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 “mock 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.

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Guest Post: Learning Lompoc

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Learning Lompoc, or, my Visit to the Lompoc Wine Ghetto

By Candi, CSW

Today we have a guest post from a frequent contributor who we have learned to know and love by the pseudonym “Candi, CSW.” Today, Candi takes us along on a tour to a wine warehouse area affectionately known as the “Lompoc Wine Ghetto.” Read on! 

I have made several tasting trips to Santa Barbara County in the past. Los Olivos, Santa Barbara-based tasting rooms, Santa Ynez Valley, and Solvang are among prior destinations.

However, until this year, I had never been to the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. The name “Ghetto” was intriguing enough to warrant further research. Looking at a few websites, it seems that the Lompoc Wine Ghetto acquired the name from an early tenant. It is considered a term of endearment and has been adopted by Lompoc as a way to promote the destination.

Driving into Lompoc, one of the first signs I saw pointed me to the Wine Ghetto. The setting is an industrial park/warehouse area, complete with gravel parking lots. There seemed to be at least a dozen wineries, and a few craft breweries. Some of the wineries have tasting rooms with regular hours. Others are by-appointment only. I chose to visit one of each—Palmina and Kitá, respectively.

Photo via: https://www.instagram.com/palminawines/

Photo via: https://www.instagram.com/palminawines/

I had wanted to visit Palmina Wines during prior visits to the area, but their tasting room schedule did not match up with our travel schedule. This year, I visited on a Saturday. There were regular hours scheduled, and I arrived shortly after Palmina opened in an attempt to avoid the crowds. This worked well; by the time I left it was getting busy.

My interest was due to Palmina’s focus on Cal-Ital. I am a big fan of Italian varietals and have found few domestic wineries that make Italian-reminiscent wine with Italian grapes. At Palmina, I hoped to add to my list. They feature two tasting flights—one is their traditional line of wine, and the second, La Voix, is their elite level (and thus more expensive). I opted for the former, but was graciously offered a few other wines as a bonus.

The most interesting wine tasted was a sparkling Nebbiolo, served in frosted flutes. Had price been no object, I would have purchased a bottle. My frugal soul, however, was calling. For purchase, I gravitated to the traditional line. This brand met my Italianate criterion. First, a rose’ of Sangiovese, Dolcetto and Barbera. A Dolcetto and a vineyard-specific Barbera were my other picks. The tasting fee was waived with my purchase. Service was very good; the staff patiently, helpfully, responded to my detailed (OK, geeky) questioning. I would visit again.

My appointment at Kitá Wines, made about a month in advance, was interesting, educational, and the best-organized by-appointment tasting I have ever experienced. The setting is a warehouse—so discreet I had to ask for directions. A small sign, a door, and a buzzer. I rang at the appointed time. I was greeted by the young lady in charge of marketing for the winery. She apologized that the vintner would be late, but she was ready to start the tasting. She was well-organized. A table had been set up, a glass for her and one for me, and bottles of water. Eight opened wine bottles at the ready. Detailed tasting information, about a page long, for each wine. The tasting notes were a take-away item for me. Perfect for my notes.

Photo via: http://kitawines.com/

Photo via: http://kitawines.com/

My server seemed a bit sheepish about the $10 tasting fee. She noted, as I had already learned, that the fee is waived with a 2-bottle purchase. I explained that I believed their policy was quite reasonable and, further, that I had researched the winery and would not have made an appointment was I not prepared to purchase. She was quite happy with my response, and we proceeded to take our time.

I learned that the Kitá Wines brand is part of the Chumash enterprise, which includes other hospitality industry product lines. Among these are hotels and restaurants. So the Chumash tribal council has an oversight and leadership role. Interesting trivia: the wine label had to be approved by the tribal council of about 130 people. Classy label, that.

What about the vino? Each of the wines was solid, interesting, and purchase-worthy. I was most interested in the wines created from the Camp 4 Vineyard. This vineyard is Chumash-owned.

My white choice was a 2013 Grenache Blanc. I ordinarily would not purchase a 2013 vintage in 2017, but this was still extraordinarily fresh, juicy and lively in its presentation. And a varietal favorite with few good domestic examples found before.

I also bought the 2013 Spe’y red blend. This wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignane. Not the usual Rhone-style blend. The Carignane added backbone; the wine was balanced, complex and layered. Too fascinating to pass up.

My third and final choice was the 2013 Syrah. The attraction here was softer tannins than I often experience with this varietal. Plus a finish that seemed to go on for minute after minute. Overall impression: unusual and compelling.

Toward the end of my visit, the vintner did indeed arrive and provided further information on the aging potential of each wine. And, for the first time ever, I witnessed a vintner driving a forklift. Clearly, a small operation with everyone pitching in. And making very nice wine as well.

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After two tastings, I had to have a break for safety before driving. Fortunately, I had the foresight to pack a picnic lunch. It seems that the Lompoc Wine Ghetto has no food service facilities, although some of the wineries wisely offer a bit of food. But visiting a restaurant would have required driving. While I enjoyed my picnic, I had the opportunity to observe the Saturday afternoon crowd. As the afternoon wore on, the noise level rose such that, even in the parking area, I could detect people having a good time. Most interesting to observe and a validation of my own strategy. Have food, hydrate, and take my time before hitting the road.

