Wine Enthusiast Podcast: The Trials and Triumphs of Wine Education | Wine Enthusiast
Wine bottle illustration Displaying 0 results for
Suggested Searches
Articles & Content

Wine Enthusiast Podcast: The Trials and Triumphs of Wine Education

What motivates someone to pursue formal wine education? And how do they balance work, family and studies to have a life? We talk to three students of the vine and get their stories plus their advice and lessons learned.

Listen to other episodes of the Wine Enthusiast Podcast

Read the full transcript of “The Trials and Triumphs of Wine Education”:

Speaker 3: Interested in news from the wine, beer, and spirits industries? Read the new, free, multimedia information news hub. Beverage Industry Enthusiast. Written and produced with a fresh point of view. B.I.E. is your go to online destination for the trade. You’ll meet the people who power the industry, watch exclusive videos with industry professionals, and receive a weekly news email. Sign up now at

Jameson Fink: Jameson Fink, senior digital editor, Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

Wine education can be a big undertaking. It involves understanding and memorizing information on everything from geology, anthropology, enology, sociology, really almost any ology you can think of. In my perspective, in my case, not to mention the dread and anxiety that comes from blind tasting, trying to master it, not even master it, just alone understand it and make it something useful for you and not beating yourself up too much when it goes wrong. The other thing about studying for wine is that often you’re doing it all alone. You’re by yourself. You’ve got books supplied by maybe Wine and Spirits Education Trust, the WSET, as we like to say, or the Court of Master Sommeliers.

This week, I wanted to talk to two students in wine who are preparing for different levels of wine studies as well as a teacher to someone from the Northwest Wine Academy in Seattle, Washington. That would be Ezra. I wanted to hear what their wine education has been like. What their experience, and, as for Ezra, who’s an instructor, how, or what at Wine Academy teaches differently than what you get from studying alone, if there’s sort of safety in numbers. Ezra, while a busy café in Capitol Hill, Seattle, my old neighborhood, explained what the Northwest Wine Academy does.

Ezra Wicks: I’m Ezra Wicks, I am an instructor at Northwest Wine Academy. I teach Sommelier sales and service in Beverage Program Management, and Sensory Evaluation, soon to be Advanced Sensory Evaluation as well in winter quarter next year. And I also am the wine director of Oso Real Espiga in Seattle, as well. I am the sommelier at Barford Mint. And I own a company that does consultation and private seller company at Digby.

The Northwest Wine Academy is unique and it sorta stemmed off from the culinary arts program at South Seattle Community College. They built their own building about ten years ago. And it’s a full service facility with a kitchen that does food and wine pairings, and there’s rooms for blind tasting. There’s also a winery production. You can do certificates in wine marketing sales, food and wine pairing, you can get an Associate’s Degree in Enology, making your own wine, and there’s a lot of famous Washington producers who have graduated from the program. Lobo Hills is one. Savage Grace is another. There’s a bunch of people who train there.

As far as the curriculum goes, I teach Sommelier Sales and Service in Beverage Program Management, which is the course that I designed, which is about training your palate and blind tasting wines and getting to know characteristics of wines that are considered classic by the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, and by the Court of Master Sommeliers. Also, I teach Sensory Evaluation, which is all about honing your specific memories for varieties and for grapes in general. Really sort of expanding on the characteristics of wine and what really triggers things for you. Which is a big part of blind tasting for the Court of Master Sommeliers.

As far as … getting to the point where I’m WSET Advanced Level 3, I’m also Advanced Sommelier with a court of Master Sommelier. I’m basically training for the Master Sommelier diploma, which was what that song movie was all about, and all that. I think it just takes a lot of perseverance once you get to the higher echelon, about really digging in the minutia of all of it, and training your palate, and always keeping up on everything. Because the wine world changes, and you also have to practice. Practice makes perfect, really in the sommelier profession more than anything. You can’t just let it go and expect that it’s gonna be like riding a bike. You have to constantly do it.

JF: The Wine Academy can give you a good base for the WSET and other tests, but what exactly are those tests, and what makes them different? When I spoke with WSET students Chris and Marshall, I asked them, and also Ezra to explain that.

