Biserka Livaja (

Competition puts Sommeliers in the Media Spotlight

The 2017 Best Ontario Sommelier Competition helped bring sommeliers into the media spotlight.

Master Sommelier Jennifer Heuther (MS,) of our technical committee was interviewed by Matt Galloway of CBC’s Metro Morning.  You can listen to it here
Interview courtesy of:  CBC Metro Morning)


CBC Radio’s Matt Galloway talks about the Best Ontario Sommelier Competition with Master Sommelier, Jennifer Heuther, of Jackson Family Wines

Jennifer Heuther and Sommelier competitor Julie Garton (The Oxley Public House) were the stars of an entire hour long show, which includes an “on the spot” blind tasting, on the Newstalk 1010 show, Let’s Eat” with Zane Caplansky. You can listen to it here:

Even sportscasters got in on covering the competition!  TSN Radio 1050 host (and fellow wine lover) Matt Cauz shared his experience and some great stories on “Game Day.” Check out Matt’s twitter feed here: @mcauz56

Matt Cauz

TSN Radio 1050 host Matt Cauz


You can also read all about the competition at , Food Service and Hospitality Magazine , and WineAlign 

Distillery District Magazine also covered the competition on page 44 of the February Issue and the Good Food Revolution profiled Emily Pearce-Bibona this week.