The Society of Wine Educators

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The Society of Wine Educators is a membership-based nonprofit organization focused on providing wine and spirits education along with the conferral of several certifications. The Society is internationally recognized, and its programs are highly regarded both for their quality and relevance to the industry. 

The mission of the SWE is to set the standard for quality and responsible wine and spirits education and professional certification. 

Rebirth in Austria: The Schilcherland DAC!

Map via: http://www.austrianwine.com/news-media

Map via: http://www.austrianwine.com/news-media

The Austrian wine region formerly known as Weststeiermark has been re-born as the Schilcherland DAC. This brings the total number of Districtus Austriae Controllatus regions (DACs) in Austria to ten. This change was announced via the website of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board today (October 16, 2017), and the changes will be reflected in the wines of the current vintage (2017) and moving forward.

The new DAC is approved for one type of wine only—rosé produced from 100% Blauer Wildbacher grapes. The grapes must be harvested by hand and the wine must be packaged in a glass bottle. There are two quality levels: Schilcherland “Klassik” DAC and Schilcherland DAC—which must specify a single vineyard (Ried) designation on the front label. Other requirements are noted below.

For Schilcherland Klassik DAC:

  • The wine must be vinified dry (max. 3.0 g/l residual sugar)
  • The wine should show no oak influence
  • Alcohol content must range from a minimum of 11% to a maximum of 12% abv
  • The flavor must be refreshing and fruit-forward, and should show aromas of strawberry, red currant and raspberry

Schilcherland DAC:

  • The wine must be labeled with a specific vineyard (Ried) designation
  • Minimum alcohol content of 12% abv
  • The wine must be vinified dry (max. 4.0 g/l residual sugar)
  • The wine should also be refreshing and fruit-forward and with no oak influence; but it is expected to have a deal more flavor intensity then the Klassik versions.

We’ll post more information as it becomes available, but for now—Welcome to the world, Schilcherland DAC!

References/for more information:

#WednesdayWebinar: Of all the Gin Joints in all the World…a Taste-Along Webinar!

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This Wednesday—October 18th at 7:00 pm central time—we are pleased to offer another session in our series of taste-along webinars: Of all the Gin Joints in all the World, presented by Jane A. Nickles, CSE, CWE.

In this one-hour session, we’ll discuss the production of gin, learn all about the amazing juniper berry, and discuss five styles of gin: London Dry Gin, Plymouth Gin, Old Tom Gin, Gin de Mahón, and the “modern, international” style of gin (represented by Hendrick’s). If you would like, you are invited to taste-along (but feel free to join us without a flight of gin in front of you – you’ll still have a great time and learn a lot)!

Click here for a grocery list and the session tasting order–Of all the Gin Joints – Grocery list and tasting order

Click here for the session handout:  Of all the Gin Joints – Session Handout

Login Instructions: At the appointed time, just click on this link: October 18th at 7:00 pm—Of all the Gin Joints in all the World. Link will go “live” a few hours before the scheduled date. There is no need to register in advance.

When the SWE Adobe Connect homepage appears, click on “enter as a guest,” type in your name, and click “enter room.” Remember that each session is limited to 100 attendees, and that several of our past sessions have reached capacity. We are hoping to avoid this issue in the future by offering more SWEbinars, but it is still a good idea to log on early!

  • There is no need for a dial-in number; audio will be available via the speakers on your computer or mobile device.
  • If you have never attended an Adobe Connect event before, it is also a good idea to test your connection ahead of time (just click on the link).
  • If you are having any trouble with your Adobe Connect connection, please see our SWEbinar Trouble-shooting page.

SWE’s SWEbinar series is unique in that it is offered free-of-charge, and open to the public! We also try to accommodate all schedules by offering sessions on weekdays and weekends, as well as daytime and evening hours. Sessions last for about one hour, and are live, interactive events.  If you have a topic you would like to see addressed, or a time-of-day that would work for you, please let our Director of Education, Jane A. Nickles know via email at jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

If you have any questions, please contact Jane Nickles: jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

Guest Blogger: The Empordà Wine Region (Part Two— The Contemporary History)

Today we have a guest post from Laura Masramon. Ms. Masramon is a personal sommelier and a member of the DO Empordà Wine Route. This is the second part of our two-part series on the wines of the Empordà DO, located on the Mediterranean Coast in Spain’s Costa Brava (Catlonia).  Click here to read the first part of the series: The Ancient History of the Empordà Wine Region.   

Photo via: Ruta del Vi Empordà

Photo via: Ruta del Vi Empordà

After the phylloxera crisis, it took several generations—until the 1930s—for wine-growing in Empordà to begin once again. In the early days, the farmers were hard-pressed for money and had to join forces. This was the origin of the local wine and olive oil cooperatives, some of which are still in operation today and open to public, such as the Celler Cooperatiu d’Espolla (1931), Empordàlia (1947) and Cooperativa Agrícola de Garriguella (1963).

The tourists arrive: With the arrival of the tourist boom in the 1960s, many farmers decided to move to the coast and go into tourism. They left the countryside to create a first-rate tourist destination, the Costa Brava.