Marshall Tilden: Marshall Tilden, director of sales.

My first stint was in … or my beginnings were in 2011 with the advanced program. They have beginning and intermediate, but there’s an entry exam you can take to see if you need those. Others, and I was … educated enough to know at that point to start the advanced, so that was 2011. Six years ago, seven years ago, yeah.

Christian Welch: Hi, I’m Christian Welch. I’m an Enology student, and a Level two WSET completion person.

The WSET the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, and it’s one of, about three certification courses you can do in the wine world. The one people tend to know about is the Court of Master Sommeliers. This one is, I think a little better.

MT: The WSET Level 3 … is the precursor to the WSET diploma, which is six units of very comprehensive knowledge of beverages in general. The entire world. It takes a couple years to complete. And that one’s really hard. And that’s … once you get the WSET diploma, then you’re eligible to go and study at the Institute of Masters of Wine, which is basically the holy grail of certifications for wine. The WSET 3 is sort of intermediate overall general knowledge of wine. And the one and two leading up to it sort of are introducing you to the WSET 3. You don’t necessarily need to take 1 and 2 to go into WSET 3. They recommend it because they’re sort of building your knowledge along the way. But WSET 3, you basically have to have a general idea of wine production, grapes, and basic history for every wine producing area of the entire world. And then you have to have developed your palate enough to be able to use their tasting grid to determine at the end of the exam, determine a couple different wines. Two reds and two whites, or something like that.

For the court of master sommeliers, there’s four levels, the first level being a couple days of theory seminars. No blind tasting or anything like that, and it’s very … They teach you everything in those varied couple of days that you need to know to pass the exam, which is something like an 80 or 90 percent pass rate. The certified sommelier exam, which is Level 2 for the court of master sommeliers, is more intense, and you really sort of have to have a grasp on service. You have to be comfortable talking to people in opening wine and pouring wine. And following their mechanics of service, is what they call it. Walking around the table clockwise, and pouring women before men, and carrying a tray, et cetera et cetera. When you get up into the third level of court of master sommeliers, it gets really intense. And you have to be able to blind taste and call down to the grape and vintage six wines in 25 minutes. The exam is done over three days.

And the theoretical knowledge is a pretty high bar for that one, only really exceeded by the Master Sommelier diploma, which is the same type of structure as the advanced one. It’s just tenfold, essentially. Yeah, especially when you get to the diploma level, it’s spread out in different sections. There’s six different sections and one of the sections is Business of Wine. The WSET really separates itself from say, the soms, master soms, where there’s service, right? And that end of it, so getting into the business side of how wine is marketed, what are the trends in the market, and how is wine business world affected, and what can be done to work with those? Those trends is … something that not many people realize is part of the program. But most of it is the examination of wines, and all kind of wine. There’s sections alone that were on fortified wines. One of the most difficult parts was sitting through a whole bunch of really high alcohol sticky sweet wines and having to determine varietal and location and all that kind of stuff.

CW: I think the sommelier course is very helpful for people that want to do a career in wine and restaurants. There’s a lot more with food pairing and blind tasting. As someone who wants to be making wine, WSET does a little bit more of a process of fermentation, does a little bit more vineyard work. There’s also another one called the Certified Sellers of Wine Course, and they tend to do a lot more in the marketing realm, but I like this one. It’s pretty well rounded.

JF: I’ve taken a few classes too in order to get a better understanding of blind tasting and … I certainly enjoyed that they gave me an opportunity to taste a whole ton of wines that as a single dude on my own I could never buy, and just try. It would be just way too much money, and way too much, not effort, but sort of a Herculean task to get ten bottles of Beaujolais and try all the crews and spend all that money and then open all those bottles and look, I was a single dude living in Chicago. How am I gonna get … I want to carry a case of wine on the subway and it’s 100 degrees out. It’s a blessing just for the logistics part of it too. And it’s a great to learn about wine too, and distinguish different notes and flavors, and understand regions and grapes, but it’s a long complicated process.

