Okay! First class, here we go.
That day was a compilation of important information consisting of history, winemaking, how to taste, and the magic formula: the seven factors. We referenced this concept through the entirety of the course, as a concrete method of memorization for every region and their attributes. It was a lot to digest, but it was reiterated so much that it became second nature by the last few weeks. We also did the usual “icebreaker,” but this one was more constructive. Everyone shared their experience in the wine industry and what they hoped to gain from this class, and we got a better idea of what we were all there for. And our homework for the first night? Drink wine. Didn’t have to twist my arm for that one, Heath.
For the first time I actually learned how to effectively taste wine.
Wow is what I kept saying to myself as I began the first day of the Wine Education & Sommelier Training Course. The classroom was amazing nestled inside a library of wines and spirits, which added to the experience. Fellow classmates were a mix of ages, ethnicities and demographics with various backgrounds eager to learn about the wonderful world of wine. I was hooked this very first class as I was introduced to wine History, tasting, winemaking and the infamous 7 factors that would forever alter my appreciation of wine. Immediately inspired by the instructors wealth of knowledge that was clearly inherent in his ease of delivery, I was transcended. The class format was brilliantly laid out making the learning process a bit more manageable. The information was concise, interesting, challenging and definitely stimulating. I was hooked from the start. The first half of the class was filled with informative lecture, class interaction, wrapping up the morning session with wine tasting. For the first time I actually learned how to effectively taste wine. My senses were intrigued as they were retrained to trust in the various new techniques being introduced. After lunch, lecture resumed, q & a followed, and then more wine tasting. I can’t explain the feeling I had as I left the first class. Oddly I knew I had found my passion but was over whelmed by the sheer amount of information. This is a common reaction for anyone who delves into a field that is an endless abyss of information. But the end result is often far more superior knowing that you persevered with hard work, study, passion and fun. I’ll always remember my first class. Cheers Everyone xo
Really cool to look at the grapes from a perspective I had never even thought about.
Walking into class for week 2, I can remember the feeling of excitement and enthusiasm to continue with this course. We started our day with discussion of pests and disease. We continued with our winemaking lessons, this time highlighting what is done in the vineyard and winery to influence the wine. Then came the start of studying grapes. We discussed how we would study these grapes. Really cool to look at the grapes from a perspective I had never even thought about. We covered Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. And we tasted examples of these grapes from all over the world. Lining up a Sancerre vs American Sauv Blanc vs New Zealand Sauv Blanc was a good exercise to see the differences. I am hooked on this class!
The fortified wines of Port and Sherry are so different and mysterious.
Tuesday could not come soon enough as I was ready to get back into wine class to learn more. Heath started the day with conversation about careers in the wine business. We were given an assignment to search for jobs in the wine industry and present them to the class. He then discussed what a Sommelier is and what responsibilities comes with the job. It was great to hear from someone that has been a top Sommelier in Las Vegas talk about what they see and experience in their job. And Heath does not sugar coat it! We continued on, going over Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Our tasting of Syrah included a Cote Rotie, Santa Ynez Syrah, and Australian Shiraz. It was remarkable how different the wines appeared to be at first smell and taste. But what was great, was how Heath discussed what common threads they shared and what brings them all back to Syrah. After lunch, we went right into winemaking covering sparkling and fortified wines. Learning step by step the process of making Champagne and all the different categories. The fortified wines of Port and Sherry are so different and mysterious. This class was a lot of material! Homework? Drink a bottle of wine pertaining to next weeks course. Okay!
After Heaths class I feel 10x more confident in my ability to identify these grapes.
Week 4 of our course was definitely one of my favorites! We got to compare and contrast Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Gewurztraminer for whites and Zinfandel, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, and Sangiovese for reds. These grapes are often confused with each other but after Heaths class I feel 10x more confident in my ability to identify these grapes and understand the regions they come from.
The highlight of the class was facing our own preconceptions and desire to guess a varietal by flavors alone.
Week 5 was a little overwhelming because of the breadth and volume of what we covered. We began with an analytical framework for regional study. The 7 factors presented serve as a common comparative basis for global winemaking. The principals of food and wine pairing were also presented. This was a second comparative matrix for analysis reviewed in this week. The remainder of the class was devoted to French wine law and the Bordeaux region. Both are extremely dense in content and of major importance. Some of the history was fun, such as the story behind Bordeaux becoming English territory in the twelfth century because King Louis VII of France had his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine, who was 11 years younger than he and had borne him 2 daughters, annulled ostensibly because she was his third cousin. Eight weeks after the annulment Eleanor married Henry II of England, also her third cousin but 11 years her junior. They had eight children. We concluded she liked Henry better. For me, the week was additionally challenging due to the spelling of French villages and vineyards. I had to see the labels on the bottles to come anywhere close. We tasted some nice examples with typical Bordeaux characteristics. The highlight of the class was facing our own preconceptions and desire to guess a varietal by flavors alone. We blind tasted two whites and two reds. It was relatively easy to put forward a guess of a varietal based on the flavors in each blind taste and the grapes of which those would be typical. The shock was that there were only two varietals and had one paid attention to the acid levels in each, much different guesses would have been made.
We would take a bite of cheese, then a sip of wine, and evaluate.
