Del Mar wine director earns top score and Rudd Scholarship at the Court of Master Sommeliers Advanced Exam

Guild of Sommeliers’ Director of Operations Geoff Kruth (left) and Rudd Scholarship winner Joshua Orr.
Guild of Sommeliers’ Director of Operations Geoff Kruth (left) and Rudd Scholarship winner Joshua Orr.

Years of focused study paid off for 14 women and men at the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Advanced Exam, which concluded recently at Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel.

Forty-nine accomplished professionals from across the United States took part in the five-day exam, which is the third in a series of four increasingly challenging tests of knowledge and skill offered by the Court. The Advanced Examination is exponentially more challenging than the prerequisite Introductory Sommelier and Certified Sommelier Examinations, with only a small percentage of those who begin the Court’s programs ever reaching this milestone. Within the next few years, some of these 14 candidates will attempt the Master Sommelier Diploma Exam, a test that boasts only 112 passers since the Court’s Americas chapter began offering it almost 25 years ago.

“Just being invited to attempt the Advanced Exam is a testament to the commitment and abilities of the individuals we evaluated this past week,” noted Tim Gaiser, MS, education director of the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas. “While the outcome was no doubt heartbreaking for some, we were extremely impressed by the entire pool of candidates.”

With each Advanced Examination, the Court awards the prestigious Rudd Scholarship to the highest scoring candidate. Del Mar’s Joshua Orr, wine director of Vineagogo, is the latest recipient of this award. Originally from Utah and a recent transplant from Las Vegas, Orr redoubled his study efforts this past year after an unsuccessful attempt at the exam in 2010. With the help of a committed study group, he set out to do more than just pass the exam this time around.

“I was extremely humbled by my first experience with the Advanced Exam,” Orr said. “This time, [fellow passer and study group member] Derek Engles and I were determined to see one of us go home with the Rudd Scholarship. While I was confident and hopeful, actually winning was a surprise and an incredible honor.”

Orr developed an interest in wine while attending college at Cal Poly, which is proximate to the wine-producing region of Paso Robles, Calif. His ultimate goal is to earn the title of Master Sommelier, though he’ll be taking a brief break from his studies to plan his upcoming wedding. Visit



Be relevant, respectful, honest, discreet and responsible. Commenting Rules