When Larry was already a young boy, his mother and father introduced him to the Pike Place Market in Seattle where his father was a produce buyer, having learned the craft from his mother in Vienna. Larry’s mother, having grown up on a farm in Romania, whose second language is French, cooked classic sauces from the French cuisine as well as Hungarian, Romanian and Jewish dishes. They picked fruit and he enjoyed the smells and aromas. He experimented with tasting and making wine from an early age, and even made whisky in a school lab. Though his career path in college found him in a graduate school program in Comparative Literature, he had already bought wines in Austria professionally for his roommate at the University of Vienna’s family inn near Klagenfurt. This formed the basis for Larry’s success in the wine business.


Once he was given the opportunity to work as a part-time sommelier on Sunday’s and Monday’s, he was hooked. Since he had his Masters and had passed his Doctoral exams, he knew how to study and worked hard every day to augment his knowledge. When one of his employers entered Larry in a competition, it was hard to stop until he had not only won the title of Best Sommelier in the United States, but also two years later became the Best Sommelier in the World in French Wine (Grand Prix du Sopexa).


When he applied to take the MS exam, he thought that it would only be a good practice before the final competition in Paris. Since he didn’t believe he could pass, he felt no stress yet studied diligently, daily, everything he knew needed some more work. The key to being the only one to pass in the class, most likely was that focus, preparation and lack of stress during the exam. The most important part of the process is improving by learning and meeting others at the same stage in this wonderful profession who remain friends for the rest of your lives.


Where are you working currently and how has being a MS supported you in your current role?

I am currently working for the winery whose vineyard I planted on an exceptional terroir. Lingua Franca, in less than a decade, has established itself as an important estate producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on at a very high level of quality. My knowledge of wine regions and the places I visited while studying to enhance that knowledge by meeting winegrowers and visiting vineyards around Europe and the United States enabled me to recognize superior sites that had not yet been developed, including the selection of properties that became known as Domaine de la Cote and Evening Land.


Where were you working when you passed?

When I passed I was working at the Four Seasons Olympic Hotel in Seattle, the city I was born and raised in. Four Seasons supported my bi-weekly blind tastings and actually required me to enter sommelier competitions and encouraged me to take the Master Sommelier exam. However, the time for study was at home after and before work. Since my wife had also come from an academic background, she was supportive for my time consumed by study.


What made you want to become an MS?

I had wanted to take a rigorous exam to test my own knowledge, to see if what I knew could be refined and improved upon. Going through the examination process for me was an important end in its own right, regardless of whether I passed or not, because it was an important course of study. Furthermore, meeting the often brilliant and fascinating people I did from all over the country in our profession was reward enough. Fortunately, my passing the MS didn’t put an end to meeting more interesting professionals or to learning. In fact, I would propose that passing the exam put even more pressure on me to learn because all of a sudden, I saw big gaps in what I knew. The aftermath of passing was more stressful to me than actually taking the test. It was a constant reminder to be humble because everyone in this profession and in life has something to teach and no one can know everything.


What advice do you give those who are pursuing certification?

Stay calm and study hard prior to the exams. Don’t stress out, because passing or failing is not the beginning of nor the end of your career. How do you treat your peers, how do you treat your colleagues and your guests–preferably with respect. Respect yourself and do a good job every day. Take the test, whatever level, and find out if there are some areas you can improve upon. And keep learning.


What is your desert island wine, or what wines/beverages are you currently excited about?

If I’m on a desert island, I’ll assume that whatever I drink may be the last thing I drink, so if only one bottle, let it be a 1795 Terrantez from Abudharam. If I am allowed a second wine, then let it be 1934 Les Gaudichots from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Otherwise I’m very happy drinking Riesling and GV from the Wachau or my own Lingua Franca from the Eola-Amity Hills.