Category Archives: Master Of Wine Studies

How it Feels to be a Master of Wine

I’ve taken a long time to write this post.  When I first found out way back in September that I had finally finished what I had been working towards tirelessly for 8 long years, it was somewhat surreal.

My sister, her husband, and my nephew were in town visiting with us.  It was Sunday night before Labor day and we were up late, enjoying each other’s company, drinking wine, and playing cards.  I knew the call was coming but I didn’t know when nor did I know the outcome.  When my phone rang it was an unknown number calling me at 11pm at night.  I answered and heard Penny Richard’s voice on the other end.

“Nova, you’ve done it! You are a Master of Wine.”

I numbly listened to the rest of the conversation replying with “Thank you”s and “Yes I understand” to the instructions that Penny was giving me.  I hung up the phone and got to work on signing the code of conduct and taking care of some business aspects that no one really prepares you for.  I then calmly went back to playing cards after being hugged all around and opening a bottle of Champagne I had set aside for just such an occasion.  It really didn’t feel real.  Almost immediately I began receiving congratulatory emails from the international MW community.  It was amazing but also daunting.  I replied to everyone eventually with my heartfelt thanks but it did take me some time.  The overwhelming and immediate support you get from the veteran MWs is amazing!

The Tuesday after Labor day, I went back to work.  I was inexplicably changed however it seemed that life, in its crazy, strange way, was infuriatingly normal.  This was such a bizarre feeling.  As if I was going around living someone else’s life for a time.  Then I began to receive interview requests as word began to trickle out into the general industry news.  This is when it started to feel more real.  As more and more people found out I began to hear from many old and current acquaintances, friends, and colleagues.  Many months of congratulations ensued leading up to the graduation in London in November of last year.

I was excited to return to London.  I had been there several times before both for work and pleasure and it’s always a fun city to visit.  We splurged on a hotel across the river from Big Ben and took our son on his first international adventure.  It was about spending time together and reconnecting as a family after so many years of hard work towards this goal.  We only had a few short days in London and I wanted to make the most of it with my family. We did all the standard touristy stuff including the London eye (which we could see up close and personally from our hotel room, the Tower of London, and a river cruise.  My son, to this day still asks when we are going to go back.

The Master of Wine Ceremony was and will remain one of the greatest highlights of my life.  I had to arrive early to the Vintner’s Hall for a briefing on the Institute and rehearsal for how things would go.   Walking into that historic building was the first real sense that I had accomplished something really astounding.  My seat was labeled with a sign proudly proclaiming “Nova Cadamatre MW”.  We took pictures all together, with family, and with members of the Institute then attended a reception prior to the ceremony itself.  My son, being newly 5 years old, still jet lagged, and over stimulated from the busy day, decided that was the time he wanted to take a nap and only I would do for that task.  There I was, in a moment that was once in a lifetime surrounded by so many amazing people that I would have loved to talk to with Champagne flowing, sitting in a corner with my child resting his head on my shoulder lightly snoring, remembering that regardless of what I accomplish in my life and professional career my most important role is that of “Mama” and nothing else comes before that.

“The roar that came up from the group was the most amazing experience.  It was deafening, echoing off the gilded walls and shaking the very rafters of the historical building.”

He woke up in time for me to line up for the ceremony.  We lined up at the back of the Hall as our guests and well wishers found seats and settled in.  As they announced us as the new MWs, we entered the back of the hall.  The roar that came up from the group was the most amazing experience.  It was deafening, echoing off the gilded walls and shaking the very rafters of the historical building.  Cheers, applause, whistles, congratulatory nods, smiles, and winks from those who I could briefly catch the eye of.  I wish I had thought to have someone video tape that moment we all walked down the aisle as new Masters of Wine.  It was unbelievable.

