Guest Post: Pearson VUE Testing – A Candidate’s View!

Today we have a guest post by a recent CSW candidate who has generously agreed to share her Pearson VUE testing experience with us! Hopefully this will give all you CSW and CSS aspirants out there a realistic, personal insight into what you can expect from a Pearson VUE test.  In a nutshell:  it’s great!

computer keyboardOur intrepid reporter goes by the code name “Candi” Candidate, CSW. (Spoiler alert:  she passed!) Read on to hear Candi’s experience, and her useful tips as well:

I began studying for the CSW exam in January, 2014. By early May, I decided that late May would be my target time for the test. Conveniently, the remote testing option at Pearson VUE became available, so I scheduled my test on the first day that the scheduling was “live.” Without my Pearson VUE option, the nearest test site would have been about 50 miles away, with unpredictable traffic. Pearson VUE, with choice of location, date, and time, was a much better alternative.

My test site was 10 miles from my home. I was able to schedule my first choice of date and location with about 2 weeks’ notice.

As suggested, I arrived 30 minutes before the scheduled test time. Upon arrival, I learned that I was the first CSW candidate at this test site. I was the alpha! Once the identification and security process was complete, I was able to begin testing early.

Testing was done in a room with about 12 small cubicles. I chose to use the provided noise-canceling headset. Dead silence. I received instructions on the testing software via a short tutorial program. The tutorial will review your options for proceeding with the test. The software was straightforward; if you’ve taken online tests or even Internet quizzes before, you can easily do it.

Everyone has their own test-taking strategy. I chose to take my time, answer every question, and then review all of my answers. Answering all of the questions took 40-45 minutes, reviewing took about 10 minutes, and I submitted my answers with about 5 minutes to spare. Done! Deep breath!

Computer Testing CenterAfter leaving the testing room, I went back to the area where I initially checked in. There, I was given a 2-page printout of the results. Immediate feedback! My eyes focused on two words in the middle of the page: GRADE: PASS.

Another deep breath! A big smile to the friendly guy who checked me in and out!

Would I use the Pearson VUE testing option again? Absolutely. Convenient location and scheduling. Professional staff. Simple testing software. And did I mention immediate feedback?

Based on my experience, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Verify driving directions. I received directions with my scheduling confirmation, but they were not as specific as typical online driving directions. Since you may be driving under (ahem) some stress, why not get more information before test day?
  2. Expect tight security. The Pearson VUE experience included detailed identity verification, a candidate photograph, multiple palm prints, demonstrating that my pockets were empty, and video/audio monitoring in the testing room. While this may seem like overkill, Pearson VUE provides a wide range of testing for many organizations. It appears that all candidates are subjected to the same, rigorous procedure. Personally, the worst part was being photographed. I did not see the photograph. I did not want to see the photograph. I am sure it was just as charming as the one that appears on my driver’s license.
  3. Follow Pearson VUE instructions. Your confirmation will tell you what is needed and what is not allowed. After my identity was confirmed, I was required to secure all items in a provided locker. I was allowed one form of ID in the testing room.   Nothing, and I mean nothing, else was allowed.
  4. champagne toastUse the tutorial. While the software seemed simple to me, why not take advantage of everything available to help you along the way?
  5. Develop a plan. You will have 100 questions to answer within 60 minutes. The tutorial will show you your options for proceeding. What worked for me might not be your best strategy. Just as everyone learns differently, everyone tests differently.
  6. Consider using the SWE’s Online Academy. I found that this resource was effective preparation for online testing in a timed situation. Practice helped.

Now, time to celebrate with a special glass of vin/vinho/vino/wein/wine. Cheers!

Click here for more information on CSS and CSW Exams at Pearson.

June 2014 SWEbinars!

Swebinar in the grassJune 2014 SWEbinars

Our series of CSS and CSW review SWEbinars continues in June! These sessions are free and open to the public!

This month we are pleased to host a session on Gin (chapter 3 in the CSS Study Guide). This is sure to be a fascinating session for CSS students and cocktail fans alike! Gin is a traditional spirit with a ribald history, and as such it is enjoying renewed popularity in today’s “craft cocktail” scene. The Gin session will be held on Wednesday, June 4th at 12 Noon central time.

For CSW students, Jane Nickles CSS, CWE, will be hosting two sessions all about the wines of Italy (chapter 10 in the CSW Study Guide). Jane’s sessions are entitled “The Italian Grape Game” and will be a lively way for you to test your knowledge of Italy’s wines and wine regions. You are advised to read and study chapter 10 of the CSW Study Guide in advance – this is glass-to-glass competition! These sessions will be held on Saturday, June 7th at 10 am central time and Friday, June 20th at noon central time.