Charming restaurants and hotels were built to attract visitors. Nowadays Empordà gastronomy is famous all over the world. Restaurants like El Bulli, run by chef Ferran Adrià, revolutionised modern cuisine for over two decades. Another reference in the area is El Celler de Can Roca (designated “Best Restaurant in the World” in 2013 and 2015 by the British magazine Restaurant. In fact, the province of Girona boasts the highest number of Michelin stars per capita. The best way to enjoy Empordà wines is with the local gastronomy. 

Photo via: Ruta del Vi Empordà

Photo via: Ruta del Vi Empordà

Beginning in the 1990s, a group of young wine experts returned to the farms. Their grandfathers had preserved very old vines, some of which were over a hundred years old. The new generations used these vines and their expertise to create unique, authentic wines. At present their wines are on their way to excellence.

These young oenologists seek to revive the regional varieties to the point of mastering them and understanding them in depth. Thus they obtain wines that express the terroir of the Empordà. They are modern wines but at the same time they speak to us of those 2,700 years of history. Some wineries opt for classic fermentations in stainless-steel vats with ageing in 225-litre and 300-litre oak casks and finish by leaving the wine to rest in bottles with natural corks. Other wineries experiment with methods of fermentation and ageing in amphoras, biodynamic crops and natural wines. 

Tramuntana wines: The DO Empordà is a small area with 2,000 hectares (4,900 acres) of vineyards and some 50 wineries. This part of the country is strongly influenced by a dry wind that comes from the north of Europe, the tramuntana, which batters the vines violently with gusts of up to 120 km (75 miles) per hour. The sea breeze however counteracts its effects and hydrates the grapes, allowing a slower ripening of the fruit and a more balanced vine.

Photo via: Ruta del Vi Empordà

Photo via: Ruta del Vi Empordà

The Empordà DO has a mosaic of different terrains stretching in small vineyards between the Mediterranean Sea and the foothills of the Pyrenees. The soils are predominantly granite and slate, sand and silt. Some vineyards cling to terraces of schists and slate. Others grow on clay, pebbles and gravel. There are vineyards facing north, south, east and west. There are vineyards by the sea, on the Empordà plain or lining the hillsides. In addition to this infinite number of terrains there are a large variety of grapes. The most dominant are Garnacha Blanca, Garnacha Gris, Garnacha Tinta, and Carignan (Mazuelo/Cariñena) , as well as the recently discovered but clearly very old White Carignan (Cariñena Blanca) variety.

The predominant red wines have a bright colour with aromas of ripe fruit; in the mouth they are full-bodied, with round, rich tannins thanks to being aged in barrels. The whites can be light, fresh and perfumed when made with Macabeo or Muscat of Alexandria. They can also be unctuous and warm when made with Garnacha Blanca and Garnacha Gris and fermented in barrels.

Garnatxa de l’Empordà: One of the jewels of Mediterranean culture which has so far been preserved is the traditional Garnatxa de l’Empordà,  a natural sweet wine aged by the solera system (that is, in barrels that are never completely emptied, in which successive grape vintages are blended). These wines are exposed to years of oxidative ageing, yet still retain the acidity and sweetness of the grape. They are exquisite wines, with highly concentrated aromas of candied fruits like vine peaches and dried apricots, nuts like almonds and walnuts, roasted aromas like coffee and reductive aromas like honey. In the area there are wine cellars with very old ageing barrels, with the oldest ones dating back to 1860.

Photo via: Ruta del Vi Empordà

Photo via: Ruta del Vi Empordà

The Empordà DO regulatory council was officially recognized in 1975.  Come visit!

Laura Masramon is Personal Sommelier and member of the DO Empordà Wine Route.  She is also co-director of the wine branding seminars Marca Vi and Vivid Enoconference. More information may be found on her website, Lauramasramon.com.

References/for more information:

Are you interested in being a guest blogger or a guest SWEbinar presenter for SWE?  Click here for more information!

Guest Blogger: The Empordà Wine Region (Part One—The Ancient History)

Cap de Creus

Cap de Creus

Today we have a guest post from Laura Masramon. Ms. Masramon is a personal sommelier and a member of the DO Empordà Wine Route. In this first part of a two-part series, she tells us about the ancient beginnings of the Empordà DO, located on the Mediterranean Coast in Spain’s Costa Brava (Catalonia).

In the far north-eastern tip of Spain—bordering the south of France—there is a natural area formed by the end of the Pyrenees as they disappear into the Mediterranean Sea. At this point of the northern Costa Brava, known as Cap de Creus, the mountains create idyllic little creeks with crystalline, turquoise waters. Between the sea and the mountains lies the Empordà plain. Three natural parks cover much of the area.

Wine has been made in this part of the Mediterranean coast since winemaking first began. However, up until just a few decades ago, most of the wine was sold for local consumption, and Empordà wines were not known outside the region. Nowadays, all that has changed.

The Empordà is an emerging region for both its wines and its wine tourism. Every year there is a rise in the number of new vines planted and old vines recovered, in the number of new wineries and the number of tourists visiting the area that want to taste the new wines.

The Dalí Theater in Figueres, Spain

The Dalí Theater in Figueres, Spain

However, wine is not the Empordà’s only attraction. It is a dream land, a refuge for Catalans seeking inspiration. It is the land of artists like Salvador Dalí, a source of creativity and a place for resting and communing with nature. Despite attracting a large number of tourists, particularly in summer, this region has managed to preserve the beauty of its countryside in the face of urban development. It has small villages that live on tourism, farming and culture.

