The American chapter of the Court of Master Sommeliers, one of many world’s most influential wine organizations, is transferring to expel six males accused of quite a lot of sexual-misconduct offenses, after a nine-month investigation.
The inquiry adopted an October 2020 report in The New York Times during which 21 girls mentioned they’d been sexually harassed, manipulated or assaulted by male grasp sommeliers. Present and former members described the court docket, whose members are largely males, as a bastion of sexual harassment and coercion that had lengthy been identified and tolerated by the group’s leaders.
“What grew to become clear by means of this investigation was the necessity for a seismic cultural shift inside our group,” Emily Wines, the chairwoman of the chapter’s board, mentioned Wednesday in an announcement about its investigation, which was carried out by an out of doors agency. The announcement was first reported by The San Francisco Chronicle.
The court docket mentioned it will not disclose particular findings concerning the six males: Drew Hendricks, Fred Dexheimer, Joseph Linder, Matt Stamp, Robert Bathtub and Fred Dame, a founding father of the chapter. However it said its investigation “confirmed that perceived energy was exploited by members of the group. The findings substantiated behaviors that ranged from inappropriate feedback and flirting to nonconsensual touching and exploiting a mentoring relationship for a perceived quid professional quo.”
The court docket will maintain a listening to concerning the proposed expulsions inside 30 days. If the lads are ousted, they’d be prohibited from making use of for reinstatement, in accordance with a letter despatched to one of many males.
The chapter additionally banned Geoff Kruth, a distinguished member who resigned final yr, from searching for reinstatement. Shortly earlier than the Instances article appeared, Mr. Kruth stepped down because the president of GuildSomm, the court docket’s academic spinoff. Eleven girls informed The Instances they’d skilled sexual misconduct by Mr. Kruth. Reached by cellphone on Thursday, he declined to remark.
Greater than a dozen girls mentioned Mr. Dame had often engaged in undesirable touching and sexual innuendo. On Thursday, he hung up on a reporter.
One lady mentioned Mr. Hendricks had grabbed for her breasts, and one other mentioned he had requested for “a pair of panties to snuggle with” after she refused to sleep with him. Mr. Hendricks and his lawyer didn’t reply to messages searching for remark. Neither did Mr. Bathtub and Mr. Dexheimer.
Mr. Stamp, as soon as the vice chairman of the board, did not disclose that he had sexual relationships with two girls who underwent the rigorous examination course of required for membership. In an announcement, Mr. Stamp mentioned he “ought to haven’t been throughout the neighborhood of anybody taking an examination” with whom he had a romantic relationship, though he had recused himself from proctoring the exams for these girls.
He mentioned he took accountability for his error in judgment: “I’ll be taught and develop from my errors and settle for in the present day’s determination with a heavy coronary heart.”
Mr. Linder, a grasp sommelier in Seattle who’s now a contractor, additionally mentioned that he took accountability for his actions, however that the scandal pointed to a wider drawback within the sommelier group. “When you find yourself impaired, your higher judgment goes out the window,” he mentioned.
Liz Dowty Mitchell, 38, a sommelier in New Orleans, is considered one of two girls who mentioned Mr. Dame had slapped her on the rear at court docket occasions. She additionally mentioned final yr that her mentor repeatedly pursued her with sexual invites. He’s not among the many males the chapter is searching for to dismiss.
Ms. Mitchell mentioned she was contacted by an investigator in January, however determined not to participate within the inquiry as a result of she didn’t belief the method. She mentioned that she was blindsided by the sudden launch of the investigation outcomes and upset that males accused of extra egregious sexual acts weren’t amongst these marked for expulsion.
“It’s actually disheartening,” Ms. Mitchell mentioned. “It’s extremely uncomfortable. It doesn’t go away me with any type of closure.”
The court docket mentioned 22 members have been investigated, however the “findings didn’t help additional motion in some circumstances.” Some members, it mentioned, have been by means of “various ranges of rehabilitative schooling to permit members to take accountability after which return in good standing.”
Ms. Wines, the board’s chairwoman, mentioned that whereas “a small quantity” of investigations have been persevering with, the court docket determined to announce the proposed expulsions as a result of many of the inquiries had concluded.
Ms. Mitchell mentioned she has been haunted by the idea that some males, together with her mentor, who harassed girls would proceed as members.
“That’s a horrible feeling once I risked all the pieces to return ahead to guard future girls,” she mentioned. “I’ve no assurance that it received’t occur once more sooner or later, and that’s why we got here ahead within the first place, to guard future girls. It’s a reasonably horrible feeling. It’s like that is all in useless.”
Within the days following the Instances report, the chapter elected a brand new board. Devon Broglie, the chairman, had resigned, after a junior-level candidate mentioned Mr. Broglie had an inappropriate sexual relationship along with her earlier than he grew to become chairman. The court docket mentioned his resignation was unrelated to the allegations.
Mr. Linder, one of many sommeliers marked for ouster, mentioned he agreed with Ms. Mitchell that some males accused of extra critical abuses had not been punished.
“The hammer ought to’ve come so much more durable on the individuals who groomed candidates and had intercourse with them,” he mentioned. “And for some motive, they obtained a cross.”
Kitty Bennett contributed analysis.