I’m wondering what kind of person wants to undertake this and become the student to pursue certain diplomas, and WSET. Is there a personality that is more drawn to that process? Sort like a Type A go getter, or a brutting intellectual like myself, or a little bit of both? Or are you a nerd? A geek? Are you a little crazy, or all of the above?

CW: It’s a real rabbit whole kind of thing. People tend to, from what I’ve seen, wine tends to be people’s second career. I met a lot of English majors, a lot of librarians, a lot of lawyers who get burned out and they really end up delving into wine, because it’s something that nerdy people can kind of latch onto. There’s a little bit of geology in it, you gotta learn about different soil styles. There’s some anthropology where you learn about different cultures and different countries. There’s chemistry, where you learn about different compounds that go into wine, and it’s something that people that have a very … we’ll call it an active brain, tend to latch onto really well.

MT: The cool thing about the curriculum and the program of South Seattle Community College is that there’s people from all walks of life. I’ve taught people who just turned 21, I’ve taught people who are in restaurants and want to learn more about wine, and the restaurants are paying for their way to go and learn about them. I’ve also taught people who are retired and interested in doing something different. The more you learn about wine though, the more you realize that you’re not really learning enough. Because the wine world’s constantly changing, and there’s so much minutia, and you really have to have a passion for everything. You have to really be into history, geology … to a certain degree, agriculture, obviously food and wine, astronomy, and things like that. But you can’t just be like, “Oh, I just like wine.” You have to be like, “I like all those things.” And really go deep into it to get to the point where you’ve mastered it, sort of.

I kept asking questions, and I was always asking people questions. How is this made? Why was it made in that way? And what are you doing during the process to get it there? And it went from simple questions to more in depth questions to where some people didn’t have the answers anymore, so I just kind of had a thirst for knowledge and that’s just way I’m kind of built. Just wanting to know more. That was just part of myself. And then the other is that you find the industry that there’s a lot of people that know things, and think they know things, and I kind of needed to find out things for myself. The deeper I would start to do a dig on things, the more I found out not everyone knew quite as much as they may have claimed they did, and it just was an extremely interesting concept to me, just what goes into not only making these wines, but marketing of these wines, and the business itself. The more I learned, the more it excited me. The more I enjoyed it.

JF: A big part of these exams is blind tasting. What a wine is. What grape it is. Where is it from? Is it an old or new wine? How is it made? Does have oak? Does it not have oak? Is it high in alcohol? Is it low in alcohol? The list goes on and on and on. There’s actually a list for it. It’s called a grid. It’s a tasting grid that you have to do. And you have to discern all this from look, you don’t the whole bottle to try for hours. You get a glass and you have to be conscientious with your sips and your time, because you’re on the clock. Does practicing blind tasting though, I’m wondering, as myself, does it change your palate? Maybe not just your palate too, but can you sort of turn that on and off and be like, “I’m just gonna drink this wine, I’m just gonna enjoy it, and my brain is going off.”

I’m gonna drink this wine, I’m not gonna go, “Ooh, color.” Clarity. Straw. Pale straw, yell, “Gahh!” And start freaking yourself out. How does that blind tasting change you as a wine drinker, or does enhance your skills and tastings that you’re already there? Are you born with it? Or is it something that you practice and you learn and it’s like that kind of Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hour thing?

MT: I think that definitely your palate changed a lot over time. Initially, most people start out with this palate for really rich dark reds, but the more you drink wine, the more you taste, especially wine for a restaurant, your palate tends toward this lighter, more sharp acidic profile, because you get palate fatigue, and you get tired of that intensity.

CW: It’s kind of a conversation to have about the vernacular of wine. In the English language, we don’t have a way to say, “Oh, this taste like stewed mushrooms, stewed tomatoes.” Or this tastes like ginger. When you pop open a [inaudible 00:15:18] sauce, you smell a lot ginger and a lot of chalk. And we kind of have to steal the language from other places in the language to be able to talk about it. That’s how you remember it, that’s how you can recommend it to people, and that’s how you can blind taste and pick things out. I think that’s a lot of the reason why wine comes off as pretentious. Because we steal this language and verbiage from other people. As far as your palate is concerned, it’s just familiarity. There’s so many different variables and so many different options. And when you’re first getting into it, you’re presented with all of those with little context, and you just have to take a stab in the dark with blind tasting. Specifically, it’s a little bit more like a soccer game than a basketball game. It’s not a very high scoring thing.

