Ian Cauble - 197th Person to Pass the Master Sommelier

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It Takes Somm Time | Ian Cauble Becomes a Master

Somm Select wine delivery service Ian Cauble

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Imagine studying 10,000 hours—14 months—preparing for a test that only 267 people since its inception in 1969 have passed. Welcome to the world of the Master Sommelier.

When it comes to tests, the Master Sommelier is one of the hardest in the world. With a pass rate hovering around a scant five percent, when and if a candidate passes the three-part exam, it’s time to break out a bottle of 1995 Krug Clos d’Ambonnay.

In 2012 Ian Cauble became the 197th person to do it and one of the youngest. The road wasn’t easy. It took three attempts and three years to pass all three sections.

Ian Cauble Master Sommelier

Emma K Morris

The journey was filled with countless all-nighter study sessions, an unimaginable stack of flashcards, many empty bottles of wine and a film crew ready to record all the highs and lows. Cauble’s path to the Master Sommelier was chronicled in the cult documentary hit,“Somm.”

“One of my study partners (Brian McClintic) was friends with filmmaker Jason Wise, and he wanted to make the movie,” said Cauble. “The toughest part was that when the movie was finished, I wasn’t a master. There was a lot of pressure at that point, the whole world would see if I ultimately succeeded or failed.”

While the documentary chronicled Cauble’s preparation for the test and exam day, it didn’t highlight what brought him to that point.

Growing up in Huntington Beach, California, Ian Cauble was focused on athletics, not Albarinos or Amarones. The surfer and competitive tennis player figured he’d follow in his father’s footsteps and become a chiropractor when he headed north to Sonoma State.


I saw how the right wine paired with the right food brought out all these layers, and I was blown away.


Plateresca / Shutterstock

“I decided to take a few wine courses, and I got bit by the wine bug,” Cauble said. “I ended up going to Chile on a wine trip for a month, and it changed the whole trajectory of how I thought about living. I saw how the right wine paired with the right food brought out all these layers, and I was blown away.”

When he graduated in 2003 with a degree in business and Spanish, he got a job offer to work as a harvest intern for $2/hour.

“Thankfully I had money saved up from teaching tennis,” Ian Cauble said with a laugh. “I worked there for three months and then traveled getting jobs as I went. Finally, after a year-and-a-half, I went back to Los Angeles with no money.”

Cauble’s father introduced him to a friend who owned the exclusive Wine Merchant in Beverly Hills and he was hired as a store clerk.


Marko Poplasen / Shutterstock

With the clientele the store attracted, Cauble quickly learned the art of opening a bottle, selecting the right wine glasses and had the opportunity to pour some of the best wines in the world. In essence he was doing the job of a somm without knowing it.

“In 2006, I found the Court, and I took my intro and certified tests at the same time,” he said. “I was totally struck and passionate about the somm world.”

Cauble went on to work in restaurants, eventually landing in Las Vegas where he had the opportunity to work under several master sommeliers and with some of the best cellars in the world.

“There were nights where we’d open $100,000 worth of wine. I worked at Fleur de Lys and a buddy worked at Aureole, and there was a back door connecting our restaurants, and we’d share tastes with each other,” said Cauble. “It helped me build my taste memory and program the best wines of the world into my brain. You have to taste the best wines in the world in order to be a master sommelier.”

Somm Select from Master Sommelier Ian Cauble

Somm Select

Enamored with the wine world, Cauble passed his Advanced sommelier test in 2009 and set his sights on the elusive master title.

“For me I always wanted to be the best I could at any subject,” he said. “When I sat in my intro and certified class I saw the masters. The way they dressed, the way they spoke, I wanted to be like them and master the subject of wine.”


The first invitation Ian Cauble had to take the master test came from ICONIC master sommelier Fred Dame. The only hitch was that Cauble would be filling a seat of someone who dropped out and he had to take the test in three weeks. Amazingly, he passed the service portion of the test. The next year, with five months to prepare he passed theory and the third time was the charm to pass the tasting portion and get his master sommelier pin.

He was immediately hired by Krug as its American ambassador and left the world of restaurants behind. When a college friend came to him a year later with the idea to bring the master sommelier experience home, Somm Select was born. Somm Select offers a daily featured wine, wine clubs and concierge services.


Somm Select

“We bring the best wines in the world in terms of price to quality to our customers. These are small production wines that you’d normally find in top restaurants,” Cauble explained. “I taste about 100 wines a week. My team and I do the work to find great wine so customers can feel confident buying any bottle.”

Each daily deal comes with the story behind the wine, much like the story you’d get if you were in a Michelin restaurant talking with a master sommelier. It also comes with suggested pairings. Somm Select just launched their Explore 4 club designed to really drill down on a genre of wines each month.

For those oenophiles that want to curate a cellar, Somm Select offers complimentary cellar consultations where they can guide customers based on specific preferences.

Ian Cauble wine delivery Somm Select

Somm Select

“One month it might be red wines grown in gravel and you’ll get four wines to try, pictures, maps and all the information about the wines,” Cauble said.

In addition to Explore 4, there is the Somm6 Club offering three reds and three whites of the teams top six wines of the month and the Blind 6, which is Ian Cauble’s favorite club, giving customers the opportunity to try their hand at identifying wines simply by viewing, smelling and tasting what’s in the glass.

For those oenophiles that want to curate a cellar, Somm Select offers complimentary cellar consultations where they can guide customers based on specific preferences.

During normal times, Cauble is in Europe three months of the year sourcing new producers. He’s really excited about the Spanish regions of Bierzo and Galicia, as well as the wines of Portugal.

But when asked about his personal favorite wine region, Cauble goes with a classic. “If I had to marry a wine region and only drink its wines, it would be Burgundy,” he said.

In fact, Ian Cauble admits that his last meal would involve white truffles and white Burgundy. “White truffles with a mature white Burgundy like an older vintage Coche-Dury Meursault Perrieres is one of the greatest things in the world,” he espoused. “It’s the most incredible sensation. Time stops. It makes me want to hug strangers.”

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