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.

Time to Nerd: April 7, 2018

Hello and happy new year, friends!

Looking back at ’17 and in the now of ’18, it is apparent that committing to patterns and habit setting in the fourth quarter of last year was an obvious personal challenge.  Accomplishing anything in the fourth quarter of the year seems like a good idea, and possible until work commitments, holiday pressures, last minute business travel, and the pop-up needs of family and friends take importance over the spend of your personal time.  I’m just trying to stay in my lane, y’all.

That said, authenticity and passion are like best friends.  Several weeks or months of time could eclipse and the very moment of reunion tells the truth that they’ve never left your side.  As I return to The Client Bar after a stint of silence, I am accompanied by the familiarity of enthusiasm and a sense of relief to be back on track.  I’ve missed hosting you very much and finally have something new to share, Client Bar!

April 07, 2018 is my official date for level 1 certification.  I’ll sit for the exam in Napa, but  between now and then will spend my nights and weekends [between yoga classes] completing 14-modules of online study and various mock exams to prepare myself with. The instructor led, in-class portion of study will provide me with the official course materials from London, nine wine tasting exercises, wine and food pairings, and other activities before the actual exam takes place at the culmination of a full day of classroom study.  I am excited to experience the classroom portion, and from it build new structure and organization around the foundation of my wine knowledge.  The exams are sent to London for grading, and if I pass, I will be awarded with the WSET Level 1 award in wines, accompanied by the iconic lapel pin.

Certification is an impossible magnet to avoid – so I’m relieved to have committed the enrollment cost and set the schedule for the remaining four months of study.  When starting this blog last year, I set the aggressive goal to achieve certification by December 31, but have given myself the grace to adjust that timeframe in order to stroll slowly through this journey, enjoying every view and perspective that is mine to obtain.  I hope in your endeavors you find the same mindfulness and strive for the same richness of your experiences.

Peace and love to you in your places,

Reyna J.

Wine Friends, Wine Frenemies.

 “The things you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling.”  

~ Fabienne Fredrickson, Founder of Boldheart

Fact:  Multiple people can feel passion for the same things.

Fact: The wine world has been very warm, and welcoming to me.

Fact:  Throwing shade at someone will always keep you from shining your own light.

A friend recently revealed themselves to be someone whom I needed to create distance from in the interest of self-preservation and against their intention to cause harm.  It has left me managing emotions of sadness that things needed to change between us, not to mention frustration, disappointment and vulnerability.

Be it with yourself or in relationships with others, real honesty has power that only few can handle and few actually practice. But the payoff of honest living is greatly liberating when its your core value.  I hated to admit to myself that I was wrong about the character of this friend, but doing so has allowed me to make the adjustments needed to protect my personal space and maintain the energy to move forward and through.

What lingers heavy on me is this:  when your light is showing, the igniting of your passion is warm and magnetic. That warm magnetism attracts many “experience-goers” seeking to draw from it.  Ideally, this should be an exchange, an edification, a beautiful  symposium.

And yet friends, understand this: drawing from your light and taking from you and stealing it from your very hands are two extremely different things.  Who is in your circle, warming their hands with your fire?  Who has entered the doors of your proverbial home and come to take, rather than give?  When you stop and examine, it becomes evident which relationships are healthy and which should be minimized.

It’s taken me several weeks to process this event, detach from expectation, and realign my subconscious order of how to approach my wine path.  I confess a moment of wanting to give up because the incidents involving the person who this is about – took that much from me.  Bouncing back from dishonesty always requires lots of personal effort when I am met with such boldness, but in this case to thine own self I remain honest – and true.  This endeavor, is still mine.

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” ~ Oscar Wilde

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.

 

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