Excerpt from “Secrets of the Sommeliers”

Inspiration

ON: BECOMING A SOMMELIER

“Much like their forebears, few of today’s top U.S. Sommeliers came into the restaurant business planning to do what they are currently doing. But a common factor binds them now: a passion for wine that almost defies description.  Both their professional lives and their personal lives are centered around wine.  Their friends are wine drinkers.  They base meals not around what’s in the refrigerator, but around what they want to drink that night [authors note: guilty of same, nearly 100% of my meal planning time].  They routinely talk with one another about wine and read wine magazines in their spare time.  They travel to wine-growing regions on their vacations and spend their own hard-earned money collecting the very bottles that they open and serve every night.  Thus, the first step toward becoming a sommelier is to identify your passion for wine.  It need not be a lifelong passion, but it must be driving.”

~ Rajat Parr, Master Sommelier, Winemaker, Wine Director for Mina Restaurant Group, Partner/Proprietor, Sandhi and Partner/Proprietor, Domaine de la Côte

I identify so strongly with this writing, and often worry that I bore those around me who don’t draw such joy and obsession from wine as I do.  Call me a nerd, consider my pursuits foolish, fail to understand, maybe judge from your vantage points and wine experience.  Validation exists for me the moment I am moved to do crazy things like write this blog, maintain this site, pursue Sommelier status while not working in the field, cite this work and identify it to my passion.  Consider me, thrilled.

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!

Book Review: “Cork Dork”

“The Kitchen Confidential of wine: Read this book, and you’ll never be intimidated by wine—or wine snobs—again.”

~Madeline Puckette, co-author of Wine Folly  

In the world of wine, just as life in general, one cannot literally “know it all”.  Wine especially, is like that.  In its entirety, wine is an infinite source of history, artistry, geography, weather patterns, science, sensory expertise, flavor profiling, tasting preference, spiritual celebration, olfactory acuity, tragedy, loss, gain, fortune, finance, poetry, ancestry, magic, complexity.   And so on.  It is an impossibly mapped Visio diagram, with more off page references than I could ever draw comparison to, and its origins go back nearly as far as our own creation does.  It is something to be passionate about, for the consumer, the novice and the professional alike.

From the start of my journey, I knew I needed to dive deep into the academia of the wine world in search of expanded understanding, exploratory taste development, and improved subject skills to achieve bonafide certification as a Sommelier.

I came across the book “Cork Dork” by Bianca Bosker while Amazon shopping for some wine study curriculum recommended by the Guild and also some Sommelier friends whom I have become chatty with.  While perusing the proverbial bookshelves of Amazon online, I was thrilled to stumble upon the apparent gem that is Cork Dork.  The work is not wine curriculum, but it is largely inspirational for someone with aims such as mine.  I quickly added it to my virtual shopping basket and pushed toward the “check out” line for same day delivery as fast as the “buy now” link would permit.

Upon delivery of several purchases, Cork Dork was the first book that went to bed with me, went to the hair salon with me, flew about the country with me, and spent weekends at the pool with me, until I was finally finished annotating, flagging and highlighting all the interesting nuggets my brain reacted to within its prose.  I found myself highlighting from page X of the introduction [translate: I was immediately, rabidly obsessed].  I am definitely not here to write a professional book review.  But if you read this review from the voice of a wine loving lady who craves authentic experiences more meaningful than an “oh, that’s interesting” perspective, then I’ve served us both well.

Cork Dork is the memoir of technology writer turned wine Somm, Bianca Bosker.  Her story gives account of the (very privileged, not pedestrian in the slightest) one year journey toward Sommelier Certification and full time employment in the field.  The start of her thrilling timeline begins with the resignation of her “stable job as a journalist to stay home and taste wines” in the first sentences of Chapter One.  From that point forward, the book rockets you through every crevice and experience wine world has to offer; from stocking wine cellars in NYC fine dining establishments, to infusing herself into elite [MS candidates; EMP regulars] tasting groups, to trailing working Sommeliers through lunch and dinner services, into the “worlds best” Sommelier competitive events as both a guest judge and honorary competitor, into the upper echelon of the highest recognized and decorated kitchens in New York City, into world-renowned wine events such as the incredible La Paulée and her writings about shadowing the finest working Sommeliers – mind blowing and all so brilliantly written.  Her ability to objectively question the “why” and “how” of every trailblazing experience she had makes the book feel so real, causing the reader to feel as if they themselves could be inside these privileged experiences and not just a fly on the wall.  The book culminates with her written experience of the Guild exam and subsequent transition into the field as a certified Sommelier.  What began for me as an effort to start wine studying to become a non-working hobby Somm became both indulgent reading and insightful, inspirational, non-technical studying. I leisurely read, and re-read her book while making frequent stops at Google to dig myself further into my rabbit hole and prolong the end of the book.

