First off, thank you all for your patience in between updates. There is so much going on at work and home that it seems to be increasingly difficult to even think about writing a weekly blog for you. Nonetheless, all is well and I have to say that studying and tasting for my upcoming Certified exam has actually helped me stay sane through all that is happening. I am within four months of the exam at this point so it is time for me to focus and just keep at it because we all know, “slow and steady wins the race” and I am here to win my friends. Here is what I’ve been doing to prepare myself over the last few weeks:
I recently finished studying my way through all of Northern Italy’s sub-regions: Piedmont, Lombardy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto, Fruili-Venezia Giulia; what a relief it was to get through all of those regions! Italy has some amazing wines and history too but it has always been a country that I have avoided diving into. It is such a fragmented system they have for their wine laws, the language is difficult for me to understand, and they use mostly indigenous grapes unlike many other countries that use more of the international varietals that we are all familiar with (Ex: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Chardonnay, etc…) All of that is part of what makes Italy unique which is awesome, it’s just daunting to get into. This week I am studying everything about Tuscany (located in Central Italy) which is famous for their Super-Tuscan blends that we American’s love so much. More to come on that…
Beyond studying one new region at a time, it is important to keep reviewing all of the other regions I’ve already covered so I reached out to Nico (my Southern Rep.) for help. Nico is French and has lived in most of the major wine growing regions of France and a few other countries as well, so what better person to help me prepare for this exam? We get together about once a week and he has helps me with pronunciations, translating, geography, wine laws, etc. It’s always a good time.
In addition to meeting with Nico, I get together with the Cork Dorks every Sunday morning for flashcard review. I have the ladies bring in all of their flashcards, mix them up and fire away! The goal is to go through as many as possible in an hour and ideally get a majority of them right. This exercise is great because I get pulled from country to country in a short period of time which is exactly how the theory exam will be. The faster I can get at this (while getting the questions right of course) the easier the exam will be.
To be honest, this is still an area that I am not overly focused on right now. I continue to open as many bottles as I can at work but those opportunities are few and far between. My plan is to incorporate service into my studies once I get back from my trip to Sonoma and Napa next month. I will most likely buy a case (or two) of cheap sparkling wine and practice at home with my husband or maybe get the Cork Dorks together so I can practice with them since they have both been through the exam and know what is expected.
The other part of service is knowing cocktails and that is something I am not comfortable with right now. In order to help build my cocktail knowledge, I am going to force myself to get behind the bar on Sunday nights for at least an hour and make some of the classics like Martini, Manhattan, Old Fashioned, etc. If I do that each week leading into the exam I should be just fine.
Blind tasting is more of a mental game than anything else for me at this point. When I can relax my mind and just have fun with the blind I actually do a good job, it’s when I into the blind feeling anxious about the wines that I don’t perform very well. Just last week I figured out that I can focus better mentally when I take my glasses off and don’t make eye contact while I am tasting the wines. I know that sounds really quirky but it helps me get to where I need to be.
Now that I am getting better at focusing this has become my favorite part of the preparing for the exam. Up until two weeks ago I was not getting any of the wines right when I would blind and now I am at least getting a consistent 50% of the wines correct all the way through the grid! This may not sound that exciting to some of you but it is really cool when you can look, smell, and taste a wine and nail the vintage, climate, region, and grape varietal that is in the glass. I am very proud of myself to say the least.
I have been to a few luncheons with individual winemakers at a some really cool, local restaurants around downtown Denver over the past 3 weeks. Stoic & Genuine was my favorite restaurant because we had some amazing seafood paired with several killer Albariño’s from Bodegas Castro Martin, it was such a good day! Not to mention, the husband and wife team who owns the winery was quite lively and fun to talk to.
Currently working on writing the spring/summer wine list at work which is probably my favorite part of my job. I love having the vendors come to me with all of their wines and we taste/talk about the wine and why it tastes the way it does, soil types, vinification methods, etc. It is also a great chance for me to continue building my network of like minded people that are willing to help me reach my goals on down the road.
Starting next week rosé wines are hitting the market hard so there are more trade tastings that I will be attending in addition to more luncheon’s and private dinner parties, oh what a life I live.
I would just like to say thank you for following me on my journey to become a Master Sommelier, it means so much to have your support. Please be sure to leave a comment and subscribe to my blog so you can stay up to date on all of my latest adventures!