Below you will find the details on these sessions, as well as the links to each of the sessions.

Login Instructions:  At the appointed time, just click on the link.  (Links will be attached to the date and time announcement of each session in the list below and will go “live” a few days before the scheduled date.) 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!

SWebinar in the gardenIf you have never attended an Adobe Connect event before, it is also a good idea to test your connection ahead of time.

June 2014:

Click here for the 2014 SWEbinar Calendar

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

 

Guest Blogger: Alsace – The Unheralded King of White Wines!

Rue Mercière in Strasbourg

Rue Mercière in Strasbourg

Today we have a guest post from Houston-based Wine Educator James Barlow, CS, CWE. James article is all about the glory that is Alsatian wine – and an attempt to understand why more wine professionals and consumers alike don’t seem to truly appreciate this unique wine region.

In my humble opinion, Alsace is, unequivocally, one of the best producers of white wine in the world.

And yet, I have worked in wine retail industry for a decade and have often scratched my head at lack of Alsatian sales.  The region seems to play second fiddle to Germany and other white wine producing areas in France.

There’s no argument that Alsatian wines are an enigma – first and foremost for the mere fact that it is the only region in France that puts the varietal on the front label. But somehow, this does not lead the American consumer to gravitate more towards these wines.  Sommeliers and retailers alike often note that the wines of Alsace are a niche hand sell.  The question is why?

It could be due to the common misperception that Alsace produces wines that are light and sweet; in reality, they are, for the most part, dry and full bodied. It could also be that all of us – consumers and wine professionals alike – just need to take a closer look at Alsace and its long history of vine and wine.

Alsace SceneThe region has exchanged hands between France and Germany several times and even had its independence for a brief period.  It is separated from the rest of France by the Vosges Mountains in the west.  Most vineyards are located in a long thin strand throughout the foothills of the Vosges.  This mountain range gives Alsace a unique ‘rain shadow’ effect which makes it one of the driest climates in all of France.  Colmar, the capital of the Haut Rhin, is the driest city in France.

Alsace is divided into two departments, the Haut-Rhin and Bas-Rhin with the former housing over two-thirds of the regions Grand Cru vineyards.  There are 51 Grand Crus overall with Kaefferkopf being the latest addition in 2006.  The Grand Cru vineyards are typically located on south or southeasterly exposures which give the vines ample sunlight to reach phenolic ripeness.  Most Grand Crus require 100% single varietal wines produced from one of the four noble varietals, which include Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris, and Gewurztraminer. Grand Cru vineyards have strict requirements as to minimum must weight, alcohol, and hand harvesting.

Alsace is a kaleidoscope of soil structures with ‘gres de Vosges’ pink sandstone being the most famous. The higher elevation villages are generally composed of schist, granite and volcanic sediment, whereas the lower villages typically are more clay over limestone based.  The plains consist of richer more alluvial clay and gravel soils.

White varietals are 90% of the production of wine in Alsace, which in turn are dominated by the four noble grapes.  These wines are markedly different than those of neighboring Germany.  Alsatian wines are typically fermented dry, whereas the Germans have a classically sweeter appeal.  The dry wines of Alsace can be some of the most food friendly wine in the world, especially with spicy cuisine. They have higher alcohol while retaining excellent acidity which makes them some of the longest lived white wines in the world.

Half-timbered houses in ColmarAlsace is the one region on Earth where these four noble white grapes are at their richest and most voluptuous expressions.  Alsatian Rieslings are some of the more powerful expressions of the varietal produced.  They are amongst the longest lived dry whites in the world with a plethora of acidity and minerality to go with the higher alcohol content.  Zind Humbrecht Riesling Brand Grand Cru is a stellar example with Master of Wine Olivier Humbrecht at the helm.  He is an ardent believer in biodynamics and the terroir really shows in the wines produced.  One might note that the residual sugars have been creeping up in recent years.

Pinot Gris (formerly Tokay d’Alsace) thrives in Alsace.  In fact, this region may have the most complex expression of the varietal in the world.  The Pinot Grigios of Italy are typically light and tart, whereas Pinot Gris in Alsace tends to exude a rich, round mouth feel with just a touch of residual sugar and higher alcohol.  Trimbach is one of the better producers.  They make a moderately priced Reserve Pinot Gris that is full bodied and power packed full of delicious tropical fruits, crushed rocks, and poignant acids.