Final verdict:  An entertaining, laugh out loud, feel-good read for the non-wine professional to the neighboring wine nerd.  All cork dorks will find joy in this entertaining read. Pour yourself a glass before turning the first page! This book will remain in my library for years.

Happy reading. friends!

Blog_Cork Dork Review

An unparalleled read.  I got my monies worth.  Went through two highlighters and a handful of posty-flags 🙂

 

Edited by Author 8/30/17: 

Cork Dork author, Bianca Bosker and I exchanged sweet nothings in response to my book review of her brilliant work.  She is someone I would literally go and have a glass of wine with!  (maybe one day during one of my trips to NYC I’ll look up her restaurant)  

The graciousness of her correspondence reveals just how authentic a person she really is.  Takes the voice of her book to such a true level! 

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Confucious Said So?

“Choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life.”

~ Confucius

Linkage to the ancient Chinese sage Confucius as the origin of this insightful quote is debatable and appears to be spurious; anachronistic elements suggest that “job choice” or flexibility of work in the era {485 BC} of Confucius was possible, yet it was actually very sharply limited.

But I don’t care.  My Chinese zodiac is The Dragon.  And I believe it.  And thus it is so.

Writing from a quiet night in my hotel room this evening during a 12-day stint of travel, I find myself wrapping up a successful week in Westbury, New York.  After ten+ years of being on the road for business, I find the days prior to departure on these extended road trips sometimes dreadful.  I can’t manage to prepare early.  I confess, at times I don’t book flights, rooms or cars until I am in someone’s Uber car headed to the airport with somewhere to be the next morning.  I now travel with wet clothes, doing laundry like a peasant until my last hours before leaving.  It’s like I’m an inmate on death row, reluctant and waiting for my final march.

Yet, once I am zipped up and rolling, the energy of travel roars to life within me and I am joy filled and sparkling with opportunity to meet new friends, try new foods, SEE and DO new things.

I had the pleasure of hosting three precious client folk at dinner this week. Now, my normal “client dinner” M.O. is to maintain two Open Table accounts in order to hold multiple reservations, generously offering my clients their choice of cuisine at restaurants I have pre-selected and already know *I* will personally enjoy.  My pre-cursory review accounts for all sorts of personal preference, starting with the wine list.

For this week, I thoughtfully curated two dining selections with all my go-to criteria in careful consideration;

Option One:  Rothmann’s Steakhouse, a classic American formal landmark that once hosted Theodore Roosevelt.  Rothmann’s has “one of the best sommeliers on Long Island” Mr. Sean Gantner, who updates his wine list weekly, *swoon*.  Recipient of Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence 2009 and a Wine Spectator state-by-state recommendation for best dining in 2015.

Option Two:  Rialto on Carle Place, a single established family owned, authentic Italian restaurant under new ownership with decidedly more of a “welcome home” vibe.  My clients [being from the Dallas area and experienced in fine steakhouse dining] opted for this hand crafted Italian option.  No arguments here.  I eagerly made myself known at this little gem and embraced the restaurant owner, a simply charming woman who was attentive to my table the way my own Grandmother would be to guests of her home.  Wine selections at Rialto are beholden to the experience of the chef and ownership and not a crafted list of favorites from the professionally trained mind and palate of a Somm.

Last night, at a table of 8 colleagues, friends, clients and bosses, we laughed and chatted over candlelight to the tune of live music and clinging forks.

Wine Selection:  Ruffino Riserva Ducale Chianti Classico 2013

For a Chianti to be a true Chianti, it must be produced in the Chianti region of Tuscany, Italy, and at least 80% Sangiovese grapes. While most Chiantis are 100% Sangiovese, some winemakers in the region like to blend the Sangiovese with Cabs or Merlots.

Two bottles of this +clear garnet, +plenty of spice, +red fruit, +more dry than sweet, +not tannic vin splashed down obediently with dinner. Moderately acidic, the Sangiovese grape I first loved in my early red wine drinking years (which has been recently re-ordered on my preference list under the Tempranillo, who I love more now) paired well with my house made mushroom and truffle ravioli.   The Chianti performed well on the table, for the seasoned novice to inexperienced wine drinkers.  It was a good selection, made for flavor and not to impress in price.

$55 tableside, but probably $20 retailed somewhere.

Ruffino Chianti Classico 2013_Rialto at Carle Place_NSM GPNY

 

 

 

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