Then hearing your biography read as you approached the stage to gather your certificate, you can’t help but to reflect over the time that you worked for this moment.  The days and nights tasting and studying.  The moments on the weekends where you chose to do a practice exam rather than relaxing.  The money spent on tuition, wines, and travel. The dedication and sacrifice of time that it takes to accomplish something of this magnitude.  Those moments of dark times when you feel like the goal is so far away that it is almost unreachable.  Every person who ever told you you couldn’t do it and every person who told you that you could.  All of it floods into you as you rise to walk up to the stage as the final steps to your goal.  Even when they called my name as the winner of the Taransaud award, I was a bit in shock. It still didn’t really feel as though it were real.  It felt very dreamlike and although the magnitude was beginning to dawn on me it was far from normal for me at that point.

Finally, after the pomp and circumstance fades and you begin to adjust to life after MW, you realize that it was worth it and it is real.  I attended my first seminar as an MW in January in San Francisco.  I stood at the back of the room with my fellow MWs and realized that I had truly made it.  It wasn’t until that moment when I fully felt the journey was complete.  I had made it to the “other side of the table” and that was where I was meant to be.  I get to now look forward to a lifetime with the title of MW, which is so exciting.  I’m sure as the decades move forward, the 8 years it took me to achieve this, seeming so long in the moment, will feel like mere days as the full extent of the title, which  I am still discovering, unfolds during my life.

To my fellow MWs, I’m so excited to be among you.  Thank you for your support!

To people aspiring to walk down that same amazing aisle in London, the best advice I can give you is never give up.

Have faith in yourself, always believe it is possible, and be prepared to work hard and sacrifice for what you want.

My Hand is on the Handle but the Anticipation is Killing Me!


If you have ever watched Fox’s Hell’s Kitchen then you know what the photo above is.  Two finalists waiting to find out who ultimately won the challenge.  They are both asked to put their hand on the knob of the door in front of them and try to open it.  Only one will open.  Usually there are cuts to recap each one’s journey to that point, both highs and lows.  Moments of triumph and moments of weakness or stress flash before the viewers eyes set to emotionally stirring music.  Presumably they are reflecting over their journey as they wait patiently with their hand on the handle of their respective doors.

That is me, right now, with my hand on the handle.  In 27 days I find out if my Research Paper was successful for my Master of Wine.  Ten long years I have been working towards that day and now that it is nearly upon me, I’m not really sure how to feel.  I’m nervous but excited.  I’m relaxing in some ways but strung tight in others.  I’m looking forward to the future but feeling equally concerned that it is premature even though I feel very confident in what I turned in.  While it is not a competition, it is a journey that few complete and in the end it is a competition with yourself to become your best.

While it is not a competition, it is a journey that few complete and in the end it is a competition with yourself to become your best.

The paper itself was a beast to write.  Many of my loyal readers may have noticed that my blogging and other writings went dark for a long time early this year.  This was entirely due to my focus on writing the multitudes of revisions of what ended up being a very detailed study.  The details can not be shared yet however, I believe it stands to move winemaking forward as a whole while maintaining our strong ties to tradition.  I look forward to seeing the global reaction to the paper, the results of which are relevant to any winery producing fine wine around the globe.  By the time it was completely finished, I had gone through 14 drafts of the Research Paper Proposal (RPP) and over 20 drafts of the paper itself between major and minor revisions.  I’m quite proud of the work I put into it and I feel confident that it is solid.  However, my mind keeps slipping back to the times I felt confident about my MW exam results and I didn’t get good news.  I feel almost conditioned to expect the worst but at the same time I dare hope for the best.

As for my highs and lows, I came into the program as most students do, riding high on the mere inclusion into the storied echelons of MW students.  I listened to MWs say it takes on average 5 years to get through everything, thinking to myself that I was going to work diligently to make sure I passed everything on the first try.  When the first year assessment results were announced, I turned my sights onto the exam itself and studied with a fervor.  It became my life and by the time I sat I felt confident that, at least for theory, I had mastered everything that was needed to pass.  Ultimately I did not.  I ended up in a gut wrenching mourning in the middle of Asti’s Block 1 Cabernet Sauvignon a few weeks before harvest, leaning on those old vines for support and grounding.  That first fail was the first of many which took me to the very edge of my determination, cut my self confidence to the bone, and tore down all my pre-conceptions of what it meant to be a good student.  Most of these trials and tribulations were chronicled on this blog under the category of Master of Wine Studies.  After 8 years of blogging, this will hopefully be my last post under that heading.

