CMS Americas suspends accused members

The Court of Master Sommeliers Americas has suspended several of its members who were recently accused of sexual harassment and issued an apology as well as an investigation into the accusations.

An article in The New York Times last month shone on a light on multiple instances of sexual harassment and assault suffered by women taking the Master Sommelier course by senior members.

As a result, the CMS-A has issued an apology in which it states: “The Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas recognises that it has failed its membership, our industry, and most importantly, the women who bravely shared their stories.

“We are profoundly sorry and offer our sincerest apologies to Jane Lopes, Courtney Schiessl, Christina Chilcoat, Rachel van Til, Rania Zayyat, Ivy Anderson, Victoria James, Madeleine Thompson, Liz Dowty Mitchell, Alexandra Fox, J.R. Ayala, Courtney Keeling, Kate Ham, and any woman who has experienced similar incidents of harassment and violence.

“The CMS-A hears you. We understand there are major changes that need to be made to our organization. We have been mobilising to radically shift the way we are handling issues within the Court and are taking the following steps toward change.”

It then announced the suspensions of several Master Sommeliers named in the article as well as announcing an independent inquiry, to the effect:

  • Geoff Kruth, despite resigning as a member of the court and forfeiting his title after he was told he would be the subject of an inquiry is “still subject to further disciplinary action based on the investigation”.
  • Robert Bath, Matthew Citriglia, Fred Dame, Drew Hendricks, and Matt Stamp were suspended on Saturday (31 October) from all CMS-A programming, pending further action based on the results of the investigation.

The investigation will be lead by an “outside, independent firm, which will examine all allegations to the fullest”.

In addition, the CMS-A is encouraging members to report any further incidents of misconduct through a third-party hotline, all reports will remain anonymous and will be investigated.

All members will henceforth be required to sign and updated Code of Ethics which includes much “stronger language” on sexual harassment, coercion and discrimination and all members participating in CMS-A programmes will be required to undergo sexual harassment training.

The Court is also taking “immediate steps” to terminate its relationship with GuildSomm, a non-affiliate training and resource programme founded by now disgraced member Geoff Kruth.

The Court concluded its statement, saying: “We will work to regain the trust of the sommelier community and the confidence in our certifications through our actions.”

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