Greco-Roman wine culture: The origin of the word Empordà comes from the Greek village of Empúries. The archaeological remains of this village have revealed grape seeds from 2,700 years ago as well as commercial letters written on sheets of lead with orders for wine. Wine amphoras have even been found off-shore, onboard sunken ships with the cork stoppers and the wine inside them still intact.

The Romans also inhabited these lands and extended the Empordà wine trade throughout Europe, just as the emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus (232-282 AD) ordered when he said: “may the citizens plant vines and become rich”. Vine growing has always been synonymous with prosperity, culture and wealth.

Even today, a tour of Costa Brava may include a visit to the Greek and Roman ruins of Empúries, an archaeological site from over 2,000 years ago, with remains of trade and vine growing. 

Sant Pere de Rodes-Photo via: Ruta del Vi Empordà

Sant Pere de Rodes-Photo via: Ruta del Vi Empordà

Monasteries, vine terraces and stone wine cellars:  The Greeks and Romans left an indelible mark but their age came to an end. In the Middle Ages, local monks grew vines on the slopes of Cap de Creus, in the surroundings of the magnificent Benedictine monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes (9th-19th centuries). The cultivation of vines on these arid, stony, steep terrains was hard work but the money that they made from selling wine enabled them to be self-sufficient.

The old 17th-century wine cellar at the monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes can still be visited today.

The great wine-growing crisis gave the cork industry a boost: Just before the famous phylloxera plague crossed the Pyrenees and began devastating all the vines, Empordà wine experienced its golden age. The wine was exported to Europe and the former Spanish colonies in America. The arrival of phylloxera, in 1879, brought about the most terrible modern crisis and the villages became impoverished. In place of vines, olive trees and cork oaks were planted. Costa Brava is currently one of the most important regions in the world for the production of corks. One of the most original wine tourism offers is to see cork being collected. This activity only takes place in June and July and is available at certain wineries. 

It took several generations for vines and wine production to return to the region, as we will soon see in part two of this series: The Contemporary History of Empordà Wine. Stay tuned!

About the author: Laura Masramon is Personal Sommelier and member of the DO Empordà Wine Route.  She is also co-director of the wine branding seminars Marca Vi and Vivid Enoconference. For more information on Laura, see her website. 

References/for more information:

Are you interested in being a guest blogger or a guest SWEbinar presenter for SWE?  Click here for more information!

Giddy Goats and Penny Universities

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Giddy Goats and Penny Universities, or a Brief History of Coffee

We may never know for sure when or where coffee was first discovered, but a colorful legend from the ancient coffee forests of the Ethiopian plateau is the tale most often told.

As the story goes, a goat herder named Kaldi noticed his goats became excited after eating berries from a certain bush. The goats were so giddy they stayed up all night, showing very little interest in rest or sleep. Kaldi relayed this observation to the Abbot of the local monastery. The Abbot prepared a drink with the berries, and he found he was able to stay alert and focused throughout his long hours of evening prayer…in other words, he approved!

Soon, the knowledge of the energizing berries spread throughout the monastery. Eventually, the news moved east and the consumption and appreciation of coffee reached the Arabian Peninsula. From there, it would begin its journey across the world.

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Coffee cultivation and trade began on the Arabian Peninsula. By the 15th century, coffee was being grown in the Yemeni district of Arabia. Soon thereafter,the Yemeni town of Mocca became particularly well-known for its distinct and aromatic roasted coffee beverages. By the next century,coffee was popular in Persia, Egypt,Syria,and Turkey. Coffee was prepared and enjoyed in homes, and was beginning to be offered in public coffee houses—known as qahveh khaneh—appearing in the Middle and Near East.

Coffee houses quickly became popular for all kinds of social activity and for keeping up with the latest news and local information—so much so that coffee houses soon became known as schools of the wise.”

With thousands of people from all over the world making annual pilgrimages to the holy city of Mecca (located in present-day Saudi Arabia),it was not long before knowledge of the wine of Araby began to spread. Soon,Europeans had heard of this mysterious black beverage, and in 1615, Venetian merchants brought coffee to Italy from Istanbul. It didn’t take long for coffee to become popular across the European continent.

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As they had in the East, coffee houses began to spring up in London and were soon emulated across England, Austria, France, Germany, and Holland.These coffee houses were soon hubs of social activity and communication. They were often called “penny universities,” because for one penny (the price of a cup of coffee) one could learn the news of the day.

By the mid-1600’s, coffee came to the New World by way of New Amsterdam (later known as New York).As in previous locations, coffee houses began to appear in the New World. However, the population—dominated by English colonists—still preferred tea.This all changed on December 16, 1773, when the colonists staged a revolt against a heavy tax on tea imposed by King George III. This event, known as the Boston Tea Party, forever changed the American preference from tea to coffee.

In the meantime, coffee plantations were spreading throughout the world. By the 1700s, the first European coffee plantation was established on the Dutch island of Java. Not long after, the Dutch introduced coffee to their South American colony of Surinam, and from there it spread to French Guyana,Colombia, and ultimately to Brazil—currently the largest producer of coffee.

