Wednesday Dec 3rd was a pretty epic day for me. Not that I loved having the day off work, as a typically love my days at DSHS doing psych evals, followed by patients at my office, but this was a day where I was doing something completely different than my daily work. This was a day for wine, where the focus was testing knowledge of wine, blind tasting wine and serving wine to a master sommelier. Coming from someone who is not full time in the wine industry, this was a very different sort of Wednesday.
I woke up at 6AM, feeling anxious and had a short run before eating some eggs. I’d been trying to eat rather bland food because of my pending blind tasting. At around 7AM I arrived at a rather anonymous location in Bellevue for my wine exam. The only thing remarkable about the building was that Seastar restaurant was there. I checked in and waited in the lobby. Funny thing because essentially nobody gave me an idea that the test was about to start (this was 8AM and the test was slated for 8:20 start). I walked into a small, crowded classroom, seemingly the last person there, and sat down in the front row. In front of me was a white wine and a red wine. This was the first part of the exam, the blind tasting for both red and white wines. I spent a few seconds looking at the color of the wines, while the master somms were giving the directions for the day. It was apparent that the white wine was very different from the red wine.
The white wine was particularly enigmatic to me, and I did not correctly choose the right wine based on the feedback that I got from the masters. However, I did get very close to the correct varietal. The red wine I killed. I think I got not only the correct varietal, but the correct descriptors of the wine. Score.
Then to the written portion of the exam. There was everything from wines from Greece to wines from Chile. Regions and specific wines were in there. While I can’t give too much detail, it is a good thing that I studied consistently in the past months (nothing like work after work). I finished the first to parts of the test before most and then headed to Starbucks to have my morning coffee, since I couldn’t have any decent food or drink prior to the blind tasting.
Following my heavily caffeinated cup of black coffee, I studied wine service for the next two hours. Fortunately, the Court of Master Sommeliers has a video on wine service. I studied and studied, until I knew all of the directions for the wine service. I had previously done some training with a sommelier at RN74, which proved to be extremely useful. And I was able to take a break to eat a tasty salmon fillet for lunch at Seastar but then went back to my studying.
Finally, at 2:20 PM my time came to do the wine service. I did everything according to plan, except for bring out both serviettes for opening the wine. I also made a small ‘pop’ when opening the Sparkling wine bottle but that is probably due to my lack of service (didn’t make the same noise later that night when opening a killer bottle of Champagne). I got quizzed on everything from scotches to vodka drinks, to gin drinks, to obscure aperitifs from Italy and France on the service exam. I answered some correctly and others I just said ‘I don’t know.’ I felt ashamed when I couldn’t name two producers of Cava.
I walked away from the service exam, thinking that I probably failed that portion of the exam, since I am not in the service industry, have very little wine service experience and I have only had one day of training from a top sommelier at RN74 Seattle. I then had to ruminate about my performance (or lack thereof) for another two plus hours, until we were all called into a cramped room at 5PM.
There were about 50 of us in there, all nervously awaiting the results of the exam. I looked at the number of diplomas for those who had passed and it was paltry compared to those in the room. I was seriously worried. A few names went out. . . then another name. I was the third name that came out. It was like being touched by the hand of God. I literally couldn’t believe that my name was called, especially considering the relatively poor job that I had done with the service portion of the exam. Somehow I had passed that portion and had earned my diploma as a Level 2 Certified Sommelier. I was elated and took pictures with the master somms. Wednesday was pretty epic day in my life that I will never forget.