Martin started his career in information technology, but his passion for cooking drew him to the hospitality industry in 2005 where he started as a line cook in Seattle. Transitioning to the front of the house after three years, he quickly became the wine buyer at Kimpton’s Tulio Ristorante and started his formal wine journey with the CMS Introductory Exam in 2011. After earning his Advanced in 2013, he helped open Stoneburner in Ballard before moving on to join the wine time at Wild Ginger, a program that had earned Wine Spectator’s Grand Award. He eventually became the Corporate Beverage Director for all Wild Ginger properties before joining the wine team at Canlis in 2019, eventually becoming Lead Sommelier.


In 2022, Martin earned his Master Sommelier certification and joined Cooper’s Hawk Restaurant & Winery, first as the Beverage Director for their Esquire concept before moving on to work in wine education as the Director of Wine Education and Experience.


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

My current title is Director of Wine Education and Experience for Cooper’s Hawk, a group of over 60 restaurants across the country with a unique business model – think brewpub meets wine club meets restaurant. We source and bottle our own wines that are then sold within our restaurants to both our guests and our 600,000 monthly wine club members. The vast majority of our employees have little to no formal wine training when they are hired and so we need to tailor our educational experiences to their needs. Understanding what details to leave out of training while still giving our team members the essential knowledge they need has been a challenge, but one that has benefited from the insight I gained while becoming an MS.


Where were you working when you passed?

I was working at Canlis, a 70 year old family owned restaurant in Seattle. It is the special occasion restaurant in Seattle. People come back time and again for the hospitality, but that hospitality is equally matched by the service. I was there through COVID and it felt like we invented the word pivot: delivery, CSA, burger drive through, four different outdoor restaurants, a community college, meal kits, a drive-in theater. It was an incredible journey that created an exceptionally tight team; one of the happiest moments of my professional career was when we re-opened the dining room for service 471 days after we closed it down.


What made you want to become an MS?

It was something I never really expected to do. I only took the Introductory exam because Emily Wines emailed me on a Friday afternoon asking if I wanted to take a wine class on Monday and Tuesday. I said yes, of course, not realizing that I was signing up for the Introductory exam. But I enjoyed the challenge and I passed Certified and Advanced in successive attempts in 2012 and 2013. When it came to sitting MS, I arrogantly thought “It’s just one more test.” I had always been the kid that did not have to study much in school and here was the first exceptionally difficult intellectual challenge that I had come across in my life. As time went on it became less about getting the pin and turned into something that I wanted to prove to myself that I could accomplish. The bonus was that it taught me an immense amount about humility, empathy, and resilience.


What advice do you give those who are pursuing certification?

Adversity is part of the process. This is one of the most difficult exams in the world and quite often failure can be an integral part to that journey. How you respond to that adversity influences who you become. In that moment it can be easy to say “It’s not my fault” and shift blame, but someone who aspires for mastery will ask “What can I learn? How can I change to be better?” Make the choice to learn from your mistakes and become a better sommelier, a better person. Failure can be a blessing if you choose to make it one.


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

I am fascinated by the growth of no/low and how the beverage community is recognizing this category and catering to it. It is no longer acceptable for a NA beverage list to only have mocktails that are just a few fruit juices shaken together. Now you need to have no/lo programs that are just as sophisticated as their alcoholic counterparts. Unfortunately, crucial flavor and texture components are often lost with dealcoholized products and it has been interesting to watch how producers deal with that challenge.