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In 1720, a French naval officer acquired a single coffee plant in Paris and brought it—at great peril—back to his post in Martinique. Once planted, this single coffee plant thrived and is today credited with the propagation of over eighteen million coffee plants on the island of Martinique and throughout the Caribbean.

Travelers, traders, and colonists continued to spread the culture, consumption, and cultivation of coffee worldwide. Coffee was soon grown on large plantations and small plots, in tropical forests,and high in the mountains. By the end of the 18th century, coffee had become one of the world’s most valuable commodities.

The history of coffee, as well as the cultivation, processing, brewing and service of coffee is just a small part of the information included in the Society of Wine Educators’ newest project, the Beverage Specialist Certificate. Other topics included in this 100% online program include tea, sake, cider, beer, distilled spirits, and—of course—wine. Click here for more information.

Guest Post: MONTANA—The Last Best Place for Grapes?

Today we have a guest post from Linda Coco, CSW. This is Linda’s second post in a series about Montana wine. (Click here to read the first.) Today, she tells us about her adventure at the Montana Grape and Winery Association’s Conference, and attempts to answer the question: Is Montana the last “best” place for grapes? 

MONTANA! It’s Big Sky Country, the Treasure State, and Land of the Shining Mountains. A river runs through its dense forests. Wheat crops flourish on vast prairies, and cows outnumber people 3 to 1. The fourth largest state in the union is renowned for its glaciers and grizzlies…but grapes? Is Montana the Last Best Place for vineyards?

This is the question I posed to attendees that recently gathered at the Montana Grape and Winery Association conference, now in its third year. This gregarious group of grape growers and winery owners collectively answered a hearty and affirmative YES! And it truly is with affirmative heart that those affiliated with Montana’s promising wine industry perseveringly pursue their passion in a challenging climate where Mother Nature’s dalliances with Father Winter often deliver meteorological mayhem.

Tom Eggensperger (Photo Credit: Linda Coco)

Tom Eggensperger (Photo Credit: Linda Coco)

TOM and BINA EGGENSPERGER of Thompson Falls have been growing grapes since 2010 when they started with 25 vines of Marquette, a crossing with Vitis vinifera and Vitis riparia developed at the University of Minnesota.  In 2012 they added 75 more vines and debuted their first vintage in 2014. 2016 was a banner year with a harvest of 725 pounds, double the amount from the previous year. His label “Silcox” is inspired by Mt. Silcox, a well-known peak in Thompson Falls named after the first regional forester in northwest Montana. The Eggensperger’s winery, GUT CRAIC is an homage to Tom’s German heritage and Bina’s Irish roots. It translates to “Good Fun” and is an apt name that reflects Tom and Bina’s infectious enthusiasm and friendly demeanor.

The Eggensperger’s Silcox is 100% Marquette and their wine embodies the classic profile of the grape which is a grandson of Pinot Noir and a cousin of Frontenac, another cold-hardy grape planted in Montana. The Silcox 2016 is unfiltered and sulfite free. I was enamored with its deep maroon hue, fruity bouquet and high notes of cherry and strawberry punctuated with black pepper and spice. Tom and Bina used a yeast strain to lower acidity then aged the wine for six months in medium toast American oak and a malolactic bacteria inoculation.

After several satisfying sips followed by a flurry of note scribbling, I walked to the next winemaker’s table display. Tom followed me, eyes twinkling, and eagerly asked, “So what did you think of the Silcox?” I answered honestly with a broad smile, totally incapable of maintaining any journalistic neutrality. “It was sensational! I’m impressed!”

Ken Schultz of Hidden Legend Vineyard (photo credit: Lina Coco)

Ken Schultz of Hidden Legend Vineyard (photo credit: Lina Coco)

KEN SCHULTZ of Hidden Legend Winery is a sensation himself. Clad in a kilt and highland boots, he makes quite an impression standing next to his winery’s logo, a burly Viking. Ken launched into the world of wine as a teenager. His uncle, a research scientist, made wine and Ken was so fascinated by the process, he presented his 8th grade science project on fermentation. In 1975, he began making wine as a hobby, sourcing native grapes from the Great Lakes region. In 1979, he and his wife moved to Montana where they began producing mead, eventually including their sons in the business.

Today, in addition to making mead, the Schultz’s make wine sourced from grapes grown in Montana. Their wine line-up features several cold-hardy grapes: Marquette, Frontenac, Frontenac Gris, St. Pepin, Marechal Foch and La Crescent, a relative of St. Pepin. Their catchy labels, savvy marketing and charisma attract a loyal following. But it’s the contents in that alluring bottle that brings in the awards.

One of their award winning wines is Skalkaho White made from St. Pepin grapes in a Rhine off-dry style. The 2014 vintage won a gold medal in the Indy International Wine competition. The 2015 vintage won a silver medal in the Tasters Guild International Wine Judging and a bronze medal in the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition.

Allen Ranch Somerset Wine (photo credit: Linda Coco)

Allen Ranch Somerset Wine (photo credit: Linda Coco)

ROD and LINDA ALLEN, who live just a few miles from the Schultz family, have sold their grapes to the Schultz’s and have partnered with them in producing award winning wines. Their Allen Ranch Somerset wine took 2nd place in the conference’s people choice competition. Though known as a table grape which is cold hardy to -30 degrees, they’ve created a lovely wine from it that is fruity, slightly effervescent, and much like a Riesling in its flavor profile.

