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A nose for wine: Luna sommelier Justine Recor earns WSET diploma

Luna Restaurant sommelier Justine Recor recently earned her master level certification.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)

After a few years of accelerated study, Luna Restaurant sommelier Justine Recor has joined the worldwide ranks of master sommeliers.

“I love the hospitality industry, that’s what I’ve always done … but it just adds this extra layer,” she said. “Food and wine pairings are one of those one-plus-one-equals-three experiences.”

A sommelier is a trained wine professional who specializes in food and wine pairings, making sure a wine makes the perfect complement with a restaurant’s dish. Recor’s sommelier journey started in 2018, but her love for wine and hospitality started much earlier.

“When I was younger, probably 10 years old, my mom was the tasting room manager at Caterina Winery,” she said.

“I would go in and help label bottles … and I just thought that being in the cellar, being around all that wine was the coolest thing in the world.”

Recor knew early on she wanted to work with wine in one way or another. But it took some time for an opportunity to manifest itself. In 2018, after a move to Dallas, Recor jumped at the chance to start running a wine bar.

“It was the first time that my job allowed me to choose wine for people – I was hooked after that,” she said.

Later that year, Recor began her studies through the Court of Sommeliers. She made it through the first part of the third level. But when health guidelines during the pandemic interfered with the complex in-person courses , she decided to try her luck with the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, or WSET.

While both programs offer four levels, Court of Sommeliers and WSET have different focuses. Where the court emphasizes the service side of the job, WSET prioritizes the business side, including production and vineyard management, distribution and sales.

“It’s more structured … they have classes online and in person, books that you can read and actually get the information from,” she said. “Whereas the court … it’s kind of a guessing game, what you need to know.”

After last year’s WSET graduation, the total reached just over 11,500 diploma holders. The court had fewer than 300 graduates.

“It’s a bit more intimidating for sure,” she said, mentioning how fewer than 30 of the court’s graduates are women.

Typically sommeliers will choose either the WSET or the court route. But with the final level of her WSET diploma behind her, Recor is still aiming to finish her studies with the court. She hopes to take her advanced sommelier certification through the court in either July or November of next year.

Recor is grateful for the opportunities she had in Texas. But born and raised in Spokane, she couldn’t be happier to be back.

“Running the wine program at Luna – it’s the best job I could have in Spokane,” she said. “The guests that we have are absolutely fabulous – I couldn’t ask for better people in that restaurant.”