SWE Presents 2013 Grand Award to Professor “Chip” Cassidy

Chip and GobletEvery year, at the annual conference, the Society of Wine Educators grants a prestigious lifetime achievement award to a deserving wine professional.  Known as “The Grand Award,” this award has been presented to a plethora of wine luminaries, includng Robert Mondavi, Sandro Boscaini, Jancis Robinson, Warren Winiarski, Carol Meredith, and Mike Grgich.

This year’s award was presented to Patrick J. Cassidy during the Friday luncheon of the Society’s 37th Annual Conference, held in Orlando, Florida.   

Professor “Chip” Cassidy’s wine experience began over 40 years ago in New York. Working in a wine shop through college led to the head sommelier’s position at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach. He later became the wine buyer for the Crown Wine and Spirits chain, and worked previously at Sunset Corners, a large volume wine shop. He currently serves as a wine and beverage instructor at the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management of Florida International University.

A member of the entering class of FIU’s inaugural year, Chip graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality Management. His teaching career began in 1984. Today he teaches Wine Technology, The Business of Wine and recently has developed a Wine Certificate Program offered to professionals already working in the wine or related fields.

A noted speaker and fundraiser, Professor Cassidy was instrumental in developing the concept to build the Southern Wine and Spirits Beverage Management Center, a state of the art wine teaching laboratory. A man of many “hats”, Chip is a decorated Vietnam War veteran, avid reader, and passionate fisherman. Today he resides in South Miami-Dade County with his wife Christine and beloved golden lab, Darius.

Chip and HarrietDuring the awards presentation, Harriet Lembeck, Mistress of Ceremonies, presented Chip with a Riedel “Grand Shiraz” goblet with the following inscription: The Society of Wine Educators toasts  Patrick J. “Chip” Cassidy, CSH & TM at Florida International University for Impeccably High Standards as a Wine Communicator, Fundraiser, War Hero, and Mentor to his Students. Orlando, FL 2013.

Congratulations, Professor Cassidy!

Conference Highlights – Clash of the Titans

SWE Conference Highlights 2013

On Friday afternoon, a large room full of people witnessed a Clash of the Titans.  It was the case of Barolo versus Brunello. Both claimed the title of “Italy’s Greatest Wine.”  It was determined that in this session, the audience would be the jury and would choose the victor.

The jury deliberatesThe courtroom was presided over by Judge Missi Holle, CSW, CSS.  “Barolo Man,” known to many as Nick Poletto, CSW, CSS, DSW; regaled the jury with tales of the history of Barolo, the noble Nebbiolo grape variety, and the majesty and history of the region of Barolo.

Clash team

Don Kinnan Brunello FellowNick Barolo ManBrunello Fellow, know to most as Don Kinnan, CSS, CWE; rebutted with the majesty of Italy’s leading grape, the purely Italian lineage of Brunello, and tales of the land of Montalcino.

After a delicious tasting, many objections, closing arguments and much deliberation, it was determined, that (at least for SWE’s 2013 Conference) Brunello was indeed king.

The audience, of course, is already calling for a re-match, to be held at SWE’s 2014 Conference in Seattle, Washington.

See you there!

Conference Highlights: Wines of Brazil

Nora Favelukes says that if you like soccer, carnival, and samba, it’s time to discover the wines of Brazil!  Brazilian wines are now exported to over 30 countries and are about to make a splash on the American market.

Nora Room Brazil

Brazil is the largest country in Latin America and considered the fifth largest wine producer in the Southern Hemisphere.  Brazil has been making wine since the beginning of its colonization, and began wine production in earnest with the arrival of Italian immigrants, starting in 1875.  Over the past fifteen years, the Brazilian wine industry has made a tremendous investment in technological innovation and vineyard management.

Glasses Brazil

Currently, the Brazilian wine regions total 83,700 hectares, divided into six regions:

  • Serra Gaúcha
  • Campanha (located along the border with Uruguay)
  • Serra do Sudeste
  • Campos de Cima da Serra
  • no Rio Grande do Sul Planalto Catarinense
  • Vale do São Francisco (located in the northeast, contains the closest vineyards to the equator)

The wines sampled included Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sparkling Wines, Blends, and Moscato.

