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Jul 7, 2020

After studying geology and gaining a BS, an MS and nearly a JD, Richard Betts discovered a love of wine. He served as the wine director at The Little Nell in Aspen from 2000 to 2008, and while there, in all his spare time, in 2003, Richard was the 9th person to ever pass the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Masters Exam on the first attempt.

Richard co-founded the wine labels Betts & Scholl in 2003 and Scarpetta in 2006 and founded Sombra Mezcal in 2006. Today, Richard runs Komos Tequila and Superbird Paloma (in a beautiful can), My Essential Wines, and the wine from Barossa in South Australia,  “An Approach To Relaxation.”


Richard is the New York Times best-selling author of “The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert” and “The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Whiskey Know-It-All.”  And after nearly two decades as a Master Sommelier, and feeling disillusioned by the lack of evolution in the organization, Richard has altered the wine world forever, by being the first person to resign as a Master Sommelier. He is here to tell us about his journey and his decision.

Here are the show notes:

  • Richard covers his background and his path towards becoming a Master Sommelier. He takes on a journey of what it was like for him in the early 2000s and how the Court of Master Sommeliers of that time fostered his love of learning and wine
  • We talk about Richard’s growing concerns about the Court of Master Sommeliers over time and then we delve into the two major issues that made him quit the organization:
    • The Cheating Scandal of 2018, in which a Master Sommelier gave away answers to the blind tasting portion of the exam to several people in California, and then the Board revoked all certifications of the credential around the world with no explanation or apology.
    • The apathy of the Board of Directors of the Court of Master Sommeliers to the Black Lives Matter Movement, and their veto of a statement of inclusivity to remain “neutral.”
  • Richard tells us how he quit the organization and the painful and extensive steps he took to try to fix things before he made this drastic step.


To editorialize: Richard is a hero in the wine world. He has left an indelible mark that screams “I value integrity over status and exclusivity.” His moral compass, intelligence, and down-to-earth style and, ultimately, its lack of fit with the Court should have us all questioning why we give so much deference to those with the credential, when it is a reductive look at one’s ability to take an exam well, not to be the best wine professional s/he can be.



Bravo to Richard. He is a hero and a model for us all.

Here is a link to his resignation letter.



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