Rod is a graduate of University of California, Davis, renowned for its viticulture and enology programs. Linda is his avid vineyard keeper (and wine taster!) and a font of information on cold hardy grapes.

“St. Pepin is not self-pollinating so Frontenac Gris is often chosen to grow alongside St. Pepin since they flower at the same time. Marechal Foch and Marquette grapes are wildly prolific and spread like crazy,” Linda explained, gesturing widely with her arms. “But Petite Pearl is much more mannerly.”

North Slope Vineyard Petite Pearl (photo credit: Linda Coco)

North Slope Vineyard Petite Pearl (photo credit: Linda Coco)

Indeed, the well behaved Petite Pearl is meeting with great success in Montana. SAM and CATHERINE BERGMAN of Billings, Montana, own North Slope Vineyard founded in 2013. The windswept south central portion of the state suffers especially blustery winters, and it was during one of these challenging seasons that Sam delved into research about growing grapes. On his in-law’s plot of land, he was determined to show Mother Nature who’s boss.

“My goal is making a great quality wine,” stated Sam as I savored North Slope Vineyard’s 2016 Petite Pearl. As first time conference attendees, Sam and Catherine were unaware that they needed to bring several bottles for the competition. I was fortunate to sample the last few drops from the last of the two bottles they had brought as Catherine quipped, “Don’t you love our fancy label?”

Never judge a book by its cover, as the adage goes, and indeed I was quite impressed with the complexity of their wine. A medley of blackberry, raspberry, leather and chocolate sang on the palate in perfect harmony.

It’s no surprise that Sam and Catherine took the People’s Choice first place award in the red category. What perhaps came as a surprise was how impressed I was at the caliber of wine presented at the conference. Montana is better known for its craft beer and microbreweries which understandably take the limelight. But stay tuned! Montana is gearing up to make its mark in the wine world.

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Linda Coco, CSW

This won’t be the last word from the Last Best Place!

Linda Coco, CSW is a “Roads Scholar” with a passion for road-tripping across the great state of Montana and beyond, learning all she can about the people and places she explores. When not behind the wheel, she enjoys cooking, writing, and hosting wine tastings for her vivacious group of oenophile friends, “The Wining Women of Whitefish”. She’s a self-proclaimed “edutainer”, aiming to entertain while educating, because learning about wine ought to be fun! Share in the fun at her blog, “It’s a WINEderful Life.”

Are you interested in being a guest blogger or a guest SWEbinar presenter for SWE?  Click here for more information!

 

Guest Post: Montana Wine’s Fantastic Five

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Today we have a guest post from Linda Coco, CSW. Linda tells use about five specialists—from plant researchers to extension agents to cold-climate grape experts—she dubs the “Divine Wine Super Heroes” of Montana’s growing wine industry. After you read her article, I am sure you will agree!

Montana sits between the 45th and 49th parallel north, just within the temperate latitude for vineyard planting. But because of its short growing season and harsh winter temperatures (snow has been recorded every month of the year), grapes are slow to ripen and are at risk of winter kill. Vineyards are concentrated in Northwest Montana, many hugging the pristine shores of Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. Thanks to the lake’s moderating influence and the surrounding slopes of the Mission and Salish Mountains, Mother Nature’s temperature tantrums are tempered. Other vineyards are nestled in “banana belts” where warmer temperatures and lower elevations provide a more hospitable environment.

While Montana grape growers in the roughly 45 vineyards across the state have each carved out their ideal geographical niches, they have consulted with specialists to help hone their craft and guide their endeavors. I’ve dubbed these experts the DIVINE VINE SUPER HEROES, the caped grape crusaders who are noted scholars in their respective fields. They wield their collective expertise, granting grape growers the extra edge needed to maintain viable vineyards in cold climates.

Dr. Patricia McGlynn (photo courtesy Dr. Patricia McGlynn)

Dr. Patricia McGlynn (photo courtesy Dr. Patricia McGlynn)

PATRICIA McGLYNN, the Montana State University extension agent for Flathead County, is the GRAPE GROWER GURU. Instrumental in forming a grape grower advisory panel which evolved into the Montana Grape and Winery Association, she also wrote and was awarded two grants to establish the Cold Hardy Wine Grape Trials in 2011. Four plots were planted to test 10 wine grape and 2 table grape varieties. The research trial just concluded providing helpful data on the feasibility of establishing a viable grape industry in the state.

ZACH MILLER is an assistant professor and superintendent of the Montana State University’s Western Agricultural Research Center located in Corvallis, Montana. He has traveled the globe conducting research in plant and pest ecology. His mission is to serve agricultural producers in his region, guiding them in the latest technology and methods of producing high-value specialty crops. His role as the AMAZING AG ADVOCATE is a bounteous boost to local grape growers.