Crowd Brazil

Conference Highlights – Italy: Did you know or so they say?

SWE Conference Highlights 2013

On Thursday afternoon, Sharron McCarthy, always a conference favorite, led a session called Italy – Did you know or so they say?

Italy Audience

Sharron described Italy as a spirited, thriving, ancient enigma that unveils, yet hides, many faces.

Italy Wines

She told the stories of the invading Phoenicians, Greeks, and Cathaginians, the native Etruscans and Romans, as well as the Saracens, Visigoths, Normans, Austrian and Germans who all left their imprint on the land – and wines – of Italy.

Sharro Italy

Attendees learned that Emilia-Romagna was the birthplace of Sangiovese, which was then diffused throughout the rest of Italy, becoming the leading grape that it is today. Italy Audience 2

Wines from Piedmont, Vento,  Tuscany, Abruzzo, and other regions were all featured, showcasing the depth and diversity of the wines of Italy. Did you know?Italy Bottles


Conference Highlights – Cocktail Evolution

SWE Conference Highlights 2013

Friday afternoon featured a great way to end conference and start the weekend…a master class in mixology, led by Dean Hurst and Stephen Fox, entitled “Cocktail Evolution.”

Dean Cocktail Session

The cocktail is considered to be an American invention, with many claiming that the Sazerac, created in New Orleans, to be the first “official” cocktail.

Mixology Session Bottles

Punches are also an historic type of cocktail.  One of the oldest recipes is for a Barbadian Rum Punch: “One of Sour, Two of Sweet, Three of Strong, Four of Weak” referring to one part lime juice, two parts sugar, three parts rum, and four parts water.

Mixology Session Dean

The impressive line-up of craft cocktails, demonstrating why this session was offered at 4:45 on Friday afternoon, as opposed to 8:30 in the morning:

Mixology Session Line Up

Conference Highlights – Master Level Wine Service

SWE Conference Highlights 2013
On Friday evening, Andrew McNamara, MS and David Glancy, MS presented a lively session entitled “Master Level Wine Service.”  The session featured two Master Sommeliers demonstrating standard wine service, Champagne service and decanting for sediment. Discussion topics included the Court of Master Sommeliers service standards, including the real-world and exam applications; as well as how specific service programs might differ based on house standards.
Here are a few photos from the session:
David Glancy and Andrew McNamara discussing the finer points of service.
David G and Andrew M Service Session
David Glancy demonstrating the importance of keeping one’s thumb and serviette over the cage and cork when opening Champagne.  As expected, this led to the liveliest debate of the session…the CMS service standards call for a quiet opening of a bottle of bubbly, yet the festive “pop” often leads to increased sales…
David G Service Session Bubbly
Andrew McNamara demonstrating cutting the bottle foil while using a decanting cradle.
Andrew Decanting Service
Andrew McNamara demonstrating (with humor) proper service equipment (or not) with his #1 (frist birthday?) candle.
Andrew Service Session

Conference Highlights – Lodi Rules

On Wednesday afternoon, Camron King,  Executive Director of the Lodi Winegrape Commission, led a group in a tasting of wines produced with fruit from certified sustainable vineyards in the Lodi Rules program.

Camron front of room

The Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing is California’s first 3rd party-certified sustainable winegrowing program. It promotes practices that enhance biodiversity, soil and water health, community well-being, and fair practices for employees; all without compromising the needs of future generations.

Lodi Bottles

Lodi is well-known for its old vine zinfandel, but also grows a good deal of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Viognier. Attendees also were treated to samples of Malbec, Graciano, and Tempranillo…just a few of the other grape varieties that thrive in Lodi.

Camron and Audience Lodi

Conference Highlights – International Tasting at SeaWorld

On Thursday night, conference attendees were treated to an international wine and beer tasting at SeaWorld.

