About twelve years ago I took a basic certificate course on wine and wine tasting, and became fascinated with the history and science of winemaking. On trips to the US, South Africa and Australia, and visits to our Okanagan wine country [ (A Taste of the South Okanagan) and (Destination Kelowna)] I enjoyed visiting wineries and vineyards, and amassed quite a collection of tasting glasses from vineyards all over the world.
Sometime after I began my second career of on-line reviewing and writing, I realized that I needed, and wanted, to learn more about wine. Lacking the patience and discipline to attend weekly courses over many weeks, I signed up for the WSET level I intensive held over two weekend days, with the exam at the end of the second day.
Having had a lot of fun doing the level I and having learned just enough to realize that I wanted to know much more about wine, and needed plenty of practice in the art of tasting, I decided to take the Level II course. Again I opted for the weekend day long sessions.
When I first looked at the course workbooks which arrived by mail several weeks in advance of the course, I realized that this was not something I could take lightly, especially I chose to do the course over three full days rather than in three hour classes over 9 weeks. I visualized myself trying to remember which varietal was used in Burgundy and which in Bordeaux, while my brain was in an alcoholic haze from tasting wine. And yes, I know we are supposed to spit not swallow, but I remember being quite mellow after the level I course days. So I started reading early.
I also had to buy a set of the ISO tasting glasses - the glass has a rounded bowl large enough for swirling without spilling, tulip shape to concentrate aromas, and the stem so one can hold the glass without warming the wine. Which got me thinking about the stemless designed Riedel glasses that were supposed to be the new great thing in wine glass design a couple of years ago. The pouring size for tasting is 50 ml or just about 1 and 2/3 oz.
My heart beat faster as I saw the invitation. A Cooking Contest to be held over two nights on Vancouver Island - and I was invited to be one of the judges. I sipped my freshly-brewed coffee and watched the lights across the waters of False Creek blink out as the morning sky lightened. Perhaps it was the caffeine because my dreams were certainly not opium-induced but my thoughts took off and "ran down pathways measureless to man".
"The Cooking Contest's Judge Gillian - wow. Move over Mark McEwan - I too could become a Celebrity, and then a Star and then perhaps a gig on "Dancing With The Stars" could be in my future. Derek, Tony, Mark, Max - fantastic teachers all - how to choose?
or do they get assigned? Eight hours dancing a day - fantastic. I would never whine like some of those wimpy "stars".
Patches of blue sky were gradually appearing above the rose coloured clouds in the East above False Creek. I took another sip of coffee and thought some more deep thoughts. "How did the Food Network find me? It must be the incisive foodie writing on my Sipping and Supping Blog."
The third full day session of the Level II course was held on the weekend following the first 2 sessions. It was on the Sunday, and after the educational component, we were to write the multiple choice examination. Luckily at this level there is no actual tasting component. By this stage in the course I was feeling pretty good about white wines, but probably had no hope of getting through a red wine tasting.
I had planned on spending time during the week and and then all of Saturday studying for the test. At this stage of my life it takes more than once over for me to remember regions and towns, never mind which varietal is grown where. I had a general concept in my head, though some of the facts had been filtered through a slightly mellowing haze of alcohol from the wines I had not been able to compel myself to pour out rather than swallow. So Saturday I was going to sit down and pull an all-dayer since the days of all-nighters are long gone for me.
The Second Day: Wines by Region and Classic Varietals
Lynn had alerted us that the afternoon of the second day might be a bit challenging as the focus was on red wines. But despite the fact that I spent the previous night enjoying Richard III instead of studying my WSET manual, I hopped off the Canada Line and walked over to BCIT with a definite sense of optimism. After all we were starting the morning with two of my favorite varietals, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, I figured they would be a lot easier for me to write intelligent tasting notes about than red wines.
We started off with a Riesling tasting and a discussion of German wine regions and labeling. This was a familiar area to me because I have been enjoying wines from the Mosel, Rheingau and Pfalz for ages, through the Opimian Wine Club.