Ms. Friedland, now 32, said that the tasting sessions soon proved to be preludes to sexual invitations. “At first I was flattered, but also very confused and afraid,” she said. “I never enjoyed our encounters, and really tried to make that clear in the hopes that he would stop trying.”
She said she rejected most of his sexual advances, but had to do so in a friendly way in order to preserve the professional relationship. Eventually, they had sex twice, she said: once at his home and once at a hotel in Dallas, after a group wine tasting held by GuildSomm, the court’s educational spinoff. At the time, the court had no rules against such a relationship.
“I forced myself in my head to treat it as a fling or relationship, to be able to wrap my brain around the interactions,” Ms. Friedland said. “But it never fit. We weren’t dating. We never spoke about it. I felt like I was on call for sex from someone I couldn’t say no to.”
As she advanced in the wine profession, that power dynamic — and the question of whether she had earned her success — haunted her. She moved to San Francisco to work as a sommelier at Quince, one of the most prestigious and popular restaurants in San Francisco, then became wine director at State Bird Provisions, a “dream job.”
Still, she said, the financial cost of living in San Francisco, on top of the emotional cost of working with the many master sommeliers in the Bay Area, was too high. She eventually left the city, the profession and the court. She is now a candidate for a master’s degree in gastronomy at Boston University.
“I didn’t want to give up learning,” she said. “But I knew I could never do it through the court again.”
This week, all 27 female members of the court, including the two who serve on the board, Virginia Philip and Laura Williamson, signed a letter apologizing to the women who came forward and demanding a complete overhaul of the organization. Three high-profile women — Pascaline Lepeltier, Laura Maniec Fiorvanti and Alpana Singh — resigned from the court.