I had one more stop on my way back to my hotel. Captain Fatty’s Craft Brewery, located in yet another warehouse, this time in Goleta. I am not a beer drinker, but I do have my CSW skills. A project of mine is transferring matching-type skills to craft beer, which my husband enjoys. I wanted to purchase something he could not get in our home location, and had done my research. In my experience, finding a craft brew tasting room that offers beer in 12-ounce packaging is not common. Most of these facilities feature 22-ounce bottles and growlers, as well as beer on tap.

Captain Fatty’s featured freshly-canned beer, 12-ounce cans, in six packs. This packaging is perfect as a take-home gift. One of the six-pack choices was their Beach Beer, a Pilsner-style lager. My husband avoids bitter beer, which rules out most IPAs. I believed the Beach Beer was a match. Turns out I was correct: the beer rated 2 thumbs up.

Overall, a most successful day. Wines for both of us to enjoy, and an unusual brew for a gift. The wine will be enjoyed. The beer is almost gone. Cheers!

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Guest Post: New York State’s Hudson River Region AVA

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Today we have a post from JoAnn DeGaglia, CSW, CS. JoAnn takes us on a journey to New York’s Hudson River Valley and the Hudson River Region AVA.

Eleven thousand years ago the entire northeast coast of the United States, including New York State, was covered by a two-mile-thick sheet of ice known as the Laurentide Ice Sheet. As the glacier melted and receded, it reshaped the land beneath into the beautiful landscape we know today of hills, mountains, and complex, varied soils—a perfect place for grapes, vines, and fruit cultivation.

Part of this landscape includes the Hudson River—one of the great waterways of North America. The Hudson River runs 315 miles from its source at Lake Tear in the Clouds, located in Adirondack Park. The river runs north to south and eventually drains into the Atlantic Ocean between New York City and Jersey City. It is the river’s moderating effect on the area’s continental climate (thanks to tidal flow and winds that sweep upriver from the Atlantic) as well as the “river effect” that makes it possible to grow grapes at all in the Hudson River Valley.

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The Hudson River Region AVA (established July 1982) covers an area that extends roughly within the confines of the river valley proper and it includes all or some of several counties: Columbia, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester. The AVA encompasses 224,000 acres, with about 450 acres planted to wine grapes among 49+ bonded wineries.

The Brotherhood Winery is the oldest winery in the area and the oldest continuously operating winery in the United States. The winery’s earliest first vineyard was planted by William Cornell in 1845 in Ulster County and still exists as part of the Benmarl Winery (located in Marlboro).

The wine making industry in the Hudson Valley has survived war, revolution, blights, extremely challenging weather, and prohibition. This AVA is a survivor and one of the most innovative and diverse areas of viniferous cultivation in the Northeast. The Valley has been known for making great white wines like Seyval Blanc, Chardonnay, and Riesling as well as award winning Sparkling wines.

Much time and effort has gone into finding a Hudson Valley signature red grape. Doug and Mary Ellen Glorie of Glorie Farm Winery, along with Linda Piero and Bob Bedford of Hudson Valley Wine Magazine have established the “Hudson Valley Cabernet Franc Coalition” which is a group of Hudson Valley grape growers, winery owners, winemakers, and supporters that are committed to establishing a Cabernet Franc brand identity for the Hudson River Region.

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Hudson River Valley Cabernet Franc is appreciated for its mouthwatering savory, bell pepper-like flavors and medium to high acidity. Cabernet Franc is typically lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon, making a bright pale red wine that adds finesse and lends a peppery perfume when blended with more robust grapes as it is done in Bordeaux.

Given the climate and soil here in our Hudson Valley, it comes as no surprise that Cabernet Franc has emerged as heir apparent for red wine greatness. It’s even been confirmed by science, at Highland, New York’s Hudson Valley Research Lab—a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting research and development for growers in the Hudson Valley. In 2008 Senator William J. Larkin helped to secure funds for the lab to plant a one-acre vineyard with 27 varieties of grapes with the purpose of learning what really grows best in the area. Through these trials, Peter Jentsch, a Research Entomologist and Cornell Cooperative Extension Educator, found that Cabernet Franc kept emerging as the stand out variety.

Cabernet Franc has a significant number of clones which gives growers a range of choices and allows winemakers the ability to combine clonal varieties in order to add complexity to their finished wine—giving each winemaker the ability to truly create their own style of wine using Cabernet Franc.

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Recently, the Hudson River Valley has exploded with wineries, distilleries, breweries, and the production of (Hard) Apple Ciders. In our colonial period, apple orchards were plentiful and easier to obtain than grains. As a result, hard cider quickly became one of America’s most popular beverages. The Hudson River Valley area offer great food, beautiful scenery, and delicious local beverages—so it is a great time to visit…and if you already live here, get out and Uncork New York!

JoAnn DeGaglia, CSW, CS teaches wine appreciation classes all over the New York, including the Hudson River Valley. JoAnn’s writings may be found on Facebook on the “The Wine Lovers Journey through the World of Wine” page.

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Guest Post: Everything’s Coming up Rosés!

Photo credit: Linda Coco

Photo credit: Linda Coco

Today we have a book review from a guest blogger, Linda Coco. In honor of National Rosé Day (coming up soon on the second Saturday in June), Linda brings us a review of a new book on rosé wine by Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, MW.

