The San Diego International Wine Show was held last weekend, April 26 & 27 in Del Mar, California.
I was invited to attend as both a member of the Press and as a presenter. Not quite sure which role was more fun!
This was the third year for the event and this time they did, indeed, go international, with wineries and wines from Spain, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, Chile, Argentina and, of course, France. Local representation included Napa, Sonoma, Temecula and San Diego.
For those of you who attended my seminar, "There's No Place Like Rhone!" I say thank you and hope you enjoyed such an abbreviated visit to this truly wonderful part of the wine world. Forty-five minutes goes way to fast.
If you'd like to know more about the Rhone Valley, please visit my Student Resources page where you'll find all kinds of links and information on the wines and food of the region.
I'd also like to thank KK LaFournaise for wrangling me into doing this, Donato Santarsieri, and Live Fit Magazine for their wonderful, live coverage of the event. Check out their YouTube page for a full recap.
So, what should my topics be for next year?
One of the great perks of being involved with the wine industry, in all its many permutations, is the chance to taste and learn on a continual basis.
Most of the offerings from wineries, especially larger producers or those affiliated with the more ‘corporate’ establishments, are focused on sales. After all this is the wine ‘business’ and without sales we would all in a sad state.
But every now and again an invitation appears for a more ‘educational’ experience and these are the ones that get me excited. Such was the case last month when I attended the “Sommelier Series” event sponsored by Chalone Vineyards.
The seminar was held at the stunning Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, CA. This elegant, craftsman-style resort is home, I’m told, to a legendary golf course but my focus was on the wines!
The workshop was conducted by Robert Cook, Winemaker for Chalone and Gilles de Chambure MS with a comparison tasting of several vintages from Chalone Vineyard and wines from Bourgogne.
Chalone Vineyards were first planted in 1919 by Frenchman Charles Tamm. It seems he was searching for soil that reminded him of his native Burgundy and found them in this limestone rich terrain in the shadow of Pinnacles National Monument .
Today, these are the oldest producing vineyards in Monterey County and produce award winning Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, just as Monsieur Tamm had dreamed of!
In 1966, under owner/winemaker Dick Graff, Chalone set the standard for California Chardonnay and today, although it is owned by a large corporation (Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines), the wines are still crafted with respect for both the vineyard and the distinctive terroir.
These wines certainly held their own when tasted against two delicious vintages from Burgundy and the passion of both gentlemen enhanced the experience.
I shall be writing more extensively on the terroir, history and vintages of the Chalone AVA in the near future (more on that to come - stay tuned!).
A big “Thank you” to Angela Bortugno and Lauren Watters of Chalone Vineyards for organizing a well orchestrated and classy event. Speaking to the other Sommeliers and educators, it was a terrific experience all around and Chalone should expect quite a few industry visitors in the months ahead.
Today is the one month anniversary of my becoming a CSW and the response of:
“Well, that’s great. Congratulations and what the heck is a CSW?” is the most frequent comment I’ve encountered and rightfully so.
It seems that we all get so wrapped up in our own professions that we forget that, what we think is common knowledge is really ‘Greek’ to everyone else. This is especially true in the wine world.
To clarify, CSW stands for “Certified Specialist of Wine” and is a post-nominal earned through the Society of Wine Educators.
Based in Washington DC, the SWE is “a non-profit educational organization whose mission is to advance wine education through professional development and certification” and the “Society's goal is to foster and promote the professional education and development of the individual in particular, and the professional education and development of the wine industry as a whole.”*
The test is multiple choice, 100 questions and based on the 250 page CSW Study Guide. Sounds simple enough. That was until I booked my exam date, December 6th.
Let’s just say that this little project consumed my life for about 9 weeks.
Besides the official book there were online quizzes, courtesy of the wonderful Jane Nickles (www.bubblyprofessor.com) and lots of flashcards! My IPhone voice memo app still has my dulcet tones reading the regions of Burgundy from north to south plus other tidbits of sleep depriving wine trivia. And did I mention the flashcards?
And maps- maps from the Guild of Sommelier, maps from Google, maps from - well, I’m sure you get the picture.
A few days before the exam I took some time off to attend a Guild of Sommelier Bordeaux tasting. I was speaking to one of the attendees (a “Somm” in a rather upscale San Diego restaurant) and noticed her CSW pin proudly displayed on her lapel. I mentioned that I was taking the test in two days. “You’ll be fine” she said then proceeded to tell me that she had to take the test twice as the first attempt yielded her a grade of 73, two points shy of the needed 75. Wow, great, thanks a lot!
Less than fourtyeight hours later, the deed was done. And a week after that, on December 14th, my test results were online.
Was it worth the angst and time? Most definitely. Would I do it again? In a heart beat. I ordered the workbook for the CWE the very next day!
* courtesy of the Society of Wine Educators website: www.societyofwineeducators.org
Three weeks from now, beginning July 25th, I will be sitting in a hotel conference room, surrounded by like minded wine geeks (and I use the term lovingly because I am one myself) absorbing knowledge like a giddy schoolgirl. Hopefully, this euphoria will not come just from the fantastic wines that I’ll be privileged to taste, but from the amazing symposiums I will attend.
I will take “A Fast & Deep Dive Deep into California’s Appellations”, taste “The Great Wines of Spain”, travel through “Provence: Ancient Roman Roads to Modern Biodynamics” and “Island Wines: Off the Beaten Path”.
Other session will aid me in transferring all this information to my students with “A Revolutionary Way of Teaching the Wines of France” and rev-up my seminars by going “Beyond Classes with Glasses: The Wine Educator’s Tool Belt”.
As you can tell, this is an event that I am looking forward to immensely and I can’t wait to meet all the other 381 attendees, spend three un-interrupted days sitting at those tables with a row of glasses before me and a world of wine to explore.
“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.”
John Cotton Dana
There are times in this life when an opportunity presents itself and one would be a fool to look the other way.
Such an opportunity appeared in my inbox recently - an invitation from the French Wine Society to attend a tasting of Chateauneuf du Pape and Tavel, to be held in Los Angeles.
My first reaction was "yes, oui, where do I RSVP' Although I realized would spend more time in my car than at the seminar, I knew that every mile would be worth the experience.
It was described as a "Master Class" to be conducted by Kelly McAuliffe, one of the few, if not only, American Sommelier living and working in France. Yes, his credentials and experience are impressive, but his complete and total passion for the soil, the grapes, the winemakers and the wines of this illustrious region is awe-inspiring.
In my years spent talking about wine, I know how challenging it can be to keep it fresh and exciting when answering the same question for the zillionth time.
Yes, the wines were magical and I will write about them soon, but I would be remiss in not thanking the Society for this terrific day.
Merci, Monsieur McAuliffe for reminding me why I love what I do!
Wine lover, educator and writer.