New York Wine & GrapeNews



WineVine~7/2/19~The Insider's Guide to New York Wines: An Interview with Yannick Benjamin, Head Sommelier, University Club

Julie Hosbach

Category: Industry

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Biography of Yannick Benjamin, Head Sommelier, Universtiy Club, Co-Founder, Wheeling Forward, Judge for our 2019 NY Wine Classic

Yannick is the Head Sommelier at the University Club and an Advanced Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. He is a proud New Yorker born into a family of French restaurateurs who knew that hospitality was his calling from a young age. Yannick worked at Le Cirque, Oceana, Jean-Georges, and Atlas before becoming a sommelier at Felidia and Atelier at the Ritz-Carlton. In 2003, a car accident left Benjamin paralyzed below the waist and he quickly adapted, outfitting his wheelchair with a table that allows him to work the floor as a sommelier. Benjamin met his best friend Alex Elegudin in rehab and they cofounded Wheeling Forward, a powerhouse nonprofit driving progress in the disability community. Today, Wheeling Forward helps hundreds of New Yorkers get back to living active lives with the resources, community, and inspiration they need to make their dreams a reality. As a way to support Wheeling Forward, Yannick created Wine on Wheels - one of New York City’s largest and most exciting wine events. Wine on Wheels brings together hundreds of esteemed sommeliers volunteering to pour over 180 wines from around the world for charity. Yannick is also a para-athlete and competes in marathons to raise money for Wheeling Forward. As an accomplished sommelier, Yannick has competed in more than 20 major sommelier competitions. He is a two-time national finalist in Top Somm hosted by The Guild of Court of Master Sommelier, a three-time 1st place winner of the Northeast Region of the Chaine des Rotisseurs, grand champion of the 5th Annual Somm Slam at ICC, 2nd Best Sommelier in America 2007, and placed 3rd overall in the National La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Concours des Jeunes Sommeliers. Yannick has been recognized among Wine Enthusiast’s Top 40 under 40 and was named Person of the Year by New Mobility Magazine in 2017. He is currently the resident sommelier on the hit radio show “On The Town with Michael Riedel” on AM 970 The Answer and has made multiple appearances on ABC, NBC,
and CBS. In 2015, Yannick starred in “Uncorked,” a documentary series about sommeliers on Esquire TV. Jancis Robinson of the Financial Times calls Benjamin “the new star of New York's gastronomic firmament” and The Wine Spectator talks about Benjamin revealing a “kinder, gentler side of the profession.” The story of Yannick’s journey and the success of Wheeling Forward have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Village Voice, Wine Spectator, Financial Times, and Forbes.