The program is a blacksmith’s forge and hammer; heating and striking, striking and heating until all that is left of the person that came in is a confident, strong, example of a wine professional.

As I look towards the future, I have to be optimistic.  I know I will become an MW.  Even if it is not in a few weeks, it will happen.  The program is a blacksmith’s forge and hammer; heating and striking, striking and heating until all that is left of the person that came in is a confident, strong, example of a wine professional.  It hurts.  It is painful. Nevertheless it has been worth it.  I can look back and be proud that I have made it this far through the forger’s flame.  I know the depths of my determination and I know that I am the only one who can hold myself back from accomplishing anything.  I know if I don’t get good news, I will return to working just as hard to make sure that next time I get there.  But I will get there.

My hand is on the handle and I’m praying the door will open for me this time.

What Do You Do with Leftover Wine?

This is a subject very near and dear to my heart.  Even though I make my living making wine and being surrounded by the alcohol industry, I am not a particularly frequent drinker.  I’ll have 2-3 glasses per week with only one of those typically being on a week night.  Most people are surprised by this.  However, this usually means that I have partial bottles that are open when my husband and I get the urge to open something. Then we are torn as to what to do with the leftover wine.  Inevitably whenever someone brings this question up the industry jokes follow.

“What’s leftover wine?”
“We don’t have that problem in MY house!”

Let’s face it. From a health perspective, unless we have 3-4 people with whom we are sharing the wine a typical bottle should last more than one day.  This is something that is an issue for our industry but so often it gets swept under the rug and having “leftover wine” is something that is ridiculed and laughed at.  So here we go.  Here are two options for wine lovers who want to open those special bottles but don’t want to worry about finishing it before the inevitable exposure to oxygen starts to degrade the wine.


The first is called Private Preserve (Buy it here on  This is one I’ve used for years and is a mix of CO2, Nitrogen, and Argon, three gasses which are very common in wineries.  It is a must have for making white wines at home in carboys and really works well for keeping wines that have been opened from going bad.  I purchased the bottle in this photo two years ago.

“We are starting this journey by reducing the $1.27B of wine that is poured down the drain at home, plus the additional 18-24M bottles dumped at restaurants.” – Ryan Federickson, General manager of ArT-18

The second is called ArT18 Wine Preservation System (Buy it here from the company’s website).  This one is pure Argon and does go farther than the average bottle of Private Preserve because of that.  This one is new to me and was sent to me as a sample to test. Ryan Frederickson, General manager of ArT-18 Wine says “The company I founded has a mission to decrease waste using sustainable technology.  We intend to take this technology to food preservation. We launched ArT Wine Preservation this past December with an engineering background in the argon industry.”

To tested both head to head I had the perfect opportunity when I hosted several fellow MW students who wanted to work on their Practical Exam skills.  I put 3 full mock exams together (36 wines total) ranging from $6.00 per bottle to close to $200.00.  We gassed each of the wines after the exams with one of the two products.  The mock exam weekend was about a month ago and I have been slowly opening the bottles to try them over the past month.

Long story short, both work really well.  Even this evening, after a month a half full bottle of 2010 Haut Medoc  was fresh and very drinkable.  The one wine that did not do well under the preserving gas was a 2003 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru.  Admittedly this one tasted a bit over the hill when it was just opened but after two days under the gas it had started growing a film yeast like coating and going very south flavor wise.  Even the floral white wines which stayed under gas and open in our fridge for 2 weeks were still fresh and drinkable.  The reds we left on our counter with the corks stuck in the bottles and continued to sample them and then re-gas over the past month.

“Even the floral white wines which stayed under gas and open in our fridge for 2 weeks were still fresh and drinkable.”

In conclusion, we should never feel like we need to finish a bottle of wine in one sitting just so it doesn’t go to waste.  With these two home gassing methods, wines can stay fresh for a long period of time and you never have to worry about opening too many bottles to try.