definition of Sommelier

Madeline TriffonMadeline Triffon is currently Director of Wine and Beverages for the Unique Restaurant Corporation in Detroit, where she is responsible for the development of all wine lists and Beverage Programs. MTriffon also coordinates wine dinners and tastings and serves as corporate wine educator.

Born in New London, Connecticut, MTriffon moved to Greece with her family at age three. She returned to the United States to attend the University of Michigan. In 1977 she was hired by the Westin Corporation to open the French restaurant in the new Renaissance Center in Detroit as wine steward. "I got the position thanks in no small part to a good French accent," MTriffon confesses. She purchased Hugh Johnson's World Atlas of Wine and began to educate herself as a sommelier.

While at the Westin between 1977 and 1985, MTriffon expanded her role from wine steward to buyer, and her food and beverage director entered her in a national sommelier competition. "I had never even met a sommelier from another state," MTriffon recalls, "and I found myself in New York competing nationally in blind tastings, food and wine harmony, restaurant service and knowledge of French wines." She finished among the nation’s top sommeliers. MTriffon was hired in 1985 as wine steward at the prestigious London Chop House in Detroit. In 1987 she was invited to sit for the Master Sommelier examination by the British-based Court of Master Sommeliers. At the time, only eight Americans had ever passed the exam, which is the only internationally recognized credential for beverage sales and service. MTriffon earned the title of Master Sommelier and became one of only two female Master Sommeliers in the world. Her Chop House wine list received a coveted Wine Spectator Grand Award. She joined renowned chef Jimmy Schmidt in 1988 as Wine Director for his restaurants, including the highly-regarded Rattlesnake Club.

In 1995, MTriffon joined The Unique Restaurant Corporation as Director of Wine and Beverages. Her wine list for Northern Lakes Seafood Company was described as "pure poetry" by a Detroit Free Press restaurant reviewer. She designed a "duet" of cellars for Duet, the first URC restaurant in downtown Detroit, one for whites and another for reds, ensuring the perfect serving temperature for each. In 1999, Wine Spectator awarded three URC wine lists--Duet; No. VI Chophouse and Lobster Bar; and Morels, A Michigan Bistro-- its Award of Excellence. The same year, Santé magazine named MTriffon Wine and Spirits Professional of the Year. MTriffon has served as Chairman of the American Chapter of the Court of Master Sommeliers, of which she is currently a board member. She resides in Southgate, Michigan.

Madeline's Aspen Private Tasting Video

Top of page

Interview with Madeline TriffonDuet Wine ListMadeline Triffon's Wine TipsUnique Restaurant Corp.'s RestaurantsMadeline Triffon' homepageSommelier Archives