In 1991 Peter Granoff was the 15th American to become a Master Sommelier, and is one of the subset to date that have earned the Krug Champagne Cup. In 1991 Peter received the James Beard Foundation Sommelier of the year Award. In January of 1995 Peter and Robert Olson, a software engineer, launched Virtual Vineyards, an ecommerce pioneer and the first to sell wine on the Internet. According to Wells Fargo Bank, Virtual Vineyards was the first business ever to process a secure credit card transaction online. It was also the subject of a Harvard Business School Case Study, and was cited in numerous business and e-commerce marketing journals as a pioneer during that heady (headless?) era. The company had a good six-year run and grew to $28 million in sales before what Peter calls “the era of ludicrous expectations” caught up with it. Prior to Virtual Vineyards Peter spent 25 years in the hospitality industry, including two years in the Burgundy region of France, and a year with a Relaix & Chateaux hotel in Switzerland. He is active as a speaker, panelist, judge, and educator in numerous consumer & industry settings, and has presented at professional conferences at American universities such as Harvard, Wharton, Rhodes, and UC Berkeley, and as far away as Switzerland, France, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Since 2003 Peter has been co-proprietor of Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant in San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace. In January of 2008 Peter and his business partner (Debbie Zachareas) opened Oxbow Cheese & Wine Merchant in Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa, California. In November of 2019, the partnership opened Mission Bay Wine & Cheese in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood, and in January, 2023 they opened Mission Bay Wine Bar @ Thrive City adjacent to Chase Center. There are plans for more.


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

I have been a partner in multiple wine shops/wine bars for 20+ years. The MS credential has bolstered our credibility with both customers and suppliers.


Where were you working when you passed?

I was working at The Stanford Court hotel on San Francisco’s Nob Hill


What made you want to become an MS?

Ironically, when I decided to sit for the exam, it was because I was seriously considering a career change, and I wanted to be able to say that I took the Sommelier niche as far as I could before jumping ship. Somehow that career change never came to pass . . .


What advice do you give those who are pursuing certification?

There is no shortcut to passing the exam, nor is there any shortcut to a deep knowledge of wine. You need to read, taste, travel, read, taste, travel. You need to take advantage of every opportunity to learn and be a sponge. Trying to teach others helps too, whether wait staff or consumers. And once you pass, it is important to understand that your “mastery” was of the exam at a propitious moment in time, and it is already over – there is always more to learn.


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

I drink a lot of high acid white wines from a variety of places – Sauvignon Blanc, Furmint, Loire Chenin, Austrian and German Riesling, Greek Assyrtiko, etc., etc.