The best blind taster is … the best Level 3 somms get it right about the 60 percent of the time, and that’s a really daunting thing. But, the more that you study, the more that you learn about it, the more context you have, and the more you can say, “I think this is Merlot. I get a really purple vibe off of it. I get a lot of blackberries and cherries and there’s some fruitcake aspect to it. It’s probably a warmer climate Merlot. I never would’ve been exposed to that before.” And it’s just taking little bits of information that you pick up along the way and applying it in a high pressure scenario.

JF: I think it’s pretty clear that blind tasting for me is frankly terrifying and anxiety inducing because of all the … mostly because of all the second guessing I’ve done, like, “Ooh, I know this is Sablet.” And then I’m like, “Ahh, maybe it’s Sancerre.” Maybe it’s this or maybe it’s that. And then I talk myself out of it, and then I go in a circle and I don’t go with my gut, which is … I tend to go with my gut. I think that’s just the way I operate. I’m not sort of as clinical. I just go with, I smell it, I taste it, I’m like, this is what it is. Boom. And if I’m wrong, I’m wrong. But obviously there’s other schools of thought on that there literally. Schools of thought on that. I wanted to ask Chris, the new student, to take a blind tasting for me, for this podcast because I’m a monster. And in a quiet space, in Seattle’s Hotel Andra, had our producer Tina pull out a carafe of white wine, pour some for him, and wish him luck.

But before I started, I wanted both Chris and Marshall to chime in on, is one type of wine easier to taste than the other, like white or red? The most obvious difference.

CW: Just because you’d run into different characteristics, Chardonnay is never going to smell like a Riesling. A Sauvignon Blanc is never going to smell like a Chignon Blanc, whereas with red, Merlot, Cabernet, Syrah, Sinso, Malbec, they all kind of start with the same words. And you can delve into it a little more.

MT: Personally, and you might get different answers, I find whites harder. I don’t want to be general, but if we’re being general-

JF: Yeah, sure.

MT: Right? They’re not as intense. It’s hard for them to be as complex, because they don’t have tannins, and they usually don’t have as much oak.

JF: Those are fighting words for white wine lovers.

MT: I know, I know. That’s why I’m saying, it’s general.

JF: The gloves are off.

MT: But you’re looking at what can separate different wines. Just take … I keep going back to Shannon Riesling-

JF: Right.

MT: Because like you said, it’s my nightmare miss on the test. How similar those can be, because they’re made in similar styles because the grapes have similarities. And if you want to make one like the other, you certainly can. Where it comes to red wines, even lighter Pinos, whatever it is. They have tannins, they have some sort of oak. Do they have new or old oak? When you have a whole bunch of white wines that are aged and stainless, across the board, they’re all gonna have some sort of similar characteristic to some degree. Maybe it’s a city. Or the finish. Maybe that crispness on the back end. I find reds a little more distinct or easier to distinguish in a blind than whites. That being said, I think whites are easier to separate in terms of their age.

JF: As Chris begins tasting this wine, Marshall talks about what he goes through when you just can’t go with your gut or your gut is empty. Or your gut is being like, “I need help. You gotta try harder than this.” It’s all about the tasting grid in that case. Chris as a good wine student that he is, came prepared and pulled out his copy of the grid. The grid.

MT: I have to know, is I have some idea. I have the palate. It kind of changes my idea from the nose, and then I’m not quite sure where to go. And that’s where the grid comes in.

CW: This systematic approach to tasting wine. So for blind tastings, you go top to bottom. You start with the appearance, clarity, intensity color. From there, you go into the nose. You check for faults. You get some aroma characteristics which are here listed on the back. It goes anywhere from floral stuff like blossoms and roses to dried fruits like fig prune. There’s vegetable stuff like cabbage and beans. Everything. Oak, yeast, buttery biscuit kind of things. Yeah. Anything that can kind of help you narrow it down a little bit.

