Category Archives: Master Of Wine Studies

Insanity is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over…

One of the most common questions that I have encountered over the past few weeks is “What did you change?”  What did I do differently this time that I didn’t do the other 5 times that I sat the exam.  It’s hard to pinpoint an exact one or two things.  In truth, I changed a whole lot about what I was doing, however it’s hard to say if changing these things would have made a difference if I hadn’t done the other things that didn’t work the first 5 times.

Anyway, here are the things that I thought made the most difference.

I went all in. I said to myself “I am NOT doing this again!”

Having multiple attempts gives one a certain level of comfort.  You end up mentally saying to yourself “Well, I’m going to give it everything but at least I have X more attempts if I don’t pass.”  As soon as you start to mentally say “if I don’t pass” you are not going to.  I went into this year with the personal objective of all or nothing.  If I only passed half, I still was done.  There would be no more attempts.   This personal goal gave me extra urgency to get it done in one shot.

I changed Mentors

I have been fortunate to consider many MW’s my mentors even beyond the formal “mentor program”.  This year I was taken under the wing of DC Flynt, who whipped me not just into tasting shape but SUPER READY, EVERY POINT COUNTS, DON’T THINK THAT EVEN A TINY SLIP WILL GET YOU BY tasting shape.  He nit-picked every word, phrasing, and structure of my answers.  I didn’t do more tasting than I did in previous years but the tasting that I did was far more highly scrutinized to the point where my answers were scalpel sharp and short.  Get in, get points, get out.  Done.

I gave up doing Theory Essays

Now don’t for one second think that you can come into this program and not write a single essay and pass the theory on your first try.  You can’t, so don’t think that is what I’m saying.  I wrote essays for EVERY SINGLE QUESTION from the exams 2000-2011 during my first few attempts and I passed in 2012.  The fish bowl technique is fantastic for getting to know what you need to know.  I just was at the point this year where I knew I could hammer out an essay in the time limit easily if I had a great mind map.  I wrote the three or four required essays for the formal Assignment Marking Scheme but that was it.  Everything else was was mind mapping.  I fishbowled the questions from 2012-2015 and mind mapped like crazy.  No essays.  You cover more ground in a shorter amount of time and I was able to go into the exam ready to cover whatever they could throw at me.

I was Hypnotized

No Really!  I was!  I went to a Hypnotist at ROC Hypnosis (See her website here) and she helped me understand what was holding me back mentally.  It took two sessions which were incredibly enlightening and relaxing.  She asked me questions like “What would be the worst thing that happened to you if you passed?” I had never contemplated that before and it opened up some mental blocks that I had put on myself that I had never thought of.  I was able to mentally let go of all the stress and worry that was holding me back.  It was incredible and I highly recommend it.

I Prayed

LOTS!  I am a Christian and I believe in the power of prayer so I spent two hours in the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church the Monday before the exam.  I attended mass, sat and meditated, read scripture, and even prayed to St Rita, Patroness of Impossible Causes, because I knew I could not accomplish this task on my own. I am not Catholic but this particular day it felt right like the right place to be.  Now I’m sure there are some who will read this who don’t believe, that think this was just something to make myself feel better.  I will not judge you for it because everyone is entitled to their own system of beliefs.  I also am acutely aware that I am not perfect, so I try to be as good of a person as possible and not bible thump on a regular basis.  However, I can tell you that I had not prayed as fervently in the past as I did this day, with a desperation that I can truly say I had not felt before any of the other exams and I felt that God was with me in those hours and finally gave his blessing for me to pass.

So that’s it. I did the best I could and really went for it.  I removed every mental block that I had put on myself and had nothing else to lose.  I put it all in God’s hands and gave up the thought that I could accomplish this impossible task on my own.  I’m so thankful that I got good news finally and am so excited (and still pinching myself) to be a Stage 3 student!!!!

Best of luck to all that are still striving for the exam!  I hope this helps in some way.

What is Closure? The Final Chapter of My MW Student Life

For those of you who have followed my blog for many years you know that I have been struggling to pass the Master of Wine exam; one of the most notoriously difficult exams to pass, potentially of any subject. I have failed. I have failed it five times. I have failed it so many times I was forced to take a year off and I was prepared to walk away. I was prepared to move on with my life. However, DC Flynt wouldn’t let me pass into the night like that. He never gave up on me and convinced me to come back into the program to sit the exam one more time. 

After sitting I resumed my life. I took time off from blogging to rest that part of my brain a bit. I refocused on my health. I lost over 20 pounds, chopped my hair off, dyed it red, and started doing little things for myself that made me feel good. 


