Ghosts of a bygone era move swiftly outside the window of the ferry. Stark silhouettes against the evening sky of the rusted metal and broken glass that once were the ship yards on Mare Island. I can only imagine how busy they must have been in the 1940s and 50s. The sky fades from a deep orange to indigo as I contemplate what I’ve been doing with my life over the past 7 years. In 2007, I had an idea, as I sat in my office, in a winery capable of producing 15 million cases per year, trying to figure a way to make myself a better winemaker. I decided to become a Master of Wine. Not to try to become one but to actually do it. Well, at this point I still haven’t gotten to that goal. My struggles have been well chronicled through this blog. Right now it is the night before the MW seminar. The one week per year that all the students converge on several cities around the globe together with MWs to learn, study, share ideas, and go away better prepared to attack the Master of Wine exam in June or whenever they plan to take it. I have sat the exam now four different times and in less than 5 months I’ll sit it for my fifth and final time. This makes the next week my final seminar as an MW student. I am calm and collected. I feel prepared. One can’t ask for much more than that. On Saturday morning I will take my mock practical exam which will be graded and the result will set the tone for my remaining time between now and the exam in June. For now, I’m savoring the moments before the seminar. Before the exhaustion of tasting blind almost non-stop for a week sets in. Savoring the time now, when I’m still excited about the opportunity to study alongside and learn from some of the best and brightest minds in our industry today. Tonight, staring out at the now black night blanketing the San Francisco Bay, I am savoring the possibilities. Ever the optimist, I’m looking forward to my next seminar. My next seminar won’t be as a student but will be as an MW.
Now that harvest is over, I must once again turn my attention to preparing for the Master of Wine exam next June. Yet again, I’m at my last chance to pass the exam. However, this time next year, I will have passed and will be working on my dissertation or I will have failed and won’t have to worry about the exam. There are only two options this time and neither involves me taking the exam again after June. There is a comfort in that.
There are three of us at the same point in the program and although I’m the only one of the three on my last chance, we are calling ourselves “The Three Musketeers”. It’s nice to have company on what is inevitably a lonely journey. For me, I am as determined as ever. I have changed mentors and have cut up and folded the questions from the last 10 years of practical exams. I was stunned to realize the last 4 of which I actually sat so I will be rewriting exams I’ve written before. My hope is, that by using the same technique as I did to study for theory, I will be able to anticipate the questions for this June’s exam. I’m also sure that by honing my writing technique I’ll be more efficient with my time during the exam, allowing me to spend less time thinking of my answers and more time actually dissecting the wines themselves.
Finally, this year will be the most challenging as I try to juggle the demands of the program with being the mother of an active toddler, wife, and full time winemaker. This harvest has been one of the most challenging due to the extreme compaction and the fact that the life with a baby eliminates the simple down time after work that I’ve used in past harvests to recover from long hours at the winery. I went into the harvest more energized yet more tired than ever before and I have come out on the other side very happy with quality and exhausted. We worked hard to capture the essence of this vintage and I feel that we succeeded. Hopefully the MW program will use a different part of my brain to give other parts time to rest.
Only the next 7 months until June!
Last week I sat the Master of Wine exam for my fourth time. This year was different for me, however, because I only had to worry about passing the Practical exam. If you are interested in reading the exam it is posted here. Looking over this year’s theory exam I do not envy my fellow students who had to sit that part. Every year it seems the exam gets more challenging. The themes are the same but the questions are more specific in their subject matter.
This year’s tasting exam was no picnic but since I sat that section I will refrain from commenting on specifics until after results are posted other than the fact that several of us went through quite a few fortified wines for reference the night before Paper 3 and that did all of us a LOT of good!
Either way its done with for another year and I sincerely hope I never have to prepare for it again. The months of sacrifice, wine analysis, and late nights pouring over wine reference books wondering if I’ve lost my mind. After all, it’s just wine. We’re not curing cancer here. It’s amazing how serious we can get about it.
Now I’m enjoying my new job, my family, and my newly found extra time ( which will soon be focused towards the Dissertation) while I can. Hopefully that means I can continue to come up with fun topics to write about.
As I asked before, if you have something you’d like me to discuss please let me know! I LOVE feedback!