Category Archives: Master Of Wine Studies

MW Studies: First Assignment Results

I find myself once again looking at MW assignment results.  This is a part of the program that did not exist when I started back in the 2008-2009 academic year.  Back then you had to pay a single MW to grade a set number of theory papers and you received somewhat cryptic guidance back.  I remember vividly an early theory essay where I received a “D” and there was the comment “It is unclear if the author is a native English speaker.” Having graduated from Cornell only a few years before, that one stung quite a bit.  Now the process is far more formalized and is included in the yearly tuition.  It covers all aspects of the exam from Theory to Practical and also begins the process of the Research Paper.  This year I have submitted one of all three parts and received my feed back on all of them.  Funny enough I seem to have reverted to the dreaded “C” grade on my theory essays.  For those who have followed this blog for a while you’ll know that “C” is the grade I absolutely despise.  A “B” is a passing grade so a “C” is a thanks for sending something and you didn’t make a total fool of yourself grade but not good enough to pass.  My practical paper, which is the part of the exam that I got hung up on after I passed theory and the entire reason I’m doing all of this over again, was a passing paper.  The Research Paper feed back was positive overall with a few minor comments to some additions I could make.  Which brings me back to the theory section.

When I passed theory back in 2012, I was all over it.  I had it down to a science.  It would seem now that I have forgotten what it was that got me over the line based on the single essay that I’ve had graded.  It makes sense though if one thinks that holistically, I studied for the practical far longer than I did the theory so one could assume that it would be harder to get back in the saddle on that one than the practical portion of the exam.  However, the theory is the one section I did actually pass so I have to believe that somewhere in my brain is the key to unlocking the theory mystery again.  In January, I go back to San Francisco, to attend the North American course days once again.  I hope by the time I get there I will have figured out once again how to write a stellar theory essay and can continue my good trend with the practical exam.

If nothing else, this program is humbling.  One can be an expert in one small facet of the industry but a baby in others and the MW is designed to be the great equalizer in those aspects.  It is the sand storm that wears down the fluff knowledge to the hard core foundation then rebuilds that knowledge slowly, brick by brick, until your understanding is unshakeable and your entire way of thinking has been altered to always ask “Why?” “How?” and “What is that used for?”, never to assume you know the answer.  My aim this year, as it has been all the other years I have prepped for the exam, is to pass.  This year, however, I am relaxed about it because I’ve already failed it more times than most people attempt it so there is really nothing left to worry about that I haven’t already experienced.  As always, I’ll keep my readers posted as I go through the year culminating with my results notice next September.  Wish me luck!

Finding Time to Write

Now that I’m back in the MW program,quotes on writing:quotes on writing pick up a pen and write I remember why I always had such a hard time getting weekly posts up. It’s so hard to find time to write. I only have so much time set aside during the week and with two assignments due last week it was maxed out.

I want to find time to write, however life seems to happen so quickly and there are so many things that need to be written. Blog posts, MW assignments, tasting notes, harvest notes, and the book I’ve been meaning to start on. There are so many hours in the day and outside of getting up at 5am to write (which I will probably need to start doing soon) I don’t have many options with a 3 year old at home.

Writing is Rewarding

Anyway, I write today, not to complain about my lack of time for writing but to share with you all the fun opportunities that I have to do so. Writing this blog is one of the most rewarding things. I am so excited when someone says they read it. It makes all the time and effort worth it that others care what I have to say; something that constantly amazes me. I am also thrilled at being able to write MW assignments again. Crazy? Probably. I’m accepting that and moving on in my nutzo state. There are three years of MW exam theory questions I haven’t written yet so I need to get on those so I can say I’ve written the last 15 years of exam questions instead of only the years of 2001-2012.  Now where is my fishbowl???

I keep meaning to write up the vintage notes for 2015 because by the time you need them for tasting notes you’ve generally forgotten what happened during the vintage. I have little post it notes around the house from weather events and harvest dates for each of the wines I made this year that stare at me accusingly for not sitting down and writing them up.  Then there is my book idea.  I’m not even sure it is a fully formed idea yet but my thought was to sit down and start writing and see what it turns into.  My best ideas generally start this way but I need time to see how it will go.  This is last on my priority list right now with at least 500 other things in front of it daily.

“If you have other things in your life—family, friends, good productive day work—these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer.”
– David Brin

So back onto the crazy train I go with the MW work.  My day job is challenging and rewarding.  My family life is good but exhausting as it should be.  I have lots of great subject matter to write about.  Now if only I can find the time…



Back on the Horse: My Return to the MW Program

 Last week I received confirmation that I can officially call myself an MW student again.  This past year has been extremely strange, living on the periphery of a program that has been a huge part of my professional life. For those who are new to following the journey on my blog I will give you a brief history.

I graduated Cornell back in 2006.  In 2007, I discovered the Master of Wine program and decided to pursue it by first starting with the prerequisite WSET courses.  I completed my advanced WSET certificate in 2007 and started the Diploma program in 2008.  I was accepted into the MW program for the first year in the  2008-2009  which allowed me to complete my first year of the MW and the second year of the Diploma concurrently.  I sat the first year assessment in 2009 which I passed to move on to my first second year for the 2009-2010 academic year.  At the end of that year I attempted the MW exam the first time of what would be five attempts the results of which I have out lined in detail over the course of this blog.

Fast forward to today, and I’m getting ready to start another second year ending in a sixth time sitting the exam.  I have to sit the entire exam over again (I passed theory back in 2012 but due to my timing out have lost that credit).  Having to sit theory again really doesn’t bother me.  I always liked the theory portion and having passed it once I’m fairly certain I can do it again.  The practical continues to be my nemesis.  I was at a place in 2014 where I was enjoying the tastings and looking forward to the exam. I’m convinced my downfall at that period was the fact my palate was not calibrated correctly due to excessive tasting sessions at work of 14.5%+ young Napa Cabernets.  My ability to adequately judge alcohol and acid had been compromised and I was not able to recover from it completely for the exam. I should not have the same issue this time around so assuming I can get back in prime tasting shape, this year should be my year.

I am excited to share this news since that means I can reopen the Master of Wine Studies section of my blog as well as I chronicle my journey through this program.  I hope that these posts serve to inspire, educate, and realistically inform others who are interested in the program to the rigors that it entails.  For everyone else, hopefully you will join me in reveling in my triumphs, wallowing in my despair, and eventually celebrate with me at some point in the future.  It’s up and down so be prepared for the ride.