I’m a Vintner!

I got to check out this great Blend Your Own Bordeaux competition last week.  Wasn’t sure what all this would entail other than wine and some form of mixing.  This took place at American Eats Tavern, just outside of DC, and was in the company of Master Sommelier Andy Myers and Barboursville Vineyards Chief Sommelier Jason Tesauro.

The evening started off with some bubbly and intros and then the rundown on what had to be done.

IMG_3336

IMG_3339(that’s the Master Somm)

IMG_3331

IMG_3332

We had four varietals to play with (Merlot, Cab Franc, Cab Sauv and Nebbiolo) and we would taste them and play with each to determine how much of each we wanted to combine to make our own perfect blend.  It was a chemistry class with all the toys we had, too.

IMG_3376[1]

In our instructions, we received definitions of each piece, percentages for mixing and what all we could do.

IMG_3374[1]Playtime!!!!

IMG_3341

IMG_3348You could not just plug the pipette with your thumb to fill it.  You had to actually suck on it to get a good amount in there.

IMG_3351

IMG_3375[1]After determining your best (personal) blend based on taste and trial & error, it was bottling time.  You also had to label it to the best of your ability.

winelabel

IMG_3352The after-shock was quite a mess.

IMG_3347

We were told when we started blending that there would be awards for the best wines.  Jason from Barboursville was the main taster/judge of the wines, while Andy and the Somm from American Eats also took part.  They had 15 or so wines to judge…the rough life of wine folks.

After their long-lasting time of judging they had some announcements to make.  Much to my surprise, I had a podium finish!!!  I brought home the bronze medal.  That meant great bragging rights, my wine and a bottle of Barboursville vino.  I am now a vintner.  What more could I ask for?

IMG_3362

Cicerone

While continuing my great getaway in Colorado and enjoying some brews at Fort Collins Brewery yesterday, it came to me — if the wine industry has sommeliers, does the beer industry have the same?  So, of course I can’t stay quiet when I have such a question.  I asked our bartender what he knew about the topic, and he provided the info. You definitely learn something new everyday.

Those who taste and critique the brews aim for/earn the title of Cicerone. Other than the basic name, let me help you find out a bit more about it.  All info below is taken directly/verbatim/copied & pasted from the Cicerone Certification Program website.

cicerone_logoLogo source: cicerone.org

What is a Cicerone?

The word Cicerone (pronounced sis-uh-rohn) has been chosen to designate those with proven expertise in selecting, acquiring and serving today’s wide range of beers.

What is the origin of the word Cicerone? 

Cicerone is an English word referring to “one who conducts visitors and sightseers to museums and explains matters of archaeological, antiquarian, historic or artistic interest.” A Certified or Master Cicerone® possesses the knowledge and skills to guide those interested in beer culture, including its historic and artistic aspects. These titles now designate a person with demonstrated expertise in beer who can guide consumers to enjoyable and high-quality experiences with great beer.

In the wine world, the word “sommelier” designates those with proven expertise in selecting, acquiring and serving fine wine. At one time, some beer servers adopted the title “beer sommelier” to tie into the credibility of the wine world. But in the years since its founding, the Cicerone Certification Program has become the industry standard for identifying those with significant knowledge and professional skills in beer sales and service.

I passed!

In the fall I took the WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) II wine course (which I posted about after each class) through the Capital Wine School.  We learned about wine, from start to finish, how to smell it, taste it, know it, rate it, x, y, z.  Then, there’s of course a test when you take a course.  This thing was hard.  I hadn’t studied for an exam for awhile (at least a non-open book one) and you would think studying about wine would be fun.  I didn’t get around to making flashcards, but was close (and some people did).  I studied for hours and it was a multiple choice test!  When all was said and done, I passed.  I have know successfully completed the WSET II Course.  Debating III…it’s pricey and apparently that test it even worse.  Multiple choice, essay and blind tasting.  But, we’ll see, it could be fun.  Taste on, my friends, taste on.

WSETCertificate

Somm

20131223-161423.jpg

While on a flight today I had the chance to check out a movie I hadn’t heard of, on a topic I love – wine! The name — Somm.

It’s about four sommeliers who attempt to pass the (prestigious) Master Sommelier exam, a test with one of the lowest pass rates in the world. The movie’s about 90 minutes and goes through their lives while they study for the test and highlights other somms (that’s what they are, don’t use that multi-syllabic word, it’s old-school in their world).

After taking the WSET course it was so fun/interesting to watch this and understand a tiny bit what they were going through. Apparently some people take this test many times and don’t pass. There are very few Master Sommeliers in the world.

Totally check out this movie of you have 90 minutes to spare.

Cheers to the MS and happy holidays!

Wine Class/School

Last week I has my first, of five, classes with the Capital Wine School for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 Award.  Going to school for wine?  What more could one ask?  There are a variety of people in the class, from wine distributors looking to learn about products, caterers, retirees pursuing their passions of wine and getting background for potential work in wine stores and others of us just learning more about wine for kicks.

During the first session, we learned about various elements of wine, from environment to storage.  But the primary focus was the Systematic Approach to Tasting Wine.  Before you taste the wine, you have to analyze several aspects of it, with specific, pre-identified terms for each level.

Appearance — clarity, intensity, color.  For this, you always want to have the wine against a white background.

IMG_1569

Nose — condition, intensity, aroma characteristics (you use the characteristics below).  Swirling is optional, personal preference, but what do you have to lose?

Next, the fun part — tasting the wine!  They like to call it palate. There are several areas to determine/analyze here — sweetness, acidity, tannin, body, flavor characteristics, finish.

For the Aroma and flavor characteristics, there are many of them to base it/them on:

Floral/fruit — floral, green fruit, citrus fruit, stone fruit, tropical fruit, red fruit, black fruit, dried fruit

Spice/Vegetable — underripeness, herbaceous, herbal, vegetable, sweet spice, pungent spice

Oak/other — simplicity/neutrality, autolytic, dairy, oak, kernel, animal, maturity, mineral

Conclusions — quality

What was interesting to learn while doing this is that you have a blank palate — you do not lean a certain way.  It is what is present in the wine.  You might not like the wine, but it’s the flavor, aromas, characteristics, x,y,z that are there.  You analyze that wine to present it to the innocent bystander who is looking for a ‘wine that will pair with ‘this” or a wine with ‘x flavors.’

We tasted 6 wines last week.  They provide you with spit/dump buckets and water so you could keep going strong.

#1  2012 Mara White Grass Sauvignon Blanc

IMG_1567

#2 2010 Robert Mondavi Chardonnay

IMG_1568

#3  2011 Karl Erbes Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett

IMG_1571

#4 2011 Henry Fessy Morgon Cru Beaujolais

IMG_1573

#5  2010 Cousino-Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon

IMG_1574

#6 2011 Bodegas Volver Tarima Mourvedre (Monastrell)

IMG_1575

As mentioned earlier, it was tough to say, ‘this was a good wine,’ because there are a few that I put personal notes about what NOT buy at the store.  But it is so neat to start learning about what goes into what sommeliers learn when they provide you all the info on the grapes we enjoy.

Class #2 is later this week.  So, more to come.