Do or Do Not. There is No Try: Part II

I have been blogging for the past 7 1/2 years.  I have been in the Master of Wine program for 8 yeasrs.  Over those 8 years, I have learned many ways to fail the MW exam.  If you would like to catch up on all that drama follow these links; Fail 2Fail 3 (on which I also passed theory so not entirely a fail), Fail 4 and Fail 5.  Finally last year, after taking a forced year off, I figured out how to pass both parts of the closed book exam; theory and practical.  Now, after finishing my Research Paper (RP) I am reflecting over all of the trials and events of the past 8 years.  Finally, tonight I got the call that I have been striving for over the past 8 years! I am officially a Master of Wine!

In this post I would like to try and thank as many of the people that have helped and supported me to this point as I can.  It is by no means an exhaustive list but here it goes…

To God, for granting me this amazing life and the ability to live it to the fullest! Thank you for standing by me when I was alone in my darkest moments.

My amazing husband, Brian, for putting up with the crazy weekend tastings, my roller coaster of emotions over the past 8 years, and taking care of our son when I had to be at tastings, events, and the exam itself. Thank you for not divorcing me!

To my son, Nathaniel.  I keep telling you if you keep working hard, no matter what falls in your way, you will achieve your goals.  I hope my struggle through this serves as an example for you.  Keep plugging away and you’ll get there.  I’ll be right behind you, cheering you on.

To my extended family, my parents, and my in-laws, who have always been supportive of my pursuit even though I don’t think they understood what I was trying to do for the first 3 years.  They’ve figured it out now and were the first people on the call list when I found out!

The amazing DC Flynt, MW – without whose gentle kick in the butt, I wouldn’t have come back to the program and who continued to support me as my mentor for my final year until I was in rare fighting form! You and your wife were so generous.  THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I couldn’t have done this without you!

My fellow Musketeers – Dave Forer, MW and Matt Deller, MW.  You guys made the journey so much fun.  All for one and one for all!  I’m so excited we are back together again!

Wendy Cameron, MW – Thank you for reading, and re-reading, and re-re-reading my RP!  I know it was long and complicated but I think it looks amazing!  Hopefully the markers feel the same. I hope we get to meet face to face sometime!

Sheri Morano, MW – Thanks for all the “Mommy” advice, the faith and support, shoulder to cry on, and the tough love when I needed it! Your graphing advice was the best!

Mark De Vere, MW – For being my sponsor on my application.  I really loved working with you and can’t wait to help out on the seminars!

Mark Ebaugh – My boss at Mission Bell who believed in me enough to fund my Diploma and my first year as an MW student.

Barbra Phillip, MW – My mentor for my first 5 years in the program.  Thank you for all your faith in me and for all the advice.  I’m so glad your faith paid off!

Bob Betz, MW – For proving to me that winemakers can become MWs! Don’t worry! You don’t have to teach the viticulture and winemaking sessions alone anymore!!!

Mary Ewing-Mulligan, MW – For giving me “You have to be and MW to pass the MW” speech.  Also the “Yoda” speech.  You are my “Yoda” for the MW program! Thanks for all the philosophy.

Lisa Granik, MW – Thank you for being so real about the program.  You scared the crap out of me the first year and that made me want to work harder to reach the bar that you set for all of us.  Thank you as well for listening to all my dissertation ideas and later RP ideas and guiding me to develop what I thought were two really good dissertation topics.  The one I picked was a beast but totally worth it in the end.

Peter Marks, MW – For always hosting tastings that were so much more tricky than the exam.  I thought that if I was able to pass a tasting with you I would have no trouble on the exam.  Thanks for always having my back!

Jean-Michel Valette, MW – Thank you for all your great lectures on the wine business.  I think I finally “got it” the 3rd lecture and it helped me pass Theory paper 3!

Siobhan Turner –  Thanks for all the support over the years.  I hope I can be as supportive for you on your journey now that you are the student.

Ed Killian – Thank you for always supporting and believing in me.  If I’m half as good of a boss as you are then I’m doing pretty well.

My fellow students who achieved the dream! – Adam Lapierre, MW, Amy Christine, MW, Anne Krebiehl, MW and Liz Thach, MW

Eric Heimer, MS, MW – Thanks for the unwavering support and the friendly trade of Viticulture and Winemaking knowledge for practical tasting knowledge.

The Constellation Team – Thank you for all your well wishes and support.   I really appreciate all the time and effort you have taken to help me out in the last four years of my pursuit.

Martin Reyes – Thanks for keeping me company and navigating on our grand adventure in Germany! Best of luck on your RP journey!

Chuck and Jen Van Fleet of Vino and Friends – for searching out a Hunter Valley Shiraz in Fresno so I could taste it and write an answer for it on my MW application

Christian Seely and the entire AXA Millesimes group- For sponsoring such an amazing tour of Bordeaux, Sauternes and Burgundy.  Your generosity astounded me!

Joel Butler, MW, Tim Hanni, MW, and Doug Frost, MW– For being all around great guys and always positive.

