Elijah must balance his dream of becoming a master sommelier with his father’s expectations that he carry on the family’s Memphis BBQ joint.
Elijah (Mamoudou Athie) works at his parents’ barbecue restaurant in Memphis that was started by his grandfather. In his spare time he works at a wine store, and secretly dreams of being a sommelier, even though his father Louis (Courtney B. Vance) wants him to take over the business.
He enrolls in a master program and begins training, even going to Paris to study wine, even though his father never approves. His mother Sylvia (Niecy Nash) gets cancer and dies, and Louis returns home, skipping his sommelier classes to go back to helping out at the restaurant. He eventually drops out of the program.
Louis eventually realizes how important it is to Elijah and helps him cram study for the sommelier exam. He has skill but does not pass the extremely difficult exam. He gives up for a little, returning to his life, but eventually reenrolls in the program, determined
Elijah works at a wine business and at his family’s local barbecue restaurant, where his father Louis and mother Sylvia also work. Louis expects Elijah to take over the business someday but he isn’t interested.
On a date, Elijah tells Tanya about how he became interested in wine, and expresses his aspiration of becoming a master sommelier. Tanya encourages him to pursue his dream. Elijah takes an entrance exam for the Master Sommelier program and passes it, earning admittance to a sommelier school.
The class is invited to an exchange program in Paris, but Elijah realizes he won’t be able to afford it. Classmate Harvard agrees to split with him and Elijah raises the rest of the money he needs through fundraising. While in Paris, Elijah learns about Sylvia’s cancer diagnosis, but she tells him to stay in France and wires him money despite Louis’s disapproval.
Sylvia dies and Elijah returns home for the funeral. He begins missing classes for his Sommelier program in order to help Louis at the family restaurant. Eventually, Elijah is forced to withdraw from the program.
Louis gives in and, with Tanya, helps Elijah study for the master sommelier exam. Elijah takes his exam and later finds out that he didn’t pass. He returns to his two jobs. Sometime thereafter, Elijah reenrolls in the sommelier program.
In Memphis, Elijah (Mamoudou Athie) juggles working at an upscale wine business and at his family’s local barbecue restaurant, where his father Louis (Courtney B. Vance) and mother Sylvia (Niecy Nash) also work. Louis expects Elijah to take over the business someday – Elijah keeps avoiding learning how to run the restaurant in order to attend wine-related events, and his father admonishes him that his grandfather started the restaurant and it is their family’s responsibility.
Elijah goes to his boss at the wine store, sommelier Raylan (Matthew Glave) with all his ideas, and Raylan encourages him to become a sommelier, but Elijah isn’t sure. Elijah flirtatiously teaches a customer named Tanya (Sasha Compere) about wine and then gets her number. At a family dinner, Elijah tells his family he’s considering becoming a sommelier, and his father mocks him. Later, Sylvia tells Louis he needs to support Elijah, but Louis has heard enough of Elijah’s pipe dreams and thinks he doesn’t know what he wants.
On a date, Elijah tells Tanya about how he became interested in wine, and how growing up without a lot of drinking wines from places all over the world made him feel good. He says there are only a couple of hundred master sommeliers in the world and he probably couldn’t do it – she encourages him to go for it. Later, Elijah takes an entrance exam for the Master Sommelier program.
Louis shows Elijah how he’s found a second location to buy for the barbecue restaurant in a nice neighborhood. The restaurant would have a bar that Elijah could run – but Elijah tells him he doesn’t want to work at the barbecue restaurant and has passed his entrance exam for the program, and will be attending sommelier school. Elijah begins taking his classes and befriends and studies aside Richie (Gil Ozeri). Also in their program is the arrogant and snobby Eric aka Harvard (Matt McGorry), who bests Elijah in front of the class in a tasting.
Afterwards, Harvard approaches Eric and says they should study together and push each other. When Elijah asks to switch a shift to meet his study group, Elijah refuses. Elijah goes into the restaurant late to do the work so he can attend the study group. He invites Tanya, who accidentally sets off the alarm. When his parents arrive, he introduces them to Tanya and points out he did the work so he should be able to go to the study group, much to Sylvia’s amusement. Louis reluctantly agrees.
The class gets invited to do a program in Paris, and Elijah realizes he won’t be able to afford it. Harvard offers to split the fee with him, meaning he only needs to come up with five thousand dollars. Tanya pushes him to fight for the Paris trip, and he lashes out at her and asks her why she’s just a receptionist and not a nurse. That night, he apologizes to her and she encourages him to reach out to his family to get the money.
Later, Elijah gives the family a wine lesson over a meal. He tells them about the Paris trip, and that he’s going to sell his car to pay for part of it. Sylvia vows that the family will help him finish paying for it. Later, she hosts a big party for Elijah, having raised over three thousand dollars. She asks Louis to say something, but he doesn’t say anything. Elijah gives Louis a special wine made by a father and son to say goodbye, and Louis tells him he doesn’t drink wine. He tells Elijah he thinks he’s better than the family business, and the two have a fight.
Elijah goes to Paris, having a great time. Meanwhile, Sylvia – who had previously survived cancer – discovers her cancer has returned and begins chemo. She tells Louis Elijah doesn’t need to know. Meanwhile, Harvard tells Elijah his father has gotten him a job working for him at a bank and is leaving. Forced to make up the difference is the costs, he gets a part-time job. Eventually, he learns about Sylvia’s diagnosis, but she tells him to stay in France and wires him money despite Louis’s disapproval.
Sylvia dies, and Elijah returns home for the funeral, devastated. Without anyone asking, he begins pitching in at the restaurant, missing classes and letting his sommelier studies fall behind, eventually withdrawing from the entire program. Tanya confronts Elijah about him dropping out and he blows her off. Louis ends up seeing Elijah’s love for wine and begins helping him study for the master sommelier exam at the barbecue restaurant. Tanya and Raylan help him as well as he tries to cram everything he’s missed.
Louis drives Elijah out of town for the exam. Elijah takes his exam, and that evening drinks wine and plays dominos with Louis while awaiting the results. The next day, Elijah finds out that, though he did a lot of things well, he didn’t pass the exam. He returns back to his two jobs. Later, on a date with Tanya, Richie is the sommelier. Inspired by this, Elijah reenrolls in the sommelier program.