Becoming a Master Sommelier takes the discipline of a professional athlete. Just ask Laura Maniec: The beverage director for BR Guest restaurants, she started training before she could legally drink. Her first attempt at the rigorous test was at 22; this year, at 29, she nailed it.
To earn the certification, competitors need to pass a three-part evaluation, including a blind tasting and a service exam in which they serve a table of Master Sommeliers masquerading as ornery and outrageously knowledgeable customers. Only about 10 percent pass; Maniec is one of only 100 MSs across America, 16 of whom are women.
Despite the grueling process, she wishes more people would go for it. To that end, here are three places to take serious wines classes. Maybe you, too, could become a Master Sommelier--or at least drink like one.
French Culinary Institute Maniec teaches at this Soho school; her wine classes are open to the public and include a weekend intensive for those short on time. 462 Broadway (at Grand St.); 212-219-8890 or frenchculinary.com
American Sommelier Association Some of New York's best sommeliers take the podium at the ASA's roving classes, including Aldo Sohm of Le Bernardin, André Compeyre of Les Halles and Stephane Colling of L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. 580 Broadway (between Houston and Prince sts.); 212-226-6805 or americansommelier.org
International Wine Center From one-off beer-tasting classes to extended courses for the serious wine pro, this 26-year-old school has something for everyone. 350 Seventh Ave. (between 29th and 30th sts.); 212-239-3055 or internationalwinecenter.com