American Wins Gold at International Young Sommelier Competition

Oct 03 2012 | 02:04 AM

The Chaîne des Rôtisseurs has announced that Christopher P. Bates, general manager and executive chef at historic Hotel Fauchere in Milford and co-owner of Element Winery, has won the 6th International Young Sommeliers Competition. The contest was sponsored by the International Confrerie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, an international gastronomic society, and held in Cape Town, South Africa, on September 21.
Wine expert Bates, 31, also holds Advanced Sommelier Certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers and is a candidate for Masters Designation. A member of the Society of Wine Educators, he has earned Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW), Certified Wine Educator (CWE), and Certified Spirit Specialist (CSS) titles.
According to his mother, Ginny Bates, Chris always wanted to be involved with food and beverage. “From the time he could stand on a kitchen chair at the counter, we were making bread,” she said. The family grew most of their own food and raised chickens and pigs. Mrs. Bates is called “an in-house gourmet chef” by her husband, Robert, and young Chris was soon learning to cook everything at her side. To this day, they will sometimes exchange recipes: “It’s not unusual for him to call me at 2 a.m. and ask ‘what’s that recipe...?’” Ginny said, laughing. “You’d think it’s an emergency!”
Bates was in high school when he got a summer job washing dishes in a local restaurant, then called The Watch on the Green. Within a few weeks, he was helping them cook.
After high school, Bates attended Cornell Hotel Management School. While attending school, he worked at least 40 hours per week at the Statler Hotel at Cornell University for four years. “When he attended Cornell, I don’t know how he did it,” Ginny said, noting how he graduated early from Cornell while putting in long hours at the hotel. It was during this time that Bates’ interest in wine was spurred by professor Abby Nash.

Becoming a Sommelier

During his college summers, Bates worked for Amangani Hotel in Jackson Hole, Wyo., where he started a wine program. He also worked for restaurants in Chicago and as a private chef before turning his focus to wine. Traveling to Europe, he worked in wineries in the Mosel region of Germany and the Veneto region of Italy. It was from here that the idea for Element Winery was born: “Let’s make some wine,” Bates told his father during an international phone conversation.
Robert Bates admitted to not knowing anything about wine “other than drinking it,” but signed on for the experiment—which is exactly what the business was for the first few years. This year, however, they will release their first wine to the public during the holiday season. Their first batch will include pinot-noir, cabernet blanc, riesling, and a red table wine. The winery, located in Arkport, N.Y., where Chris grew up and his parents still live, expects to produce about 1,000 cases per year, which will be primarily available online at elementwinery.com and at restaurants.
Upon his return from Europe, Bates became general manager and sommelier at the Inn at Dos Brisas in Brenham, Texas. According to his father, “[Chris] took a new property and had it accepted by Relais & Chateau franchise group. During his time there, he earned Grand Chef de Relais & Chateaux status and took it to a five-star classification—one of only 17 in the country at the time.”
After his success in Texas, Chris moved to Milford to take over the Hotel Fauchere, where he and his partner, Isabel Bogadtke, co-manage.
In addition to managing the hotel and his work at Element Winery, Bates writes for journals, including Sommelier Journal and Food and Wine. He updated the textbook for the American Sommelier Association and teaches classes on the subject in New York City.
Reached in South Africa via email, Bates summed up what makes a successful sommelier: “To succeed in hospitality, bring[ing] pleasure to others must bring you pleasure. If not, it is not the right industry. While there is a lot to know to be a sommelier our most important job is to make our guests happy.”