Rosé Wine—The Guide to Drinking Pink by Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, MW.176 pages, published by Sterling Epicure (2017).

Everything’s coming up rosés!

Ahhh, spring has sprung and is hopscotching into summer. I love this time of year when all things are made new again, at least here in the northern hemisphere. Mother Nature dons a brand new wardrobe, draping herself in vibrant shades of green accessorized with colorful pops of flowers. I, too, eagerly pack away my winter drabs and delight in sporting sundresses, shorts and sandals.

After a long Montana winter, my palate is also ready for an overhaul. I start craving lighter fare and lighter wines, especially rosés which start debuting in May for May Day, Mother’s Day and the Kentucky Derby. While those thoroughbred derby horses compete in The Run for the Roses, I, in my quest to drink pink, Run for the Rosés!

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In this season of thinking pink, I am tickled pink to highlight a new book by Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, a Master of Wine who just released her second publication, ROSÉ WINE: The Guide to Drinking Pink. This book debuts in perfect timing with rosé’s renewed popularity. There’s a pink revolution happening, and rosé is rising above its reputation for being sweet and seasonal. It’s also bounding over gender boundaries. Rosé earned a reputation as being a frilly, feminine wine reserved for females, but men now account for 45% of all rosé consumed in the United States. Shall we call it Brosé?

Simonetti-Bryan expounds upon this rosé revolution in the first chapter then goes on to explain the making of rosé and the tasting of rosé using the FIVE S’s: See, Swirl, Sniff, Sip and Savor.  As in her first book, The One Minute Wine Master, Jennifer includes a quiz to help identify styles of rosé that you are likely to enjoy based on a generalized assessment of your taste and scent preferences.

The next chapters are dedicated to the four different rosé styles: BLUSH, CRISP, FRUITY and RICH. Under each style section, Jennifer features wines made in that style accompanied by a photo of the bottle or label. Detailed tasting notes and information about the winery or winemaker are included. Over 70 rosés are highlighted from areas around the globe. From the palest pink to the deepest magenta, you’ll delight in seeing the world through rosé colored glasses, all the while vicariously traveling around the world in 80 rosés!

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The book concludes with a helpful resource section that contains a food pairing guide, a pronunciation guide and a quick reference wine checklist of all the wines featured, categorized per rosé style.

Punctuated with fun facts, lovely photos and helpful graphs, ROSÉ WINE: A Guide to Drinking Pink is a precise 176-page primer on pink. It’s especially suitable for those new to drinking rosé (or to those who heretofore have shunned it!). As a wine educator, I appreciate the approachable and friendly tone in which it is written.

Bravo to Jennifer-Simonetti-Bryan, the passionate promoter of pink! Let’s raise our pink drinks and clink our glasses of rosé together in celebratory cheers!

Linda rose photo by lindaLinda 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”, https://lilianacabana.wordpress.com.

Guest Blogger: Discover Mexico’s Baja Wine Country

The courtyard at Adobe Guadalupe (Photo Credit: Matilde Parente)

The courtyard at Adobe Guadalupe (Photo Credit: Matilde Parente)

In this guest post, Matilde Parente, MD, CSW gives readers a lovely armchair tour of the wine, food and history of the Guadalupe Valley, a region that’s putting Mexican winemaking on the world’s wine maps.

Wine country adventurers now have another destination to explore: Mexico’s Guadalupe Valley, located 90 miles south of San Diego in Baja California. About half the size of the Napa Valley, this Mexican valle offers a low-key and rustic wine, food, and cultural experience that will jolt your palate and swaddle you with its warmth and beauty.

Although Mexican wine has only recently burst onto the radar of norteños, our southern neighbor has been making wine since the 1500s, after conqueror Hernán Cortés requested grapevines from Spain and before vineyards were planted in Chile and Argentina.

Milestones in Baja winemaking include efforts by the Jesuits in the early 1700s, the 1888 founding of Bodegas de Santo Tomás, Baja’s oldest continuously operating winery and the winegrapes  planted by Russian Molokan refugees in the early 1900s. More French and Italian varieties were introduced to Baja in the early 20th century, aided by Wente’s James Concannon and the Piedmont-born Italian viticulturist Esteban Ferro.

The vineyards at Adobe Guadalupe photo credit: Matilde Parente)

The vineyards at Adobe Guadalupe (Photo Credit: Matilde Parente)

The modern era in Baja winemaking began in 1972 with the founding of Casa Pedro Domecq and has accelerated since the 1980s, which saw the emergence of the Valle’s first boutique winery, Monte Xanic, and the rising prominence of the Bordeaux-trained enologist Hugo D’Acosta. In 2004, D’Acosta founded a winemaking school, the Estación de Oficios Porvenir, affectionately known as La Escuelita, to train and help support small-scale winegrowers.

Common red grape varieties planted today include heat-loving Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Tempranillo, Zinfandel, Carignan, Aglianico, Syrah, and Petit Sirah—along with Barbera, Nebbiolo and Spain’s original Mission grape. White varieties include Chardonnay, Colombard, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion, and Viognier. Delicious rosés are also made from many of these varieties, notably those from Nebbiolo.

Although some single-varietal wines are made, most Valle wines are blends, some of which are unusual, such as the outstanding Rafael, a Cabernet-Nebbiolo blend by Adobe Guadalupe. Limited more by their imagination than AOP-type regulations, Mexican winemakers continue to experiment with their terroir and winemaking decisions.

