Southbound to Austin, TX

The best part about being a wine-geek is [without a doubt] the ongoing set of new things you discover, taste, experience, and learn about on the journey to full-blown wine nerd.  I’ve lately become a huge fan of the history in Washington and the juicy, impressive wines the region is producing.  And, who’s with me on this – it’s just FUN to say Walla Walla.

On the topic of grape growing and in particular, Washington – I find the words of Karen MacNeil out of her 2nd edition Wine Bible especially on point, not to mention actually, very exciting:

 “Most of the world’s classic grapes can grow in lots of places, but each has a kind of spiritual home – a place (or sometimes places) where that grape can ascend beyond what is merely good and be transformed into stunning wine.  In the 1990s, Washington State, much to most wine drinkers’ surprise, emerged as one of the great spiritual homes of cabernet sauvignon and merlot.  The phenomenon was startling, for only a dozen or so years earlier most winemakers’ hopes were pinned on gewürztraminer, chardonnay, and other white grapes that filled the vineyards. As it turns out these grapes (still widely grown in Washington) make good wine there…. What you notice immediately about Washington Cabernets and Merlots is the concentration of the wines.  It almost seems as though, by some magical osmosis, they’ve been infused with the PRIMAL LUSH BERRYNESS of WILD NORTHWEST blackberries, boysenberries, raspberries and cherries.”

SWOON.

When I think Cabernet, especially top-tier cabernets, conventional wisdom immediately and almost always points me directly to Napa where 55% of the crop population is exactly that – Cabernet.  Then again, I admit my lack of formal knowledge and realize that as a new(er) region, Washington has so much to offer.

Being self-taught in any topic is going to present it challenges.  For me on this wine journey over the past several months, this has manifested into disorganized study which effect can be expressed in my failure of the modern-day colloquialism to “work smarter, not harder”.

With my readjusted timeline to pass level one before June of 2018, I’ve got no more time to waste and I need to study in a formal setting.

Enter Austin, Texas this November.  I’ll take my first wine Masterclass in an actual setting amongst my fellow Guild members.

In this masterclass, MS Chris Tanghe will lead a tour of the wine regions of his home state of Washington. In its relatively short history as a winemaking region, Washington has achieved success in a wide range of varieties and styles as the country’s second largest producer of vinifera wines.  The class will accompany tastings, of course, and hopefully lead me to an expanded network of wine students, or better yet as I seek my own, a new group of wine nerds.

 

The Major Reds, Major Whites

Allow me to introduce the stars of the show.  By collection of name only.  As I study each of these beauties, expect a fleshy blog post, devoting to each its own time in the spotlight.

Major White Grape Varieties:

  1. Albariño
  2. Assyrtiko
  3. Chardonnay
  4. Chenin Blanc
  5. Grüner Veltliner
  6. Gewurztraminer
  7. Marsanne
  8. Melon de Bourgogne
  9. Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains
  10. Pinot Grigio (Gris)
  11. Riesling
  12. Roussanne
  13. Sauvignon Blanc
  14. Sémillon
  15. Torrontés
  16. Viognier

Major Red Grape Varieties:

  1. Aglianico
  2. Barbera
  3. Cabernet Franc
  4. Cabernet Sauvignon
  5. Carmenère
  6. Corvina
  7. Gamay
  8. Grenache
  9. Malbec
  10. Merlot
  11. Mourvèdre
  12. Nebbiolo
  13. Pinot Noir
  14. Pinotage
  15. Sangiovese
  16. Syrah/Shiraz
  17. Tempranillo
  18. Zinfandel

 

What I’ve learned so far. Or rather, not learned.

How about a little humble pie for Sunday morning brunch, say you?  I’ve just had a hot, steaming pile of it friends, and trust me – it’s not tasty.

The gap of passionately drinking, sharing and loving ALL things of the wine world versus becoming a student of wine in order to think and drink like a professional, is a proverbial Grand Canyon of distance that I’ve set myself out to cover.  Let me try my best to paint the picture of my current reality:

I’ve just spent the morning studying basic entry questions, completing a timed multiple choice format sample level one exam.  Some of the questions:

  • What year was the Judgement of Paris?
  • Assemble the following four AVAs as they appear from North to South
  • The Los Carneros AVA is split by which of the following two counties?
  • What is the most planted grape in the Willamette Valley?
  • Which type of wine is a Sauternes?
  • Which type of wine is a Châteauneuf-du-Pape?

Scoring barely 70% on the practice exam taught me this: what I have learned so far, is that I know nothing at all.  I need to study smarter and more in order to pass level one, and I am already behind the timeline due to an unavoidable delay into the world of essential oils.  A worthy digression for health and wellness issues, but I am back to my passion in wine study and feeling repentant for missed time. Wine study requires MOMENTUM.  Like muscle memory, your senses WILL get dull if you break pattern, which I did. Now I understand the flashcard bonfire that Brian McClintic had after passing Master in February of 2011.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”  

~ Albert Einstein

Time to pull myself up by the wine stem and get back to the books.  Setting new targets for a Washington Masterclass in Austin, TX this November.  Should help with networking, confidence, and I could use the reality boost of getting out of my own mind and into the presence of working wine professionals.

In the wine world, if you do not have a passion, you will be left behind.  And while I can’t pass with 70% of academic performance, at least, there is that: I remain ignited!

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