Larry Robertson (photo credit: Linda Coco)

Larry Robertson (photo credit: Linda Coco)

LARRY ROBERTSON, a soil conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, is also a grape grower and vineyard owner in Polson, Montana. He has been working closely with Dr. Miller at the Western Ag Research Center on the technical aspects of cold-hardy grape growing. In addition, he provides technical and financial assistance to Montana grape producers. He advocates careful irrigation and water management in successfully growing grapes in the state’s challenging terroir. His expertise and incessant practice of his craft deems him the SAGE OF SOIL.

HARLENE HATTERMAN-VALENTI, a professor at North Dakota State University, has conducted research on cold-hardy grape varieties since 2001 when the ND state legislature allowed for commercial wineries. Though her emphasis is on weed science and not plant pathology, she is a veritable GRAPE DISEASE SLAYER for her astute diagnosis and treatment of the most common Montana vineyard ailments: black rot, powdery mildew and downy mildew.

Linda Coco and Tom Plocher

Linda Coco and Tom Plocher (photo credit: Linda Coco)

TOM PLOCHER, co-author of the book, Northern Winework: Growing Grapes and Making Wine in Cold Climates, is the GRAPEVINE WHISPERER. A retired staff scientist at the corporate laboratory of Honeywell International, he mentored under the venerable Elmer Swenson, the pioneering cold-hardy grape breeder. Tom now devotes his time to creating cold-hardy wine grapes in Hugo, Minnesota, ravaged by winters even more wretched than Montana’s. His Petite Pearl, Crimson Pearl, and Verona grapes were bred to hold dormancy with delayed bud break and are being successfully grown in Montana vineyards.

Both Tom and Larry conducted a pruning workshop during the conference. Larry recently took over a vineyard on Finley Point in Polson, Montana. Believed to be one of the oldest Montana vineyards originally planted with Pinot grapes, Larry is now nurturing Marquette, Verona and Petite Pearl grapes. Tom advised the workshop attendees in how to best prune these cold hardly grape varieties and was bold enough to hand a brown thumb like me, a.k.a. the Serial Plant Killer, a pair of pruning shears!

Patricia, Zach, Larry, Harlene and Tom are the FANTASTIC FIVE of Montana’s up-and-coming grape industry. Montana’s climate would otherwise be the wrath of grapes if not for the expertise of these grape crusaders. They indeed are a treasure of the Treasure State. Paired with the passion of Montana’s vineyard owners and winemakers, the Big Sky Country has the potential for making a big mark in the wine world.

The grape growers and winery owners certainly sing the praises of the FANTASTIC FIVE and I in turn praise the growers’ and winery owners’ dedication and dogged devotion to their dream of nurturing great grapes destined for great wine. Coming from all walks of life and seasons in life, many of them husband/wife dynamic duos, I was duly impressed with their craft. Because my educational focus is more on the “A.D.” side of the industry – ACTUAL DRINKING, I was delighted to macerate in the “B.C.” angle of wine – BEFORE CONSUMPTION.

coco rose 4Linda Coco, CSW is a “Roads Scholar” with a passion for road-tripping across the great state of Montana and beyond, learning all she can about the people and places she explores. When not behind the wheel, she enjoys cooking, writing, and hosting wine tastings for her vivacious group of oenophile friends, “The Wining Women of Whitefish”. She’s a self-proclaimed “edutainer”, aiming to entertain while educating, because learning about wine ought to be fun! Share in the fun at her blog, “It’s a WINEderful Life”.

Stay tuned later this week when Linda sends us an update from the third Annual Conference of the Montana Grape and Wine Association. She’ll introduce us to a kilt-and-highland boot wearing winemaker, a wine named Gut Craic (“Good Fun”), and a grape known as Petite Pearl.

Are you interested in being a guest blogger or a guest SWEbinar presenter for SWE?  Click here for more information!

And the Lembeck Award goes to…

Bill and Harriet Lembeck with the Lembeck Award

Bill and Harriet Lembeck with the Lembeck Award

Last August, at SWE’s 41st Annual Conference in Portland, Oregon, a new tradition was begun. Barry Wiss CWE, the President of SWE, inaugurated a new annual award—to be known as the Lembeck Award. The Lembeck Award is intended to serve as a lifetime achievement award, presented annually to a person (or persons) for service to the wine and spirits industry and specifically, for outstanding support of the goals and programs of SWE.

It was a wonderful moment, at our conference luncheon on Thursday, August 10, 2017 when Barry presented the Lembeck Award to its first recipients—who after all, are the namesake of the award itself—Bill and Harriet Lembeck. In order to mark this occasion, I asked both Bill and Harriet to share a bit of their thoughts on the award, and to tell us about their involvement with the Society over the years.

Harriet’s journey in the wine and spirits field began with a part-time job at Hammacher-Schlemmer in New York City. One day a new product—a wine thermometer—arrived and she needed to research the proper service temperature of wines to create a list to be packaged with the thermometer. Harriet says, “I remembered that there was a book called ‘Grossman’s Guide to Wines, Beers and Spirits’ that listed wine service temperatures, and I went to the NY Public Library to look them up. By a quirk of fate, I met the late Harold Grossman at the library, and he told me the answers to my question! Then he told me to take his wine course. I did. Then he asked me to work for him. I did. That’s the class that I’ve been teaching for the past 40 years. I also wrote the 6th and 7th editions of ‘Grossman’s Guide to Wines, Beers and Spirits’ after Harold’s death.”