Guadalupe Valley soils are a mixture of sandy loam and red clay. Lying just within the 30-degree latitude for quality winegrowing, the arid Valle receives only about 3–4 inches of rain annually with daytime temperatures averaging 86°F in summer and 42°F in winter. Yields average 2–3 tons per acre.

The view just before sunset at Ensenada’s Cuatro Cuatros resort and outdoor restaurant (Photo Credit: Matilde Parante)

The view just before sunset at Ensenada’s Cuatro Cuatros resort and outdoor restaurant (Photo Credit: Matilde Parante)

Today, the more than 60 Guadalupe Valley wineries account for 90% of Mexico’s wine production with L.A. Cetto, Domecq and Monte Xanic producing the lion’s share of the region’s wines. According to 2014 figures, Mexican wineries produced just over two million cases of wine a year, which accounted for about one-third of domestic (Mexican) wine sales. Most other wineries and artisan winemakers are small-production, family-owned and -operated enterprises with limited marketing and distribution opportunities, even within Mexico.

Traditionally, beer and tequila have been the nation’s most popular adult beverages. However, Mexican wine consumption has seen a 12% increase over the past decade, especially among the upper middle class and younger consumers. Key Mexican wine markets are Mexico City and Guadalajara restaurants and their more affluent residents.

The two-lane Ruta del Vino (wine route) tracks north and east from coastal Ensenada towards Tecate. Wineries that deserve a stop and a few sips include the Adobe Guadalupe (with a free tasting and homemade breakfast included with your stay), the architecturally stunning Monte Xanic, Villa Montefiori, Viña de Frannes (where Michel Roland consults), Vinicola Torres Alegre y Familia and La Lomita Winery.

On and off the the well-marked Ruta you’ll also find a range of accommodations, from the air-conditioned cabins of Ensenada’s glamping hot spot Cuatro Cuatros to the relaxed country sophistication of the six-room Adobe Guadalupe, which is also home to its outstanding winery and Azteca horse stables.

Finally, no wine country would be complete without great food and a museum. The $5.3 million Museo de La Vid y El Vino inaugurated in 2012 is a spacious modern architectural wonder where you can learn more about the region’s fascinating history.

A view of the vineyards at Adobe Guadalupe from the Azteca horse stable (Photo Credit" Matilde Parente)

A view of the vineyards at Adobe Guadalupe from the Azteca horse stable (Photo Credit: Matilde Parente)

The Baja food scene evolved along with the emerging wine scene, propelling it forward gastronomically. Known as Baja Mediterranean, the local cuisine is creative, healthful and farm-fresh. Along with al fresco pleasure, freshly caught seafood and flavorful Valle-grown produce are exceptional. Many dishes are prepared with the local olive oil, a must-buy at many wineries.

Homegrown and resettled chefs such as Javier Plascencia (Finca Altozano), Drew Deckman (Deckman’s en el Mogor), Angelo Dal Bon (Tre Galline at the Villa Montefiori winery), Leda Gamboa (The Adobe Food Truck at the Adobe Guadalupe) and Diego Hernandez (Corazon De Tierra) continue to transform, elevate and energize the local food scene with their creativity and enoturismo evangelism.

For those unwilling or unsure about driving down to the Valle, a few reputable companies offer guided tours for small groups and individuals, including Fernando Gaxiola’s Baja Wine + Food. Although 4-wheel drive isn’t required, most roads leading up to the wineries are pocked dirt roads and dusty feet are guaranteed – a good enough reason to kick ‘em up and enjoy another sip of delicious Guadalupe Valley wine.

About the author: Matilde Parente, MD, CSW blogs at www.writeonwines.com and tweets @winefoodhealth.

References:

  • Covarrubias J, Thach L. Wines of Baja Mexico: A qualitative study examining viticulture, enology, and marketing practices. Wine Economics and Policy. Vol 4, Issue 2, Dec 2015, pp 110–115.

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Guest Blogger: What is Your Wine Lens?

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Today we have a guest post by an anonymous writer, who we know by the name Candi, CSW. In this essay, Candi discusses her particular way of looking at wine, and along the way encourages us all to find our own individual wine lens.   

What is Your Wine Lens?

By Candi, CSW

My wine lens?

Most certainly. I am not talking about viewing wine through rosé-colored glasses. Nor, heaven forbid, through “beer goggles”. My lens is the context through which I view wine, my life experiences, and their mutual influence upon each other. My unique terrior.

This is a topic I have been contemplating since I completed my most recent wine-related trip. And it might be a subject for you to consider, maybe with the company of a glass or two.

I believe we all have a unique wine lens. Beginning to view my lens more clearly has been a gift; a gift of learning, enlightenment and reflection.  All of these I appreciate more and more as I age. So I thought it might be helpful for other wine professionals to more clearly understand the distinctive value they bring to the table. Along with the vino.

Here are a few points to ponder, with fragments from my lens to illustrate. Okay, to magnify if you must.

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Family and Geography: I grew up in the Midwest, in a small town when domestic manufacturing was an established and thriving part of our local economy. My hometown was classic Middle America, complete with solid values, good public schools, church on Sunday. My parents were raised on solo family farms. My father was a small businessman; my Mom, like most women in our town, did not work outside the home.