Gewurztraminer is a pink skinned variety that shows excellent aromatics and spiciness combined with a round, textured mouth feel and spectacular minerality when grown in Alsace.  Gewurz, meaning spice in German, is believed to have been first encountered in the German speaking town of Tramin located in northern Italy, and thus the complicated name.  Gewurztraminer is usually sweeter than Riesling and offers perfumed bouquets of white flowers and rich tropical fruits.  Domaine Weinbach’s Gewurztraminer Altenbourg Cuvee Laurence offers one of the best versions of this dynamic variety.

Street Corner in Strasbourg

Street Corner in Strasbourg

Muscat is more distinguished here than its counterparts throughout France.  Alsatian Muscat offers grapey, floral notes that can be appreciated in a young wine, but can also produce some age-worthy dessert wines. Selection de Grains Nobles is a wine produced from botrytised grapes.  This only occurs in perfect weather conditions, so the wines are quite rare.  These wines are fully sweet and can be aged indefinitely.  They are considered some of the best dessert wines in the world.  Marcel Deiss is a stunning producer of not only Muscat but all the noble varietals in the Selection de Grains Nobles style.

I believe the average consumer’s misunderstanding of the Alsatian wines keeps them from delving fully into its wines.  The stigma that is haunting Alsace must be changed. It must be up to the wine professionals who are in love with these exquisite wines to slowly but surely teach the modern, wine-savvy consumer to fall in love with Alsace – the unheralded king of white wines.

Our guest author, James Barlow, CS, CWE, is a wine director of over 6,000 wines labels for a store owned by Spec’s Fine Wines and Liquors in Houston, Texas.   He is also the author of the widely recognized wine blog thewineepicure.com.  James is also a recent recipient of the CWE Certification (Congratulations, James!) and as such has taken on the duty of teaching the Certified Specialist of Wine course to fellow employees in hopes of having the best educated staff in the state of Texas. Way to go, James!

Click here to return to the SWE Website.

 

Conference Preview: On the Wine Routes of Europe with Thomas Jefferson

Today we have a guest post from Linda Lawry, CWE, DWS. Linda is always one of the most popular speakers at our SWE Conferences. In this postLinda tells us a bit about her upcoming conference session entitled “On the Wine Routes of Europe with Thomas Jefferson.”

TJWine from long habit has become indispensable to my health.”           - Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States, was a multi-faceted genius whose numerous areas of expertise ranged from architecture to zoology.  His passion for wine, while largely  neglected by historians, is one of the most fascinating aspects of his persona.

Jefferson’s journals and correspondence contain many references to wine, including detailed critiques of the wines he tasted.  He may, in fact, have been American’s first wine critic.

In 1787, while he was living in France as a representative the Untied States government, Jefferson took a three-month tour of many of the wine regions of France, Italy, and Germany.  He traveled incognito, so that he could learn what life was really like in these regions, and so that he would not have to spend his time in formal dinners with the aristocracy. He sought out vine growers and winemakers as well as the “common man and woman” living in the various wine regions.

Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's Virginia Plantation

Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Plantation

Lucky for us modern-day wine lovers, Jefferson kept an extensive diary of his adventures in the wine regions of Europe, charting his travels as well as his opinions on quality and character of the inns, the food, the architecture, and of course, the wines he tasted. His diaries are a fascinating insight into the wine world of the 18th century, and of the character and persona of this complex and charming man.

At the 2014 SWE conference in Seattle this August, I will give a program on Jefferson’s European wine adventure. We will taste wines from the regions he visited, including some of the very same wines he tasted back then, which (lucky for us), are still being produced today.

Linda Lawry, CWE, DWS, is the Director of the International Wine Center in New York City. She is also on the faculty of New York University, where she has been teaching the Wine and Spirits Studies course in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies since 1997. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Society of Wine Educators, a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, and program co-chair of the Culinary Historians of New York. Linda graduated with honors from the New York Restaurant School, holds the WSET Diploma, and is a Certified Wine Educator.

Linda’s session, “On the Wine Routes of Europe with Thomas Jefferson,” will be held on Thursday, August 14, at 1:15 pm as part of the 38th Annual Conference of the Society of Wine Educators.

Click here to return to the SWE Main Website.

 

By Popular Demand: New CSW Online Prep Class Online Starts June 16!

wine online 8Due to the overwhelming response to our first guided, 12-week, online review course for CSW Candidates, we will be offering another class section, starting on June 16th. This class will be led by SWE’s Director of Education, Jane A. Nickles, CSS, CWE.