Like I said above, this is not an exhaustive list but I hope everyone knows how critical they were in my success in the program. I’m so excited! Thank you to all!!!!

And The Winner is…

I have just returned from the last trip to China as part of the second Ningxia Winemakers’ Challenge.  This final trip was so much fun because we were able to finally meet up with the other winemaker contestants, most of whom I had not seen since the first trip in September of 2015.  We spent a few days in Yinchuan, attending government events and the annual Wine Expo.  After that, we all flew to Beijing for the final judging and awards ceremony.


Going into the judging, I was happy with my wine.  It reflected the challenging aspect of the competition but also was a testament to perseverance that was needed to adapt to the “challenge” aspects.  These included a total language barrier, limited time (in my case) to attend to the wine, non-standard vineyard practices, as well as social and cultural isolation particularly during the first few weeks during harvest.  The 10 judges were all professionals, led by China Agricultural University professor Ma Huiqin and Master of Wine Andrew Caillard.

They announced the silver medal winners first and I was surprised to hear Lansai called first!  I was so excited to have won a medal for this even after all the hard work and dedication of both myself and the winery team.  There were 10 total silver medals awarded with many of my favorite people joining me on the stage.


After another course of dinner, we finally learned the gold medal winners.  They were Justin Corrans of South Africa,  Tony Kalleske of Australia, Brent Trela, a fellow American, Slavina Stefanova of Sweden, and Sarah Williams of the UK.  Each and everyone of these amazing people were a pleasure to get to know and totally deserving of the highest honors.  I was so excited for everyone and there was lots of hugging and congratulations all around.


We finished out the night at the hotel bar catching up and reminiscing over our time in Ningxia.  On Wednesday, many winemakers traveled to other cities within China for the competition road show while I spent a few leisure hours in Beijing with my winery owner, Ms Zheng prior to boarding my flight home.  We are in harvest already and I didn’t want to miss too much of it.


See the full coverage and complete list of judges and all the winners here.

 

 

Blaufrankisch at the start of veraison

2017 Harvest Update: Veraison

Finally, it has dried out.  I can walk in the vineyards and my back yard without worrying about sinking into a puddle.  Since my last update we have still had several more storms however it has not been everyday and we have at last seen a return to sun which gave us a few weeks of normal summer weather.  Despite this, the humidity has stayed very high and has caused growers to continue to be on their game with fungus sprays.  Downy mildew has been widespread this year.  This week brought many storms as a cold front moved through and now our forecast says nights in the 50s with highs in the 70s over the next week or so.  Luckily it is supposed to be relatively dry over the same period.  If this continues it should make up for the crazy rain from earlier in the “summer”.

The reds are just now going through veraison but many of the white hybrids are within a few weeks of harvest.  We are starting our Aurore harvest tomorrow for sparkling and we will continue almost constantly until mid-October.  The vinifera is very exciting this year with the cool nights.  It should be a beautiful year for acid assuming the rest of the fruit is clean.  If we get a moderately warm September with low rainfall and cool nights, this vintage could be spectacular.  It is still too early to tell but the vines are healthy.

Blaufrankisch at the start of veraisonBlaufrankisch at the start of veraison

I’m getting ready to crush Blaufrӓnkisch (Pronounced Blaw-fraan-kish) for the first time for the 240 Days Project.  I’ve never worked with this variety but I’m extremely excited about it for the Finger Lakes.  It is an Austrian variety, mainly grown in the Burgenland with characters similar to Syrah but with a Cabernet-like structure. Most of the local wineries call this variety Lemberger and many cite Blaufrӓnkisch’s challenging pronunciation as the reason to do so.  I have my own thoughts on this since we haven’t found another name for Gewürztraminer (Ge-vurz-tra-meen-er) yet and goodness knows that one is equally challenging.  Blaufrӓnkisch is a deeply colored variety that ripens a week to week and a half ahead of where Cabernet Franc ripens, making it very appropriate for our short growing seasons.  In anticipation of the small but fun project, I’m going to do something else I’ve never done; I’m going to ferment it in barrels.  That has necessitated me purchasing coopering tools, pictured below. These will help me remove the hoops and heads then retighten the hoops in order to be able to stand the barrels on their remaining head and dump in the harvested fruit.

Barrel Wax, Head Tool, Hoop Hammer, and large L shape is a Head Holder.Barrel Wax, Head Tool, Hoop Hammer, and large L shape is a Head Holder.

This is something I had always wanted to do with the To Kalon fruit in Napa but we never got around to trying it before I moved.  I think the roundness of the palate of the Blaufrӓnkisch and the spicy character will pair nicely with the natural structure and complexity of an oak fermentation.  There will be challenges since these will need to be punched down rather than a pump over.  The early cap work I usually do during a red fermentation will be much harder.  I am considering getting a wader and punching down by foot but we’ll see.

Today, I’m off to China for the final trip of the Ningxia Winemaker Challenge. On August 29th we all find out how we did over the past two years.  This has been an incredible experience and one which I will remember forever.  I can’t wait to find out how the wine is received.