My parents had grown up in the Depression. Given this setting, I was raised to be frugal; to live below my means. The wine lessons? I prefer finding value wines that taste above their price; the wines that “over deliver.” Further, there are many red value wines that taste substantially better than the wine used for communion that I first experienced at the age of thirteen. I wonder if there is a designated product line for nasty communion wine. No offense to traditional churches intended.

Non-wine education and work experience: My career was in health care; my first career-level position was in consulting. I found that the more years I spent in the industry, the less I was inclined to rely exclusively on the medical model within the current care delivery system. My horizon broadened to include what is popularly known as “complementary and alternative” medicine. There appears to be a significant amount of research that supports reasonable consumption of wine as part of an overall healthy lifestyle. Wine can fit into a wellness program for some of us. It works for me.

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Hobbies and interests: We lived in a major Midwest City early in our marriage. Unlike where I grew up, there were quality museums, plays, restaurants—a diverse cultural landscape. We visited all the major museums and discovered a fondness for Impressionist art. I would stand really close to a painting, hands clasped behind my back to signal to the docent that I’d just look and not touch. And I would contemplate the beauty and the effort that went into the work. This was also my first exposure to key cuisines, primarily Italian. As my time to spend in the kitchen increased, Italian became my first specialty. I discovered that Italians often put as much love into their value-priced wines in each region as they do into the upper-tier wines. For example, we enjoy Barbera and Dolcetto as great value choices. And I buy Barolo for special occasions. As for art? Wine is both an expression of the artistry of the vintner and of terroir.

Entry into the professional world of wine: I began with wine as a hobby. Read the popular magazines, bought the occasional recommended wine listed as less than $10 that I could find. Mostly white wine and slightly sweet rosés. The memory of nasty red wine was quite powerful after more than 15 years. To appreciate a broader range of wine required a red wine epiphany.

The setting was a cold winter night, by the fireplace. Early marriage, Saturday night, just the two of us. My husband had purchased a Chilean Merlot from the local liquor store for the princely sum of $5. I was hesitant, but also curious and lazy. I sliced some cheese and served with crackers. I just could not approach a red without food. Simple dinner, value red. And I ate cheese, followed by red wine. Then red wine first, then cheese. Whoa – this is red wine? And I like it? So a bottle of Merlot began my red wine journey. And to this day, on lazy weekend evenings, it’s just wine and cheese. Often better wine and usually better cheese. But the memory lingers. And Chilé is, like Italy, one of our favorite wine-producing countries known for value. My hobby took off.

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Fast forward to a decade or two later.  I began to spend less time in consulting and started to more fully enjoy other interests. Wine then turned from a hobby into a passion. I took a rigorous wine “boot camp” course at a local university. Adult learning, non-credit. I was one of the oldest people in the class. And I did well, much to my surprise. I focused on getting the information I wanted out of the course. Despite lack of trade experience, obtaining my CSW became a quest. For the enjoyment of the achievement. A 300-page study guide was not intimidating because I wanted to learn the contents. The desire was there. After four months of daily study, I decided to go for it. Passing that day literally brought tears to my aging eyes.

Demographics: Here we get into the statistics; age, sex, income level, blah, blah blah. Suffice to say I am, ahem, one of the older wine professionals. Being Candi, I am of the female persuasion. Semi-retired with primary interests in wellness, reading, a bit of travel, volunteering, and wine. Serving as a volunteer somm is a very good fit.

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Personality: I am without doubt an introvert. Staying at home on weekends energizes; being with a large group of people depletes. Except when I am in a setting that involves wine; then, I turn into a geeky person who often comes across as “selling” a wine if I’ve taken it to a party. But I am selling, because I believe in the wine. I have had the joy of introducing white-only drinkers to Spanish (value!) Monastrell. And of helping some to understand that not all pink wine is sweet. And I love any type of tasting, such as trade events that offer opportunities to meet and talk with vintners.Putting it all together, I do some wine consulting here and there. When people I meet discover what I true wine geek I am, they tend to become curious. Most frequent question: what are some nice wines I can buy that don’t cost an arm and a leg? I have learned that, even given the Great Recession, people are still interested in wine. My niche has become recommending a few value-priced wines available locally. My reward?

People of all ages, backgrounds, other demographics come back to be with feedback. They are so happy; they have found a way to enjoy wine. And they begin to explore further. And their journey begins.

What is your wine lens? Enjoy the exploration.

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Guest Post: Is Wine from Cornwall Actually Cornish?

Today we have a guest post from Ted Lui, CSS. Ted tells us about his exploration of the wineries of Cornwall and invites us to ponder the question: Is wine from Cornwall actually Cornish? 

Camel Valley Vineyard in Cornwall, England

Camel Valley Vineyard in Cornwall, England

Is the wine produced in Cornwall actually Cornish (in style)?

Before answering this question, I’d like to say something about my interpretation of wine, from the point of view of 21-year-old man. I believe that there must be a big difference between the ideas of well-experienced wine experts and young “wine enthusiast” adults, particularly when it comes to defining the “meaning” of wine.

In this case, I am going to explore the world of wine with you via a journey to a “young” wine production region, and from a young person’s perspective.

