Silkwood Wines proprietor John Monnich has been a long-time colleague of mine. Our time together began with his membership in PS I Love You. When the call was put out for membership, John was one of the very first early adopters. He’s served as Vice President, Present, and has held a Board of Director’s position since its inception – October 2002. He’s always served in a top advisory role, always been a really strong supporter.

I just got an email newsletter from him that had info in it that stunned me, as I think it will you, too… Unless you already know this about JAPAN Airlines… This is what I read,

“It is with humble pride that Silkwoods Syrah continues to be served in first class on both the European and the Asian American routes which includes 236 cities in 56 countries.

Japan Airlines is a wonderful choice when air travel is necessary. In first class JAL has 1000 in-flight attendants of which 741 are certified sommeliers. The food, wine and service is reported to be the finest of all airlines. JAL was voted by other world class airlines through the prestigious ”Cellars in the Sky” as serving the best red wines in first class in 2006, 2007. Great validation for Silkwood grapes from the Central Valley – to be exact, Modesto, CA.”

Because I haven’t flown to Japan nor have I read about this, I didn’t know about their in-flight attendants or wine program… This is an amazing way of doing business, and eclipses anything I’ve seen on any US carriers. Granted, it’s for their first and business class customers, and I’ve enjoyed that way to travel quite a bit when I was clocking 60,000 miles a year; however, I was always the one to bring wine info to my in-flight attendants who were pouring. I can honestly say, it was never the other way around.

In Metropolis, Japan’s No.1 English Magazine, author Ned Goodwin sought the city’s best and brightest sommeliers, and recounts his story.

“As a foreign sommelier in Tokyo, I found my first dining adventure to be a woeful version of the French stereotype-stuffy tuxedos resplendent with a little gold pin in the shape of a bunch of grapes, bumbling and unnecessary movements, and a tendency to recommend wines priced in the stratosphere that often failed to go with any of the food that was ordered…”

Subsequently, he turns to the Japan Sommelier Association (JSA), and states:

“The exams are quite general and open to anyone, which may explain an interesting phenomenon-flight attendants make up the majority of Japanese sommeliers. I asked the amiable Master Katsuyama of Shonzui about this and he cited a lot of spare time during trips abroad, and the desire to emulate Western sophistication in a society where, formerly, such knowledge was the sole domain of the ultra-male. In fact, the JSA is known to actively recruit Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways staff, in part because the organization relies on them for revenue.”

His entire story is worth the read. I add it to this blog entry, because it lends credibility to the above mentioned info. As it’s stated, with 1000 in-flight attendants, and to have 741 of them become sommeliers, this is amazing use of talent, time, achievement and marketing savvy…