Harriet Lembeck presenting her "Moonshine" session at SWE's 2015 Conference

Harriet Lembeck presenting her “Moonshine” session at SWE’s 2015 Conference

Harriet’s story continues, “One day I got a call from Bob Levine, who had a textbook publishing company, and who ran a school for engineering professionals. He was the Education Director of the American Wine Society. They had been called by the California Wine Institute, saying that the Wine Institute wanted to start a group consisting of wine educators. The AWS contacted Bob, who contacted me, and told me that there was going to be a new group, and that I should write bylaws. I didn’t even know what bylaws were, but I found a sample set in the back of my Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, and I wrote some makeshift bylaws (heavily edited over the years).”

Not long thereafter, Harriet and Bill Lembeck attended the first-ever meeting of the Society of Wine Educators, held at UC Davis, along with 160 other wine educators. Bob Levine was elected as the first President. Harriet describes that first meeting, “I recall looking around the auditorium at our first meeting, and thinking that these were ‘my people’. We all loved wine and we loved explaining it to others. We cared about teaching techniques. Education and Wine—all rolled up together. What could be better? Eventually we included fine spirits, which was a hard sell to some of our members in the beginning, but, fortunately, not anymore.”

At that first meeting, Harriet volunteered for and subsequently served on the inaugural Admissions, Certifications, and Awards Committees for the Society of Wine Educators. In the following years, she held a number of terms on the Board of Directors, presented at numerous conferences, and continues to be a frequent guest contributor to Wine, Wit, and Wisdom—the Society’s blog.

SWE President Barry Wiss presenting the Lembeck Award along with SWE Past Presidents Robin Kelly O'Connor, Sharron McCarthy, and Edward Korry

SWE President Barry Wiss presenting the Lembeck Award along with SWE Past Presidents Robin Kelly O’Connor, Sharron McCarthy, and Edward Korry

In addition to the Society of Wine Educators, Harriet remains active in the wine and spirits industry through the New York Wine and Food Society, Les Dames d’Escoffier, and the American Wine Society (where she earned an Award of Merit). She is also a frequent judge at wine competitions and has served as the Wine & Spirits Director for the New School University, a visiting Wine Lecturer for Florida International University–Chaplin School of Hospitality, and as Chairman of the New York Wine Press, an organization of wine journalists.

Harriet sums up her thoughts on this award by saying, “I like to think that this new Lembeck Award, which honored Bill Lembeck and me firstly by its name—which traditionally goes to the first recipient—but secondly, with the recognition of our demonstrable love of the Society of Wine Educators, which we have always professed.  We think of it as noting our service to the Society, which we hope will inspire others to follow. It goes without saying that we appreciate SWE President Barry Wiss’ idea of a kind of ‘long-term service, love of Society’ award, which he had produced so beautifully. We are totally surprised and honored!”

Bill and Harriet Lembeck and SWE President Barry Wiss along with SWE Past Presidents

Bill and Harriet Lembeck and SWE President Barry Wiss along with SWE Past Presidents

Along with Harriet, Bill Lembeck is quite possibly the only person to have attended every one of SWE’s 41 conferences. Bill has a background in engineering and business (design, finance, and administration), and is a former instructor at New York University Medical Center, specializing in prosthetics and orthotics. His first experience in the world of wine and spirits found him contributing to Harriet’s edition of “Grossman’s Guide.” Through this project, Bill developed an expertise in drawing wine maps, which eventually led to the production of maps and diagrams for wine and spirits areas around the world—which he gifted to the Society of use in SWE Study Guides and Conferences—all at no charge.

Bill describes his involvement with SWE this way, “I have been a member of the Finance Committee from the very beginning of the Society. Eventually, I became the Society’s Treasurer and fulfilled that position for two separate terms. In the early years, the Society was almost always in financial difficulty. While in my second term as Treasurer, SWE’s certification program had been successfully developed and was up and running. Soon thereafter, we were finally in a position of financial well-being after carefully investing the earnings from our programs. After finishing my second term as Treasurer, I was designated a Director Emeritus and have continued to offer my advice, both financially and administratively.

Bill and Harriet Lembeck presenting on Rum at SWE's 2015 Conference

Bill and Harriet Lembeck presenting on Rum at SWE’s 2015 Conference

“One of my favorite accomplishments was the purchase of 8,000 wine glasses for conference use. The reason for the purchase was that it became exceedingly difficult to rent glasses locally, especially in that quantity for the annual conferences. This glass purchase has provided a substantial saving in all our tasting sessions.

“Over the forty years of our Society’s existence, it is the numerous small details, many of which Harriet and I have initiated and performed, that has helped the Society to grow and prosper. We like to think that this service is what inspired President Barry Wiss to create this award, and to make us the first recipients.” Well said, Bill!

Please join me in saying a hearty “Congratulations” to Bill and Harriet Lembeck, the first recipients of SWE’s new annual Lembeck Award. Congratulations, Harriet and Bill!

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CSE, CWE – your blog administrator

Guest Post: CWE Boot Camp—Are You Ready to Pass the Exam?

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Today we have a guest post from Elizabeth Yabrudy, CSS, CSW. Elizabeth tells us about her experience at CWE Boot Camp!