I first discovered British wine in Cornwall—not the one in New York but in the UK. I knew nothing about British wine before visiting that prior to my visit to some of the vineyards- Camel Valley Vineyard, Polgoon Vineyard, and Knightor Winery.

Although Cornwall is not a traditional winemaking region compared to France and other countries that have produced wine for centuries, it does have a wine history of its own. There is evidence that the origins of British wine dates back to 955 when King Edwy permitted winemaking in Somerset (Harding and Robinson, 2015). Therefore, it would be inaccurate if one claims that British wine has nothing to do with history.

Map of the United Kingdom - Cornwall is in the far south/west of England. Click to enlarge.

Map of the United Kingdom – Cornwall is in the far south/west of England. Click to enlarge.

Camel Valley Vineyard in Cornwall has its own history, although it only goes back about 30 years. This is not a long period of time by Old World standards, however, it is a good enough place to begin in my quest to determine if the wine is truly Cornish in style or something just resembling Champagne.

For starters, Champagne grape varieties account for 45% of the grapes used in producing British wine (Johnson and Robison, 2013). I found that most of the sparkling wines produced by Camel Valley were made using Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, while others included some Seyval Blanc and Reichenstenier. The wines were fruity and floral on the nose in addition to the palate, and the flavour intensity was rather medium (-) generally.

Interestingly, despite some French terms revealed on the labels like blanc de blancs and demi-sec, they were British-style for sure in terms of their refreshing and fruity profiles. Champagne lovers may find them too light in terms of body and intensity when the wines are compared to traditional Champagne. In fact, the “young” profiles made the wines sui generis, particularly a new red sparkling using Pinot Noir.

The red sparkling Pinot Noir was definitely a non-Champagne style of wine, and made me realize that the success of British wine, such as that at the International Wine Competition (Abbot, 2010) had to do not with the fact that it could imitate Champagne, but rather that they were producing award-winning wines was probably due to their modification of some production methods, for example, the replacement of grape varieties by local grapes. There will be no place for further development if the aim is to copy Champagne from every perspective except the PDO.

The English wine industry shares the ambition of a world top-five spot sometime in the near future (Harpers Wine & Spirit, 2015). Camel Valley Vineyard absolutely presents a step forwards towards the next success of British or Cornish sparkling.

Ted Lui with the winemaker at Carmel Vineyard

Ted Lui with the winemaker at Carmel Vineyard

The limitations of British or Cornish wine are probably going to be attributed to the maritime climate. Gale-force winds and high summer precipitation in 2012 caused a drastic decline in the total crop by two-thirds (Harding and Robinson, 2015). The changing climate has been a crucial factor in determining the quality of wine for many years. The acidity of the wines produced in Cornwall is one of the examples that explain the difficulty of quality control in Cornwall. It is slightly high in general, resulting in a minute imbalance in which the body, the flavour intensity and the finish are good. Still, it has been a stimulating start of the modern British or Cornish winemaking industry.

Time to end up with an answer to the question. I believe the wine made in Cornwall is indeed Cornish, and unique enough to find its own niche without having to imitate Champagne. Cornish wine has proven itself by the use of unusual grapes, sparkling red versions, and unique flavour characteristics. There is always room for the improvement, and perhaps the wine will evolve to find its sweet spot in terms of the flavour intensity and the balance of acidity. With the winemaker of Camel Valley

Bibliography

  • Abbott, J., 2010. UK sparkling wine producer beats Champagne to win global award. [online] Available at: <http://www.hortweek.com/uk-sparkling-wine-producer-beats-champagne-win-global-award/fresh-produce/article/1028353> [Accessed 20 April 2017].
  • Harding, J, and Robinson, J., 2015. The Oxford Companion to Wine. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Harpers Wine & Spirit, 2015. Profile on Chapel Down: Shaking up the UK wine scene. [online] Available at: <www.Harpers.co.uk> [Accessed 18 April 2017].
  • Johnson, H. and Robinson, J., 2013. The World Atlas of Wine. London: Mitchell Beazley.

Ted LuiAbout the author – Ted Lui, CSS: Ted Lui, CSS is a wine enthusiast and an undergraduate studying at the University of Exeter. Ted holds Certified Specialist of Spirits (CSS) certification from the Society of Wine Educators as well as the WSET Level 3 Award in Wines & Spirits. He is also an International Kikisake-shi and Certified Sake Sommelier approved by Sake Service Institute and Sake Sommelier Association respectively. You can find out more about Ted on Instagram @ted_gin, or contact him via email cheuktaklui@yahoo.com.hk

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Guest Post/Book Review: A Glass Full of Miracles

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Today we have a guest post and book review brought to us by Harriet Lembeck, CWE, CSE. Read on as Harriet reviews the long-awaited autobiography from Mike Grgich!

Book Review: A Glass Full of Miracles by Miljenko “Mike” Grgich

Here is a memoir that mirrors the history of wine in California. But it starts well before that— in 1923, as a matter of fact. That was the year that Miljenko Grigich, the youngest of eleven children, was born in the town of Desne—an obscure village in Croatia’s coastal region of Dalmatia. Grgich’s early life in Croatia was one of poverty and even worse World War II, Nazi oppressors and the rise of Communism.