Yup. This is me now. I basically did everything but think about the results. I was convinced that a “howler” on Paper 2 had doomed me and there was no way that I had passed. I even slept a full night’s sleep last night and as anyone who has sat the exam will tell you, that is a rare feat. About 5 am I woke up. I pondered the thought that the results would be in my email and then promptly went back to sleep, not wanting to ruin my morning quite yet. A little bit later I woke up again and decided to get on with it. There in my inbox were the results. I opened the email and read the first few lines from Penny Richards. Then, in the second paragraph were these amazing words 

“I am delighted to report that you have passed both the Practical and Theory elements of the Examination. This is a great achievement, many congratulations!”

I re-read this sentence 4 times. I was numb. It was nothing like the experience I had anticipated. It was the feeling of trying a locked door for 9 years to suddenly find the door unlocked and open. The confusion that comes from not finding the door locked. The fear of walking through the door. The anxiousness of worrying if you should be on the other side of the door. Finally, the excitement of finding what lies beyond that door. It took several hours for the excitement to kick in and then I became distressed at not having a single bottle of Champagne in the house. I quickly drive to Rochester and remedied that issue with this. 

 

One more time was all it took. Just one more try after everything was lost, after I had experienced every heartache that it is possible to feel with this journey. About a year after the last time I failed I finally moved on mentally by writing a song. I will not subject you to my singing but here is one verse of lyrics. The song is called Precipace. Perhaps they will offer some comfort to those who did not receive the good news that I did. Best of luck to all on the journey and a sincere Thank You to all who have helped me along the way. You know who you are from my previous post here.

“So I’m standing on the edge

Expecting greatness

The future lies just ahead

I’m searching for a dream 

Something to hold on to

 All I have to do is rise”

Now on to the next and final chapter, the research paper!!! Hopefully a year from now my journey as an MW student will be at an end and my life as an MW will be beginning. 

What changed you ask?  Stay tuned next week for that! 

Twas the Day Before the MW Exam…Again

Here we are again.  I am getting ready to sit the Master of Wine examination for the 6th time.  It’s interesting because it now seems like just another day in the life of an MW student.  I can look back to my first exam and I was so excited and slightly nervous driving to the exam, my thoughts of almost certain passing scores running through my mind with the blind optimism that I had at the time.  That was 7 years ago and with each attempt my mindset has changed from excitement to dread and everywhere in between.  The positive aspect of having to sit multiple times is there is no longer an uncertainty of what to expect. I have a routine of sorts.  Today, my task is to see how long it takes to walk from my friend’s house to the exam site and to procure lunch for the next four days.  I usually scope out a place for food and order the same thing for all four days and pay up front with a specific pick up time each day so that I can pack up from the morning exam and calmly walk out of the building to my pre-determined lunch spot, walk in, grab my package and walk calmly out.  On these challenging days, it helps to not be panicked about “Where am I going to eat? What am I going to eat? Will it be ready in time? Will I have to wait anywhere?”  Any level of stress removal that can be done will be done.

Tomorrow, I’ll get up and try to arrive with plenty of time to the exam site.  I hope I can walk with no issues however hauling glasses and my computer up and down the quite steep streets of San Francisco may prove to be too much in the mornings. We’ll see on my explorations today.  I know exactly what the room looks like because I’ve been there before just like I knew what to expect when the exam was held at Opus One in Napa.  In 2012, when I passed my theory section, the winemaking position had just been posted for Robert Mondavi Winery and there I was sitting in Opus One getting ready for the first day of the exam, 5 months pregnant with Nathaniel doing somersaults in my womb, staring at photographs of Mr. Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild feeling like fate was laughing at me in some way, daring me to try for more.  This time with the exam being held at the Constellation Office in San Francisco, I can’t help but feeling a little bit of the relaxing feeling of playing on your home court even though I’ve never had an office there.

This time I’m sitting the entire exam again; both the tasting and the theory sections.  It is a marathon.  Four full days of doing nothing but thinking solely about wine and typing for hours on end.  I am not the only lunatic in the world doing it either!  According to Penny Richards, Executive Director of the Institute of the Masters of Wine, 138 students of the 310 total in the program are sitting this year.  It is a record number of people sitting the exam at the three locations around the globe; London, San Francisco, and Sidney.

If you are interested to see what my fellow students and I went through this week, look for the exam details to be released on June 13th, a week from today.  I find out results on September 5th which is Labor Day in the US so I’ve decided that must be a good sign that I will already be off of work and celebrating on the day that I get them.

Best of luck to all my fellow exam takers! Here we go again…