Young Sommelier Proves Her Worth

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Byline: Jennifer McGilvray Medill News Service

Alpana Singh doesn't have a favorite wine. "You can't limit yourself like that," she said.

As the youngest female master sommelier in the United States, Singh has to keep her options open because of the expansive 1,400- plus wine list at Everest, a four-star restaurant located on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange building in Chicago's Loop.

A sommelier is much more than a bartender or even a wine steward - the sommelier knows everything there is to know about the wine, from where it is bottled to the history of the vineyard region to the finer aspects of service.

Customers rely on Singh to help them choose a bottle of wine that will complement their food. As a master sommelier, Singh's education stretches over the history, science and taste of wine. Everest's wine list ranges in price from $49 to $2,800.

"I'm kind of like a personal shopper at a department store," she said.

Originally from Monterey, Calif., Singh, 26, who now lives in the South Loop, didn't know what she wanted to do for a career.

"I couldn't figure out what I wanted to study because my interests were so varied and wide," she said. "So I wasn't ready to pick one thing to study because I get bored pretty easy."

Singh worked at wine retail store and her boss encouraged her to study to become a master sommelier. She was just 21 when she started the Court of Master Sommeliers' program.

"It's a very fascinating field to study, as far as there is no end to what you can study. …