CWE Boot Camp: are you ready to pass the exam?

Officially called Preview Seminar, CWE Boot Camp is a special training designed for those people who want to take the Certified Wine Educator exam. One might wonder: “if I feel confident, why should I attend it?” I will answer this question from my personal experience.

I registered for Boot Camp this year, in the context of the Society of wine Educators Annual Conference. I wanted to know how prepared—or not prepared at all—I was to take the exam.

One of the many reasons this experience was important for me is because I wanted to get as much information as I could—particularly as related to the theory/written component. There is not too much time in a one-day workshop to go depth in terms of theory, and that is obviously something you have to study by yourself. However, Jane Nickles, SWE’s Director of Education and Certification and the leader of this seminar as well, gave the attendees not only some study tips but also exam strategies, including logical thinking tools.

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And then there’s the essay. You know the material, you feel ready to be tested, but do you really know how to express your ideas coherently in an essay? During this seminar, you exercise how to schematize your ideas, breaking them in three main parts: introduction, key points and conclusion. Practice, practice, practice!

Tasting is the other component of the exam. Blind tasting is a challenge for most people. As you probably know, during the CWE Exam you have two identification portions: Varietal and Appellation and Faults/Imbalances. As wine professionals, we are tasting wines very often. But what are you tasting and what will show up during the exam? The CWE Preview Exam confers you the opportunity to know the dynamic around the Varietal and Appellation wine identification through an amazing tasting of four flights of six wines each, followed by a two mock exams. By the end of this section, you’ll know exactly whether or not you are ready for the exam.

Going back to the point I am trying to make here: maybe you could feel you are ready, but suddenly you are in front of some wines you have never tasted before… Or you thought you could clearly distinguish between an Oregon Pinot Noir and a red Burgundy, but during Boot Camp you realize you are not that good.

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Something similar can happens to you during the Faults/Imbalances wine identification. If you are not familiar with them (that is, if you have not practiced with the SWE Wine Fault Kit before), you will be surprised. The good news is that, during Boot Camp, the instructor explains how this portion of the exam works and additionally unveils some “tricks” for selecting the correct answer. However, you have to practice and sharpen your senses to do a good job.

Why should you take to CWE Preview Seminar? Two answers: if you—like me—want to get a personal and closer look to the different components of the exam in order to measure how ready or not you are, this is the most valuable chance you will have. On the other hand, if you are confident you are ready, you can pre-test yourself during this event, especially in the Varietal and Appellation and Faults/Imbalances components of the exam. If you do great, take the next step. If you don’t, breathe deeply and continue practicing. You will do better next time.

After my experience, I truly believe that being part of the CWE Preview Seminar gives you a great opportunity to be part of the reduced amount of people who pass the entire CWE Exam in their first-time. Don’t you want to be in that 12%? I do!

Elizabeth Yabrudy, CSS, CSW

Elizabeth Yabrudy, CSS, CSW

Keep studying, continue practicing, taste as much wines as you can, but overall, have fun during the whole experience. And, of course, register yourself for the next CWE Boot Camp.

Cheers!

About the author: Elizabeth Yabrudy is a sommelier and journalist residing in Venezuela. She stays busy teaching and writing about wine and spirits, as well as leading tastings and service training. In addition to her CSS and CSW credentials, Elizabeth has a Master’s Degree in Electronic Publishing from City University in London. You can find her online at ElizabethYabrudy.wordpress.com.

Are you interested in being a guest blogger or a guest SWEbinar presenter for SWE?  Click here for more information!

A new edition of the Hospitality/Beverage Specialist Certificate Program by SWE!

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What’s so special about Arabica coffee beans?

How should I serve sidra de Asuturias?

How do I write a wine tasting note that makes sense?

To learn the answers to these questions…and a lot of other information about coffee, tea, wine, spirits, beer, cider, or sake…check out the new edition of SWE’s Hospitality/Beverage Specialist Certificate Study Guide—hot off the presses!

The Hospitality/Beverage Specialist Certificate (HBSC) is an entry-level, beverage knowledge program designed to fulfill the needs of the hospitality and culinary industries and their employees. The Beverage Specialist Certificate can also be used as an entry-level course for those planning to pursue higher levels of wine, beer, or spirits certification.

The HBSC provides a broad base of knowledge, covering all commercially relevant beverages, not just wine or spirits. The program’s content covers: coffee, tea, beer, sake, cider, perry, wine, and spirits. Details about sensory evaluation, tasting notes, and service standards for each beverage type are included as well as a chapter on the responsible service of beverage alcohol.

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The HBSC may be completed as an online self-paced, self-study program. The registration fee ($99) includes access to the Online HBSC Course and an Online Exam. An accompanying, 188-page paperback study guide is available for individual purchase through Createspace at a separate fee.

Successful completion of the Online HBSC Exam—accessible at the end of the Online Course—will earn candidates the Hospitality/Beverage Specialist Certificate. The exam is 80 multiple-choice questions. Passing the exam requires a score of 75% or higher. Unsuccessful candidates may attempt the exam a second time at no additional cost. The HBSC Certificate may be printed out by the candidate immediately after passing the final exam.

Candidates will have access to the Online Course and Exam for one year from the date of purchase. To sign up, visit our HBSC Course page.