With resourcefulness, ingenuity, and other “miracles” he escapes from behind the Iron Curtain and arrives in the middle of winter in Halifax, Canada. Here he works for a short time as a lumberjack Twenty-two years later, another miracle occurs and the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay—made by Grigich—wins the Paris tasting that turns the world of wine upside down.

In this charming book you can follow Mike’s story as he works for, and learns from Lee Stewart (of Chateau Souverain), Brother Timothy (of Christian Brothers), André Tchelistcheff, Robert Mondavi, and Zelma Long. Later, we follow Mike on the path to his own winery with Lee Paschich, a wine hobbyist, who weathered Prohibition and who bought Chateau Montelena in 1968.  This leads to a meeting with Jim Barrett and his son, Bo, as the new partners of Chateau Montelena who were looking for a winemaker.

Photo of Grgić Vina wines via http://www.grgich.com

Photo of Grgić Vina wines via http://www.grgich.com

The Barrets gave Grgich a five-year contract, and he set was soon creating award-winning Rieslings, Chardonnays, and well-aged Cabernets. He recognized the Zinfandel grape of California as a grape from his homeland in Croatia—this was later confirmed by UC Davis’ renowned grape geneticist, Dr. Carole Meredith. The wines produced in 1972 and 1973 were outstanding, including the winner of Paris Tasting, the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay.

Along the way, Grgich Austin Hills, and their friendship led to a partnership: Grgich Hills Winery. Grgich even returned to Croatia for a while, and started a vineyard and winery growing the indigenous white Pošip and the red Plavac Mali, a relative of both Zinfandel and Crljenak Kaštelanski.

This book shows Grgich, now 93, with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, and love for both California and for his homeland Croatia, and with his anticipation of his 100th birthday.

Bibliographical information: Grgich, Miljenko (Mike). A Glass Full of Miracles. Violetta Press: 2016.   417 pages, hard cover, available on Amazon.com, violettapress.com, and at retail outlets.

HarrietHarriet Lembeck is a CWE (Certified Wine Educator) and a CSE (Certified Spirits Educator – a new designation). She is President of the Wine & Spirits Program, and revised and updated the textbook Grossman’s Guide to Wines, Beers and Spirits. She was the Director of the Wine Department for The New School University for 18 years. She can be reached at h.lembeck@ wineandspiritsprogram.com.

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Guest Post/Book Review: The 24-hour Wine Expert

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Today we have a guest post and book review brought to us by Harriet Lembeck, CWE, CSE. Read on as Harriet reviews the latest offering from Jancis Robinson!

Book Review: The 24-Hour Wine Expert by Jancis Robinson, MW

I just love what’s written on the cover of this book (and I quote), “Red, white, rosé, fizzy, screwcap v cork, wine myths, overpriced wines, matching food and wine, decanting, the tasting ritual” as written by “the most respected wine critic in the world.” That’s a big promise, and this little book delivers.

But let’s get real: this book is not meant for you to become a 24-Hour Wine Expert. As a wine educator, you already are that, and more. This book is meant for the friends and family of wine experts and wine educators so that they can stop rolling their eyes when they dine with us.

The promised simple explanations are just that, and practical, too. For instance, giving an ‘A’ list and a ‘B’ list when picking wines from a retail store or a restaurant gives one many options and confidence. There are notes on the reasons for different bottle shapes and sizes, plus a “how-to-read-a-label” section that is very simple and direct. There is a concise list of tasting terms guaranteed to put your group (all of you) on the same page—and it just might help to make your wine conversations more meaningful and (perhaps) end food fights.  The good and bad parts of wine service are explained, as is the actual opening of the bottle.

This tidy little book also contains several top ten lists as well as advice on picking a bottle and common wine myths. A short section on popular grapes eases the way to a discussion on famous wine regions (eased into about 40 succinct categories), and a wrap-up of wine jargon. After a 24-hour study, you will be fearless.

Bibliographical information: Robinson, Jancis. The 24-Hour Wine Expert. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2016.

HarrietHarriet Lembeck is a CWE (Certified Wine Educator) and a CSE (Certified Spirits Educator – a new designation). She is President of the Wine & Spirits Program, and revised and updated the textbook Grossman’s Guide to Wines, Beers and Spirits. She was the Director of the Wine Department for The New School University for 18 years. She can be reached at h.lembeck@ wineandspiritsprogram.com.

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Guest Post: A Trip to the Jura – part deux!

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Today we have the second and final installment of our of a two-part series from guest blogger Paul Poux. Paul tells us about his recent visit the Jura to reunite with family and drink some local wines. Click here to read part one!

“The next day looked like rain, but it was winery day and we were going to be inside tasting rooms so I didn’t care. My Dad, my husband, and I squeezed into Jean-Marie’s small Audi and drove to our first stop, Arbois. On a road overlooking the town, Jean-Marie kept trying to point out the view but the rain was slapping against the windows. I thought we were going to visit a winery first, but we passed the imposing cathedral and Jean-Marie decided a quick stop was in order. The Romanesque church of St Just was built in the 12th century yet has a warm, comfortable feeling, with stone vaulted arcades letting in lots of light through stained glass windows, one of which depicts vignérons harvesting grapes.

Our next visit was not a winery either, but a café and famous chocolatier, Hirsinger. The rain had stopped and we sat in the center of beautiful Arbois, surrounded by Medieval buildings. There is a lot of wine history too, including Louis Pasteur who lived there and pasteurized wine. Tasting rooms and wine shops were visible on every corner. As we walked back to the car we passed a few of them. “That one, Stéphane Tissot, is good,” Jean-Marie says, but we didn’t stop. He had somewhere else in mind.

