Looking for an evening of creative cuisine, exceptional wines and fun with North Carolina’s most knowledgable sommeliers? We are offering just that with this year’s sommelier competition!
With four extremely talented wine professionals joining us, including Fearrington’s own Maximilian Kast and Chetan Reddy, On the Square’s Inez Ribustello and Hai Tran of Herons restaurant at The Umstead.
Tickets are $250 per person and include a cocktail reception, four course dinner, two wine pairings per course, service fee and tax. Call 919.542.2121 to reserve. Please note we recommend spending the night at The Fearrington House Inn or having a designated driver.
The competition will begin 2 hours before guests arrive, with the random team assignments. From there the teams will meet with Executive Chef Colin Bedford and will be provided with the menu. Each team will have half an hour to select wines to pair with dinner.
Once guests arrive, both teams will meet in the Garden House and create two original cocktails to serve. During this reception guests will watch the sommelier teams compete in a blind tasting competition, having to decipher grape, region and vintage. After this section of the competition, the main event will begin!
Guests will not know which team chose which wine for each course, so this will be truly unbiased voting. The dinner will consist of a four course menu and guests will taste both wines chosen. At the end, the competition winner will be decided based on guest’s preferred cocktail, wine pairings and outcome of blind tasting during the reception.
Inez got her start in the world of food and wine after moving to New York City from her home state of North Carolina. Though she grew up in the small town of Tarboro, and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1998 with a degree in journalism and mass communications, her dream was to pursue a career in cooking. She chose New York’s Institute of Culinary Education to get her started. There, she began to learn about wine, which inspired her to take a job at Best Cellars, the groundbreaking, mid-priced wine store on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Her wine career took a huge leap forward when she became an Assistant Cellar Master and then Beverage Director at the renowned World Trade Center restaurant Windows on the World. After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 impacted her both personally and professionally, she chose to throw herself into her work and took the position of Beverage Director for Blue Fin Restaurant in the W Hotel-Times Square. Having conquered New York, her next move was to return to her hometown with her ﬁancé. Together they decided to open their own restaurant, wine bar and retail store called On the Square. The wine list at On the Square holds the prestigious Best of Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator.
In 2009, Inez placed 2nd runner-up in the Best Sommelier in America competition held in New York City. She is a member of the Alumni Hall of Fame for the Institute of Culinary Education and a graduate of the Court of Master Sommelier’s Advanced Exam. She and Stephen are the only married couple in the world to have passed the Advanced Exam.
A first generation Vietnamese-American who studied science at Duke University, Tran had virtually no experience with wine during his upbringing in Orlando, Fla. However, a stint in the restaurant industry while he pursued a career in biotechnology proved transformative. Tran’s exposure to fine dining and the world of wine sparked a great passion and a new calling.
Tran has served as sommelier of the Forbes Five Star, AAA Five Diamond Herons restaurant at The Umstead in Cary, N.C. since 2011. Under his direction, Herons’ wine program has consistently received Wine Spectator’s “Best of Award of Excellence.” Tran was instrumental in securing the history-making 2012 Fête du Bordeaux dinner at The Umstead, a first for North Carolina, and he regularly connects with guests and locals during his monthly “Umstead Uncorked” tasting program. Before joining The Umstead, Tran served as wine director at ăn restaurant in Cary, shaping a new wine program that complemented the rich and bold flavors of Southeast Asian cuisine. Prior to that, Tran was a sales representative for North Carolina’s Fine Wine Trading Co., a post he sought following work at the Fairview Dining Room at the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club in Durham, NC. It was at the Fairview that he first discovered his passion for wine and its complex nuances.
Tran is a Certified Advanced Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers.