Hello Portland.. On Sunday, I snuck away to Portland, Oregon to take the 2 day class and exam for 1st Level Sommelier… figuring that Portland was far enough away to shield some of the embarrassment should I fail miserably.
The Court of Master Sommeliers is the international examining body for all things wine and beverage (beer, sake, spirits), with a focus on service. There are 4 levels of certification; Master Sommelier Diploma, the Advanced Sommelier Certificate, the Certified Sommelier Certificate, and the Introductory Sommelier Certificate. There are only 112 professionals who have earned the title Master Sommelier in North America. Of those, 95 are men and 17 are women.
I walked off the plane in Portland wearing sandals and tank top which was not the correct pairing for the chilly, rainy weather…. in JULY. Thoroughly soaked, I arrived to the uber hipster Juniper Hotel and took refuge in my earth-friendly room to spend the rest of the day studying like I was cramming for a final. I finally dozed off on page 245 of the 1000 page ‘Wine Bible’ that was suggested reading before the course.
I woke up with an invigorating mixture of anticipation, excitement, and fear, just like the first day of high school.
Class began at 8am. Three Master Sommeliers welcomed the 50 students with a quick explanation of how a sommelier tastes wine; Sight, Nose, Palate, Initial Conclusion, Final Conclusion and asked us to raise the first of four glasses in front of us.
BLIND TASTING IS TOUGH
What is the clarity of the wine? What is its color? Rim Variation?
Is it corked? Does it have VA? What do you smell? Red Fruit? What kind of red fruit? Black berries? Freshly picked berries or black berry jam? Flowers? Roses? What kind of roses? Freshly cut or dried herb?
What do you taste? Cherries? What kind of cherries? Are they bing cherries? Cooked cherries? Cherry pie? What kind of earth? Wet earth? Dry earth? Hay? Are you in forest or the plains?
Old or New World? Varietal? Country? Region? Varietal? Year?
After a few blind tastings with everyone in class participating, the instructor asked for volunteers to stand up and blind taste a wine by themselves.. I specifically did not volunteer, did not raise my hand, nor make eye contact of any sort, so of course, she called on me. I had to stand up and figure out the varietal, country, region, and vintage of the red wine sitting in front of me.
My answer “A Syrah, from the Rhone, 2009.”
She unveiled the wine to be a Syrah from Northern Rhone, 2008. I should have known that Syrah comes from Northern Rhone but I truly felt the wine gods were watching over me.
Another full day of lectures and tasting, with a higher level of tension throughout the class; not as many people talking during the breaks, mostly everyone was focused on the material.
As the morning progressed, and became closer and closer to exam time, I could feel my anxiety rising. What if I failed at this level? How silly of me to travel all the way to Portland to fail my first attempt at Sommelier certification? At 4pm, the exam began; 70 questions in 45 minutes. And if the stress level wasn’t high enough, the results of the exam would be announced at the closing day reception. WHAT? Failure in front of 50 other wine professionals. Glad I took the exam in Portland, not SLO.
The moment of truth came and…I passed!!! The wine gods were shining on me again.
The next Step-
Level 2, becoming a certified Sommelier. Test is in September. Studying begins now. Anyone up for some wine tasting and education?
Tags: borracha, introductory sommelier exam, portland, wine