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Head of Prominent Bay Area Wine Nonprofit Resigns After Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Updated: May 1

Master sommelier Geoff Kruth, the founder and president of GuildSomm in Petaluma, has resigned after at least 11 women accused him of sexual impropriety and coercion.

GuildSomm is “a nonprofit international membership organization for wine professionals that promotes education and community,” according to their site. Kruth is one of the leading educators in the wine community and starred in Netflix’s “Somm,” a documentary following four wine stewards preparing for the master sommelier exam. He participates in grading the exam. A bombshell New York Times story interviews 11 wine stewards who recount experiences of sexual misconduct relating to Kruth, 45, who has denied any wrongdoing.

One woman’s experience involved Kruth inviting her to stay at a Manhattan hotel to find there was only one bed in the room. Kruth told her that “sex between master sommeliers and candidates was common.” The woman, who knew no one in the city and would have had nowhere to stay, felt she had to have sex with Kruth when he initiated. In New York, a wine importer recounted to the Times that in 2013, Kruth “suddenly slid his fingers inside her underpants and kissed her breast.” In Detroit, a wine director texted with Kruth until he “sent her a link to a graphic oral-sex guide and asked which position was her favorite.” She filed a complaint with the Court of Master Sommeliers, which subsequently dismissed Kruth from grading her exams.

Many of the interviewed women felt that responding favorably to the advances of Kruth and other powerful men of the wine community was the only way to advance in their careers.

Following the article, the Court’s chairman, Devon Broglie, clarified that GuildSomm is not affiliated with the Court, nor is Kruth a leading educator in the field. “Racism, sexism, or any other form of discrimination has no place within the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas, nor the hospitality industry as a whole,” Broglie stressed. “This Board applauds the courage of those who have spoken up, as it shines a light on an area where we can hold our members more accountable to the mission of excellence in hospitality to which we aspire.”

The Court has subsequently created a formalized process to report ethical concerns and issues.”We were disheartened to hear that candidates and students in our community felt powerless to speak up. We are making strides to address this power dynamic and offer a safe way to report misconduct without fear of retribution,” said Broglie. In addition, the Court has declared that top wine experts will no longer be addressed as “master” due to its ties to racism.

This scandal comes amid the wine world’s struggles and accusations of the culture of racism and sexism in elite circles. Only 24 out of 155 American Master Sommeliers are women. Many female wine stewards training for the master sommelier exam drop out due to instances like the above with Kruth.

If you have experienced sexual harassment in your workplace, you have options. Contact Gomerman | Bourn & Associates at 415 545 8608 to schedule a free confidential consultation.

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