Tag Archives: Master of Wine

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!

Unfulfilled Post Ideas from the Past Three Weeks!

Normally I don’t write many posts due to having no inspired thing to write about. The past few weeks I have had a TON of ideas but no time to write. Instead, I have decided to put some of them down to a single post and if anyone is very interested in one of them I’ll fill that thought out.

1) Harvest Update- we are about 10-18 days away from bloom! This is incredibly early and the weather over the next three weeks will go very far towards setting the tone of this harvest. Minimal frost to date as well for such a early harvest so things are going well so far.

2) Why is it not possible to find a family friendly restaurant with good food? Do foodie parents of young children not need good food outside of Napa? Maybe that makes me a snob but a recent weekend vacation to Monterrey, CA really opened my eyes to how spoiled we are here. Our favorite (pre-child) restaurant which shall remain nameless for this post had a sign posted outside. “No strollers, no small children!” Really? I’m tempted to never go back even after my son is grown just because we felt so discriminated against. We settled for a very kid friendly restaurant that used too much salt and baked fish in white wine sauce included a carton of cream and a stick (at least) of butter completely negating my healthy choice of the fish in the first place. The second night we were directed by the hotel concierge to another restaurant where the serving of lasagna I ordered could have easily fed a small village. Can some chef with kids do something about this travesty???

3) Almost 6 weeks to go until my MW exam. I’m busily tweaking my answer style, doing timed tastings and re writing answers from previous exams. I look back over the past 4 exams I’ve sat and I can almost tell where I went wrong on some of the wines. I remember how they tasted to me and my thought process. I can’t believe I went Germany instead of Alsace on a set of three wines, two of which were so clearly Gewürztraminer and Riesling. Why didn’t I just say Chardonnay on the last wine on Paper 1 last year. It certainly tasted like Chardonnay but I talked myself out of it since I thought I had found a set of Chardonnays earlier in the exam. I hadn’t and ended up getting three wines wrong all because I over thought the exam. This year my plan is to not over think, don’t second guess, relax and show the examiners that I do, actually know this stuff! Wish me luck!

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Twas the Night Before MW Seminar…

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.