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In the car, Jean Marie said, “You know Paul, there is a saying: Arbois le nom, Pupillin le bon.” (perhaps, “Arbois has the name, but Pupillin’s got game.”) The village of Pupillin sits on a hill just two miles from Arbois, with south-facing slopes, and the exposure and limestone soils make for superior wines. We drove up the hill, to the large Domaine Désiré Petit. The parking lot was empty and the front door locked. It was Noon, and they had just closed for lunch. “Eh, oui,” Jean-Marie says, with a shrug.

Dejected, we got back in the car and drove through vineyards and pastures to the village of Chateau-Chalon. Driving through its beautiful and tidy streets, Jean-Marie said, “These towns are all rich from making wine.” Chateau-Chalon sits on the top of a bluff, protecting the vineyards stretched out far below from cold winds and storms. I was hungry but we marveled at the gorgeous view. “These are all the Savagnin grape,” said Jean-Marie. Savagnin is the most famous grape of the Jura, the only grape allowed in the oxidative Vin Jaune, and the best examples of Vin Jaune often come from Chateau-Chalone.

Veal with fresh morel mushrooms and a vin jaune cream sauce.

Veal with fresh morel mushrooms and a vin jaune cream sauce.

Members of my family arrived in another car and we walked to a restaurant for lunch where we tried Savagnin, in a blend with Chardonnay. In her book Jura Wine, author Wink Lorch says that most Savagnin is initially aged as if it is to become Vin Jaune, left in the barrel without topping up, to develop the veil of yeast on its surface similar to flor. Some does not age as long as the six years and three months required for Vin Jaune, however, and is bottled simply as Savagnin even though it has gone through some oxidation. These days, some Savagnin is also produced as a non-oxidative wine, referred to on label as Savagnin Ouillé (WEE-lay).

But that is not this wine. My nose told me right away it was oxidative, and it had a sharp taste, like that of a stinky cheese without the cheese smell, and a finish of salty almonds. The taste surprised my family and they tried to be good sports, but they didn’t really drink much more of it until our lunch arrived. Each of our dishes, from chicken to veal to a pot pie, had fresh morel mushrooms in a creamy Vin Jaune sauce and my family ate it all, wiping up the last drops of sauce with their French bread.

Later that afternoon, we knocked on the door of tasting room. Philippe Butin is a small producer and opened the door himself. Jean-Marie called out, “Do you remember me? I bought your wine and shipped it to Luxembourg?” Phillipe looked at Jean-Marie, paused, then said, “Maybe,” and stood aside for us to enter. The small room was warm and welcoming. Boxes lined one of the walls, awards another. About a dozen bottles beckoned from the bar.

restaurant list of Jura winesFinally!

Philippe asked us whether we’d like to try his Crémant, and before I could answer, Jean-Marie said, “They didn’t come here to taste that.”

“What’s wrong with my Crémant?”

“Let’s not waste their time!”

Philippe grunted and started to pour out a very light looking red wine.

“I would like to taste the whites,” I said, and Philippe told me I would, but that in the Jura, the reds are always poured before the whites. This was news to me, and interesting. It’s because of the power of Vin Jaune that the whites are tasted last. The red he had poured, such a light red that Philippe Butin called it “rose” (not rosé), was a Poulsard – the one we had in the rosé earlier that week. Poulsard is hard to vinify without getting funky flavors, but this wine tasted clean and refreshing, all delicate red fruits and spices.

We tried a Trousseau, with a similar taste profile but slightly meatier, and ruby in color. My family, a little stung by the Savagnin at lunch, was enjoying these wines. Trousseau grapes need warmer weather that seems elusive in the Jura, where summer is short and early July and late August can bring rain and high temperatures in the 50s. But this Trousseau had good balance.

Photo of Vin Jaune by Agne 27, via Wikimedia

Photo of Vin Jaune by Agne 27, via Wikimedia

At last, the winemaker poured golden glasses of Vin Jaune out of its traditional clavelin bottle. The bottle, shaped a little like an old schoolteacher’s bell, holds only 620ml because that is about how much of one liter of juice remains after its long aging and oxidation. All the reading I had done on Vin Jaune included one interesting piece of advice: when you first try it, you should ignore what your senses are concluding, that the wine, with its oxidative nature and savory, nutty flavor, is bad. Instead, imagine that you are not familiar with what any wine should taste like, and sip it with an open mind.

I tell this to my family. They look dubious as they raise their glasses and sniff. I see more than one wrinkled nose. I look at the winemaker. He has seen this before: Vin Jaune is not for everyone.

We leave the tasting room. We have spent the entire day on the road and only visited one winery. As we head home, I confess that I do not yet appreciate Vin Jaune, the Jura’s most famous wine. Perhaps I just need to keep an open mind.

Paul -headshotOur guest blogger, Paul Poux, CSW, finds joy in combining food, wine and travel. Paul provides wine education ‘experiences’  to Millennials for wine brands and regions; and does marketing and sponsor management for food and wine festivals around the country. Paul’s favorite wines are Amarone and Muscadet. Tell him yours at paul@pouxcompany.com

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