After our initial Bordeaux hangover, it was time to learn about the rest of France, and what better way to do that than with cheese? Learning about the rest of France was a whirlwind of information. Each region has its own set of laws, names, and practices to remember, and remembering everything first day is no easy task. They were completely different from Bordeaux, but some are notably easier to keep straight. Having edible learning materials definitely helped for that class! Heath wanted us to understand the importance of food pairing with wine, especially cheese, to illustrate its significance to dining and culture. Everyone chose a wine from the day’s lineup and brought in cheeses to pair with their assigned wine. We would take a bite of cheese, then a sip of wine, and evaluate. Some pairings were beautiful, like the goat chees with Sauvignon Blanc and the Chateauneuf-du-Pape with everything, and some missed their mark. It’s an objective day so no opinion is wrong, but there are key points to know about pairing and we covered the basics of that. The unanimous favorite was a tomato and basil gouda that tasted like pizza; that one was the most fun to pair with everything and it was gone before the end of the day. Side note: if there is ever a bottle of wine you want to bring for a test drive, it is highly encouraged! Everyone will want to try it!
Heath talked about the culture, cuisine, and other elements that make each region uniquely Italian.
Week 7 was all about Italy, my favorite place in the world. The day started with a lecture on Italian wine history and wine law. The rest of the day was spent covering the major regions of Italy like Tuscany, Veneto & Piedmont and also touching on other regions of importance. Heath talked about the culture, cuisine, and other elements that make each region uniquely Italian. The best part of the day by far was the task we were given to bring in cheeses and charcuterie to pair with the wines. We had to as a team pick and present cheeses to the class that would pair with the wines of the day. Barbera with Fontina, Tocai Friulano and Burratta, Barbaresco and Grana Padano, Brunello with Pecorino, Amarone with Parmesan! I loved this day.
I feel like a wine education soldier and I love it.
Week 8 covered the rest of Europe for us. We started the morning with Germany, Austria & Hungary. Heath had Thai food delivered to us for lunch so that we could enjoy the different Rieslings with the food. Absolutely awesome lunch. The second half of class covered the Iberian Peninsula of Portugal and Spain. We had wines from Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Priorat, and more. We also exchanged our essays on France that we had written over the last 2 weeks and graded each other based on the factors of importance highlighted by Heath. Heath had said from day 1 that he would be steadily raising the expectations for us for homework and growth. I feel like a wine education soldier and I love it.
I am starting to notice the education paying off.
This week was all about the United States and Canada. We touched on US wine history and development of the vineyards on the west coast. Class covered Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, Washington, Oregon, Canada and more. The tasting was really good today. We did a Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet, Turley Zin, a few great but different Pinots, and finished with a Cabernet Franc Ice wine from Canada among others. I am starting to notice the education paying off as I feel much more confidant selling wine to my tables at work. One of the things Heath makes us do that is really helping me is to actually talk wine. We have to describe and discuss wine on a regular basis.
We discussed the scope of the upcoming final for the course.
Today’s class had a mixture of excitement and anxiety. We finished covering the regions of the world in our course with S. America, New Zealand and Australia. We have been studying regions for weeks now, so we are able to move through the info briskly. We did our tasting over the regions of the day. Then came the realization of where we were in the course. Heath was cutting the cord with us. Next week is our student group presentation on Sparkling and Fortified wine. Then all we have left is our review and our test day. Heath spent about 20 minutes just talking with us about expectations of where we should be with our education and what he expects us to do to push to the finish of the class. We discussed the scope of the upcoming final for the course. Multiple choice, fill in the blank, matching, essay, and blind tasting. This test is not going to be a walk in the park.
This class exceeded every expectation.
Wow is what I continued to say as I began week 11 of the Sommelier Into Class. The same excited feeling I had from week one had continued to follow me throughout the course. The class was super fun as we ventured into our group projects. I’m a huge fan of putting myself out there and this class project did not disappoint. By now we had all bonded in a way that occurs when like-minded people want to succeed in achieving their intended goal. Wine was our life. It had consumed every area of our brain in a way that was so exhilarating. This class exceeded every expectation in the fact that the wealth of knowledge obtained will forever be ingrained in me. We all came to class eager to teach what had been taught to us. Our student project was presentations on Sparkling Wine and Fortified Wine. Each group leader assigned classmates a section to write about using the 7 factors and incorporating class notes in conjunction with our own insight. This particular class was so much fun as we all began to realize the magnitude of what we had achieved thus far. We gathered to the front of the class taking turns presenting our segment with a powerful power point. The cohesiveness of the group was evident through the dynamics of each person’s presentation. We wanted each other to succeed and mostly wanted to show our instructor how his efforts were received. The class ended with more wine tasting. At this point it was clear that with the hard work, listening to lectures, which were always motivating, and the continuous studying (lots of flashcards) we were on our way to mastering the first fun segment of the wine Sommelier course journey. The Wine Education & Sommelier Training class was a long awaited course that I was truly grateful to be a part of. I cannot express how important it was to have had an instructor who is extremely knowledgeable as Heath Hiudt is in the field of wine and who is current in the industry that continues to thrive. Cheers to everyone who takes this class!
We have to leave something a surprise... right?!