It has been a few days since my return from California for my first course week in the Master of Wine program. In short, it was some of the most illuminating, overwhelming and (the understatement of 2015 is about to come up here) humbling experiences of my academic life. I feel, though, that it needs to be said for those who come after me, who just might stumble upon this site. For if I ever can make it past the finish line of what seems to be an ultramarathon, I am quite certain anyone who puts their mind to it will do the same. For despite the occasional moments of recognition and understanding, there were more times than not I hadn’t a clue how I got there! Surrounded by truly brilliant people, it is difficult not to feel a little inadequate at times. But again, I write this not to glean sympathy or hollow encouragement. I write it because they are the words I should have said to a few others when I was there, for I am certain I wasn’t alone in this emotion. In fact, having mildly disclosed it to a few others who had been in the program for years… heck, even a few MWs themselves, I learned that perhaps this is exactly where I should be… for now at least.
And so, aside from feeling utterly in over my head, the rest of the time was quite exhilarating! We spent the first few days before the course week in Napa, getting a sense for its distinct differences– a sense of its unique terroir, if you will. We broke up into groups, spent time in the vineyards and the wineries. I learned that not only am I indecisive when it comes to ordering food, I am equally over-analytical when it comes to spur pruning when I had the chance at Tierra Roja–a boutique vineyard in Oakville. Here we assessed the vigor of shoots, determined the number of nodes logical to keep, then had to decide which needed to go completely. We had to position the buds just so, ensuring that the eventual canopy could be well managed. In the cellar, we filled barrels from tank just after the Syrah had seen malolactic fermentation. I learned very quickly, I needed a hazmat mask to keep from having a full on asthma attack. Okay, I actually first had the asthma attack and then learned my lesson.
We tasted dozens and dozens of this region’s prized Cabs as well as other interesting varieties they are playing with here, from Sangiovese to Rieslings as well as some intriguing Cabernet Francs. I write this from France, far from my notes, but I intend to share some tasting notes later from this trip.
The course week itself was filled with oodles of workshops, seminars and meeting many new faces in the trade. From UK market analysis to the current state of Cru Bourgeois in Bordeaux, I literally filled a book of notes with all I had learned. More than anything, I felt honored to be sitting amongst the great minds of the wine world, honored that I had been selected at all to be a pupil in this program… I am more motivated than ever to make good on what they saw in me from that application. And nervous as I may be, I am ready to begin this marathon, one MW study question at a time.