The course will include weekly “live online” course sessions (tentatively scheduled for Wednesday evenings at 7:00 central), reading assignments, workbook assignments, and “check-out quizzes.”  Required textbooks include the 2014 CSW Study Guide and Workbook. The course is free for Professional Members of SWE who have a current CSW Exam Credit.

Participants will be limited to the first 100 qualified applicants, so if you are interested in this opportunity please send an email to Miss Jane at:  jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

Please note that the class will take a short “hiatus” the week of August 10 -16, when we will all be at the SWE Conference!

Click here to return to the SWE Website.

Conference Preview: The Art and Science of Bourbon Whiskey

John Breckon, CSS

John Breckon, CSS

Today we have a Conference Preview from John Breckon, CSS, and Cameron Bogue. John and Cameron will be giving their session, The Art and Science of Bourbon Whiskey, on Friday, August 15th at 1:15 pm. Read on for John’s preview of the session…it sounds like a riot, and I – for one – will be there! 

Read on to hear what John and Cameron have to say about their session…

Cameron Bogue, "The Other"

Cameron Bogue, “The Other”

When you love bourbon you jump at opportunities to share your passion and “ah-hem” have a little taste with friends.  So when the Society of Wine Educators asked their CSS alumni to speak with some of their peeps we said “hell yeah!”  We’re Bourbon-loving hospitality professionals that love to share our passion for Bourbon with the unsuspecting public.

One of us, John Breckon, CSS, passionately represents, educates, and promotes Brown-Forman spirits.

The “other,” Cameron Bogue, is a veteran in the bar industry…Cameron’s career began last century tending bar in Whistler, BC, Canada. His passion for adventure led him across the globe discovering new bar techniques, flavors, and reinvigorating his desire to create delicious new cocktails.

John and Cameron -  "The Fabulous Bourbon Boys"

John and Cameron – “The Fabulous Bourbon Boys”

Given the current New World/Old world whisky/whiskey craze, we thought we’d have some fun and present the “ying and yang’ of bourbon whiskey to you all. We call our presentation “The Art and Science of Bourbon.”

This is an educational and fun seminar that will expand your knowledge of Bourbon, distinguish the legends and lore and allow you to have a taste of Woodford Reserve bourbon neat, stirred, and as James Bond prefers…shaken.

Cameron will present these three different drink expressions/styles so your palate can experience and explore the wonderful range of flavors and mouth-feel that this awesome spirit can deliver…Bourbon-licious!

We hope to see you there, cheers!

For more information on SWE’s 38th Annual Conference, click here.

To return to the SWE Website, click here.

 

 

 

Next SWEbinar: Wednesday, May 14th!

French Wine StoreAre you crazy?  That’s what everyone asked me when I told them I was offering a one-hour SWEbinar on the wines of France (Chapter 9 in the CSW Study Guide). It’s a good question, and I agree – it would be crazy to try and cover the wines of France in an hour. So perhaps it would be best to describe this session as an overview on the wines of France, some background information that might help you understand the overall subject of the wines of France and – the most valuable part of the session, in my opinon – some advice on how to study the wines of France.

If a CSW exam is in your future, or you are just interested in how to study the wines of France, be sure and join us for our next SWEbinar - offered for free and open to the public - on Wednesday, May 14th at 10:00 am (central time).

Suggested drink-along beverages include Pouilly-Fumé, Diet Coke, Red Bull and Espresso!!

Please note that Miss Jane has a handout for this session, so if you plan on attending and would like one, please send her an email at: jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

Logon Instructions:  At the appointed time, just click on the link below.  When the SWE Adobe Connect homepage appears, click on “enter as a guest,” type in your name, and click “enter room.”

You do not need to sign up or register for this event ahead of time, however, keep in mind 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!

If you have never attended an Adobe Connect event before, it is also a good idea to test your connection ahead of time.

Wednesday, May 14 – 1o:oo am Central Time - CSW Chapter 9 – The Wines of France – hosted by Jane A. Nickles, CSS, CWE

Click here for the 2014 SWEbinar Calendar

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

 

 

Conference Preview: Tasting Mastery

Today we have a Conference Preview from Tim Gaiser, MS. Tim will be giving his Tasting Mastery session on Wednesday, August 13th at 1:15 pm. Read on for Tim’s take on what this session is all about!

