McCrady's Sommelier Clint Sloan is one of 11 people who passed the Court of Master Sommeliers' Advanced Exam in August. And that's no small feat. He's now one of three Advanced Sommeliers in Charleston, joining the elite company of Patrick Emerson of the Maverick Group and Rick Rubel of Charleston Grill. To get to this point, Sloan has spent years studying wine, attending classes, working in the industry, and generally cultivating an extraordinary set of tastebuds and deep knowledge of wine theory.
Sloan says the support of his aforementioned colleagues Rubel and Emerson played a huge role in helping him pass the Advanced Exam on his third try.
"We've been meeting once a week, bringing two to three blind wines every week and critiquing each other on the tasting," he says. "I attribute most of my passing to how helpful Rick was to me in selecting the wine and getting in the mindset of taking the test. He was a mentor throughout."
He also credits his dedication of time and money. In addition to the weekly meetings with his wine community — which also includes Brad Ball, Emily Bane, Richard Pogue, and John Julius — Sloan kept up a grueling schedule. After working into the night at McCrady's, he was up at 7 a.m. studying for hours. After failing his first two tries, he decided he had to expand his studies. "I was studying too much of France and not enough of South Africa, New Zealand, Australia," he says. "It's not all France. Portugal shows up as much as France."
In August, Sloan headed to Cincinnati for his latest crack at the exam, flying in a few days early to get the lay of the land, find some quiet time to study, and get in the zone, so to speak. The week that followed was a blur of lectures, blind tastings, and tests on wine theory and service.
After passing the advanced exam, Sloan wants to enjoy the moment before launching into the next round of studies. He expects he'll attempt to take the final exam to become a Master Sommelier in 2012, at the earliest. The Court of Master Sommeliers is an even more elite group, with only 105 people in North America worthy of the designation. To get there, sommeliers must test not only their knowledge and skill but their perseverance.
"You can't do this on your own," he says. "You need like-minded, driven people like yourself. That's why Rick was such a big help. He let me know that it can be done."
Sloan says Rubel will be attempting the MS next year, and they're working to get the other members of the group past the introductory and certified sommelier exams too.