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! 


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




Dare to think. Differently.

“To seek, to strive, to find, and not to yield.”

~ Quote is the final verse of Lord Tennyson’s Ulysses

Tell me wine is NOT a great thing of tumultuous beauty – I dare you – and then I’ll call you insane.  In all my studies, tasting room tours, vineyard visits, literary explorations, conversations with Somm friends, wine club purchases, experiments, viewings of film, wandering hours of Total Wine & More aisles, and childhood memories of the fragrance of fresh pulled cork – the wine world is a depth that I will never be able to fully explore.  Translate: my passion could happily never end.

I snapped this photo during my last wine trip to the valley.  For me, this is the equivalent of the famous “HOLLYWOOD” sign, so I was giddy of course – even after having seen it several times before. Might I always maintain this childlike awe and wonder? I hope. Well over one year has passed since I was there, and it’s about time to refresh (translate: drop old, add new) my wine club memberships. Oh harvest, finish quickly, I cannot wait to visit and explore again!

Go Broke. For Wine.

Christmas 2016 for one, please.

In solitude to the soundtrack of A Charlie Brown Christmas by The Vince Guaraldi Trio, I unexpectedly found myself celebrating the holiday like Macaulay Culkin – home alone in Dallas (translate: no tree, no turkey, no gifts, no people). The mental silence and surrounding stillness of my empty apartment left me posturing as Socrates the Thinker:

“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.” ~ Socrates.

One week later on the eve of 2017, in Socratic fashion I agreed how little I knew [right then] about life, myself, and the world around me. Moved to unsettled rebellion by this revelation, I broke NYE tradition and opted out of setting “new year, new me” resolutions.  It seemed better to stick to [improve on] the same old me rather than recreate myself and risk the shallow grave of resolutions past.  Aiming to understand more of me to become better at me, I sought to draw inspiration out of what I find pleasure in, or do a lot of.   To find a voice of authenticity within myself and raise the volume, I asked:

“Self, why do you love what you love?  Why do you give time, mental space, energy to these loves?  How did they come to exist? Do they serve you, and how are you serving others in return?”  

That inner dialogue manifested into the accountability of self challenge.  Where was I mediocre?  Where was I lacking? Was I really, dare I admit . . . just a poser at the things I love?

Challenge …… accepted!   Instinctively, my magnets were identified as Yoga, Golf, Wine.  Starting with yoga, I set out for everything I could find to elevate my practice.  Hit the mat regularly.  Crafted friendships in the studio community.  Subscribed to Yoga Journal. Bought yoga books.  Read about yoga more. Tried more asanas (yoga postures). Researched the founder of our method and embodied as much Baptiste in practice as I could, striving to “be a YES for finding the peak of a difficult posture, grasp the edge of what I think my limits are – and go deeper in.”  Eat authenticity for breakfast.

Next, wine.  This complex, timeless liquid has been described as “bottled poetry” and “proof that God loves us”. Well, duh?! I mean, there was the day my daughter was born.  And then there is wine shipment & squealing day!  Wine accompanies me at end of a long day, in moments of celebration, of curiosity, of relaxation. It is there when I want to travel, but don’t want to leave the couch.  Raised in the viticultural richness of Paso Robles, California, my earliest childhood memories take me back to limousine rides with my parents exploring the wine regions of California’s Central Coast. Entire weekends were spent traversing dirt roads from one vineyard tasting room, to another.  My first memories of tasting rooms recall my parents in an unfamiliar air of sophistication, aromas of freshly pulled cork, echoes of clinking wine glasses, sounds of chatter and happy drunk people. Memories so rich they are as vivid today as when they first occurred back in the early 80’s.  My “I wanna do it too” tasting notes from those trips insightfully revealed where to find the BEST string cheese, crackers, apple juice boxes, fine chocolates, and made record of the vineyards with friendly pets on the property (then: York Mountain which is today’s Epoch Estate Wines). Oh, how I loved exploring our local wineries in the heat of the summers and the harvest of fall, adorned in the laughter of my parents, family and friends.  Wine for me – is in my happiest memories, in my best adult moments, in my spirit.  It did, and does, make me a happy girl.

To be more than a gluttonous consumer, and true to the year-of-no-resolutions, I started clicking through the Internet like it was a game of Pin-the-Tail on the Donkey.   I blindly downloaded the International Wine & Spirits Guild course catalog.  At the time, I couldn’t recognize the ISG from the Harvard Business Review, but what made sense was that I felt happy.  Finally, something in the flesh of my hand that had previously been an unrecognized daydream – becoming a Sommelier.  I started to peek.  Read.  Watch.  Drink.  Think.  And selfishly, so on.  It’s just where my year was at on December 31, 2016.

Today with The Client Bar launched, I have a disciplined yoga practice and improved body strength to play with.  In wine, I’ve got online accountability that I’ve steered the trails in pursuit of real wine certification. Right now, I’d like this certification before year’s end.  The faint at heart shall not apply.

Member of: GuildSomm, the Napa Valley Wine Academy & WSET Global.

Next: Maybe TEXSOM 2017 in August.  Volunteer opportunities have been filled for 2017 but I determine to find myself polishing 30k Riedels there someday.  And drinking the magnificent volunteer wines offered to conference rats like me.  For now, I consider just a drive down to check out the conference, and do what I do best – network.

I’ll try to keep it interesting . . . . .

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