My tasting “Tasting Mastery” seminar is all about best practices.  In my session I’ll introduce strategies for all aspects of tasting taken from my interviews with Master Sommeliers, Masters of Wine, Certified Wine Educators, and other top industry professionals over the last several years.  We’ll explore the strategies of these top tasters, in particular their methods for establishing a deep focused state of concentration needed for successful tasting, developing a highly acute sense of smell and taste memory, accurately calibrating structural elements, and building complex internal wine maps.  In addition we’ll go through exercises to explore all these strategies which can be quickly learned and replicated.

Tim Gaiser 9_23_13128343Tim Gaiser is a nationally renowned wine expert and Master Sommelier.  From 2003 to 2011 he served as the Education Chair and the Education Director for the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas.  He has also served as an adjunct professor for the Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley. Tim has experience in all phases of the wine industry – online, wholesale, retail, winery, and restaurant – including stints at Heitz Wine Cellars in the Napa Valley and Bix and Cypress Club restaurants in San Francisco.  He has developed wine education programs for restaurants, winery schools and wine distributors; and taught classes on wine and spirits at every level of education.  Prior to developing his wine expertise, Tim received an M.A. in Classical Music from the University of Michigan. He played classical trumpet as a freelance professional and as an extra with the San Francisco Opera.

Click here to return to the SWE Website

Conference Preview 2014: Aging Gracefully

Aging GracefullyToday we have a guest post from the Very Reverend Paul M. Bailey, who also happens to be a CWE.  Rev. Bailey will be presenting a session entitled “Aging Gracefully” at SWE’s upcoming conference in Seattle, and he’s here to tell us all about it!

The future, some say, is getting old.  That’s not altogether true, of course, but what is true is that significant numbers of our population—known as the Baby Boomers—will be retiring in the next twenty years.  I know; I’m one of them.

Some members of that huge population will be retiring into Continuing Care Retirement Communities.   Retirement communities like this exist throughout America (I am privileged to serve on the Board of Directors of one of them), and they are remarkable places, providing comfortable living spaces, excellent dining, a variety of activities that keep people up and going—they really do epitomize communities of care and interconnection.

The residents are economically comfortable, eager to learn new things, and have time to pursue them.  And they represent a largely, maybe entirely, untapped venue for wine education and sales.  Now, at the beginning of this wave of retirements, is the time to begin turning our attention toward the opportunities provided by these communities.

This largely untapped market for wine education will be examined at a session during SWE’s Seattle Conference coming up this August. The session, called “Aging Gracefully” will examine how these Retirement Communities work, take a look at how a wine program has been established in one such community, and consider how participants might take the idea into their own local communities.

If you are a wine educator looking for new opportunities, this is the session for you! As this is new territory, all ideas and reflections are welcome as we explore the possibilities offered in the coming years by association with retirement communities!

The Very Reverend Paul M. Bailey is Rector of Grace Memorial Episcopal Church in Hammond, Louisiana.  A graduate of the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1993.  He is a graduate of contemplative leadership programs at the Shalem Institute and provides leadership for retreats, workshops, and quiet days.  He also serves on the Board of Directors at Christwood Retirement Community in Covington, Louisiana.  He has a long-standing interest in and love for all things enological (as well as theological) and holds SWE’s Certified Wine Educator (CWE) designation.

We are live at Pearson Vue Testing Centers!

Pearson is aliveAfter months of preparation, SWE is pleased to announce that our CSS and CSW Exams are ready, published, and awaiting candidates at Pearson Testing Centers worldwide!

Candidates have begun receiving their authorization emails and can now make appointments for the CSS and CWE exams at the testing center of their choice. The first exams are scheduled for 9:00 am on Monday, May 5th. (I have an appointment for the CSW Exam on Wednesday, May 7th at 10:00 am, at a Pearson Vue Testing Center two miles from my house – I’d better start studying now.)

With each new purchase of a CSS or CSW Exam through the SWE website, candidates will receive an “authorization to test” email from Pearson Vue. Candidates may then use this letter, and the “Candidate ID number” it contains, to make an appointment at a Pearson Vue Center for their exam. If you have previously purchased your exam, and would like to test at Pearson, please email Ben Coffelt of the SWE Home Office and he will arrange to have the information sent to you.

Click here for the SWE “Landing Page” on Pearson Vue’s website.  You’ll find all the information you need to locate a testing center near year, make an appointment, and prepare for your exam on SWE’s landing page.

Click here for a step-by-step visual guide to How to sign up for a Pearson Vue Exam-SWE .

If you have any questions or comments concerning the CSS and CSW Exams at Pearson Vue Testing Centers, please contact Jane A. Nickles, our Director of Education, at jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org.

Good luck with your studies!