Seaworld 6

Over 100 international wines and 20 beers were available for the tasting, along with quite a spread on the buffet.

Seaworld 4

We were joined by several of the Sea World animals, including an otter, an armadillo, and a parrot.

Seaworld 3

Among the happy attendees was our President-Elect, Master Sommelier Guy Stout.

Seaworld Guy

And a good time was had by all!


Conference Highlights – Albariño and Rías Baixas

 SWE Conference Highlights 2013
Starting off the general sessions on Wednesday morning, Brian Freedman treated us to a tasting of delicious Albariño-based wines from Rías Baixas. The full name of the session was “Albariño, Rias Baixas, and the Evolution of a Spanish Icon.”
Brian Freedman
Rías Baixas is the most important Denomination of Origin (DO) in the Galicia region of northwestern Spain, sometimes known as “Green Spain” due to its cool climate and abundance of rain, especially as compared to the rest of Spain. The DO was formally established in 1988, and has since received much acclaim for the crisp, fruity, and mineral-driven white wines from the Albariño grape variety.
Albarino with Map

 Brian led us through a tasting of wines from each of the sub-regions of Rías Baixas. The five sub-regions are:

  • Val do Salnés:  This is the original and oldest sub-zone with the most area under vine and the highest concentration of wineries. Located on the Atlantic coast, it surrounds the historic town of Cambados. Val do Salnés is the birthplace of the Albariño grape.
  • Condado do Tea:  “Tea County” is named after the river Tea, a tributary of the Miño River. Located in a fairly mountainous area along the Miño, this is the second largest sub-zone. The most inland, it is a warmer, drier area, than the other sub-regions.
  • O Rosal:  Also lying along the Miño River where it joins the Atlantic Ocean, this sub-zone forms the border with Portugal. Vineyards in O Rosal are terraced along the sides of the Miño.
  • Ribeira do Ulla: The newest Rías Baixas sub-zone, this area was registered in 2000 and is located inland, southeast of Santiago de Compostela.
  • Soutomaior:  Nestled in the hills at the head of the Rίa de Vigo, Soutomaior is the smallest of the sub-zones and was registered in 1996.

Brian with glass

All the wines were delicious and crisp, and with Brain’s help the crowd was able to detect the subtle differences among the wines produced in the different sub-regions. All were delicious, and showed varying levels of fruitiness from crisp, citrus flavors to rich, tropical fruit as well as varying – but subtle – aromas of mineral, herb, and flowers. Thank you, Brian!
Glass and Brian

Conference Highlights – Pink Champagne

SWE Conference Highlights 2013
On Wednesday afternoon, Seth Box, Director of Education for  Moët-Hennessey USA, treated us to a flight of six amazing Rosé Champagnes in his session titled “Pink Champagne – Fluffy Fiction or Profound Pleasure?”
Seth Box Pink Champagne
Seth gave a lively session and addressed the very wide spread and yet often erroneous habit of pairing Brut Rosé Champage with dessert.  Highlighting the fact that pink Champage is very food friendly, he emphasized its appropriateness for pairing with just about any food from soup, salads, appetizers and even main courses made with heavier foods…but warned against pairing it with heavily spiced or sweet dishes, as these foods can disturb the delicate balance and mask the complex flavors of the wine.
Pink Champagne Audience Glasses
Seth discussed the various methods of producing Rosé Champage, including saignée as well as adding a dosage  of pinot noir or pinot meunier at the end of the process.  Champagne is the only wine region in France that allows the blending of red and white wines in the production of Rosé.
Pink Champagne Glasses
 All of the wines were delicious, with a crowd favorite being the Krug Rosé N/V.
Pink Champagne Session Audience
The tasting concluded with a sip of Moët & Chandon Nectar Imperial Rosé, a slightly sweet wine that due to its residual sugar could be used as a successful pairing partner with dessert – such as milk chocolate dipped strawberries or raspberry tart.  To wrap up the session, it was agreed that Rosé Champage is indeed a “Profound Pleasure!”