MT: It’s like a safety net in ways, right? All right, let’s go back to basics. What are the characteristics? What’s the intensity? What the flavor? What’s the aroma? What’s the alcohol? What it’s [inaudible 00:20:45] and all that kind of stuff? And then it gets you to where you can at least limit down a few different regions.

CW: Okay, the first step, the appearance is the very first thing. You’ll swirl in the glass a little bit to release the aromatics. But before you even put your nose in, before you start tasting it, the very first thing is to look and see how it strikes you.

MT: For whites, I think color is really overlooked. Red is … there’s color differences between Pino and Merlot and Cab and bigger wines. But you can really gauge, especially age, with color on white so much between the yellows and the golds and ambers how much age they have on them. Looking past color, I think is a mistake a lot of people do. With almost every wine, I’ll try and find a white piece of paper to see if I can see through it. Is it opaque? Is it clear?

CW: Okay, now I’m holding the wine up against a white piece of paper. It’s good to do that. A lot of natural light is good when you’re blind tasting and yeah, we like a white background so that you can be able to tell. It’s appearing very clear. There’s some slight bubble to it. The bubbles are very feint, but they’re there. Yeah. No fault, it appears. I’d call this wine very pale in clarity, and on the visual side of this spectrum, a hazy wine will mean that it might be too old. There might be some quartane that was involved in it. It could just mean that the wine is unfiltered, which is not a fault. And it’s really just to mess with you, but this one doesn’t have that all. It’s very clear, a linen in color, there’s some green tint to the yellow. Yeah. I’m gonna put my nose in it now.

MT: First thing I do is judge intensity, because when you’re first thing you do on a nose is intensity. Is it medium? Medium eyes? Medium plus? The biggest pitfall in any blind tasting is the jump to conclusion. Right? You smell something, and I smell grapefruit. Well, it has to be Sauvignon Blanc, right? And that’s the worst thing to do, because you want to go through all the examinations, and give yourself at least a few choices of what it could be based on the characteristics.

CW: Let’s see. No quartane. It’s clean. Sort of a medium pronounced aroma. Gonna get a lot of peach, or some citrus in there. You got some lemon peel or lime peel. Yeah. It smells almost spritzy. Almost like a Sprite. Yeah. I guess nothing left but to taste.

JF: And the thing that Chris is doing now, I mean, he’s a … he’s not drinking the wine. He’s tasting. He’s swishing it around in his mouth. He’s trying to aerate it to get the aromas. And swishing around your mouth. Getting it to hit every part of your tongue and your mouth so you can really try and pull out as many flavors. Use all the tools that you got.

CW: Okay. Well … again, very clean wine. Nothing bad with it. The flavor is again kind of a medium pronounced. You don’t have to really search for it, but it’s not kicking you in the teeth. Much of the same kind of explanation on the palate. You’re gonna get some peach, lots of green flavors. I would more lime than lemon on it for sure. Yeah, very green. Very refreshing wine. This one’s got a little bit of sweetness. I would call it off dry, not dry. This one’s gonna be Riesling. I’m pretty sure it’s a Riesling. Yeah. I love me some Riesling. It’s hard to say no. I’m gonna young again. There’s lots of vibrancy. Riesling is one of the varietals that, because of the acidity level, it can age for decades. It gets a lot of a bad rap, because it’s kind of a sweet wine, and it’s one that people who don’t really drink wine can get into very easily. But, the aging ability of it is just incredible. This one I don’t think has gotten there yet though. This one’s gonna be a little newer.

MT: And then I kind of try to get feel of old world or new world. Right? Is it a old world wine in terms of feel of more secondary characteristics? More of, more nutty? Even aged with tertiary mushrooms? Things like that? Or is this a wine that’s new world? Going for fresh fruit and brightness and new open kind of thing?

CW: It’s so green, I almost want to go Australia. But I think I would confidently say new world, so Australia, New Zealand, West Coast, maybe even South Africa. I don’t think it’s German. It’s definitely a younger one. I’m gonna go 15 on this.

JF: Alright, with Chris’ guess ready, our producer Tina presented the bottle of wine, pulling it out of its paper bag.

Tina: Alright. Shall we? This is a … it’s a Riesling!

CW: Whoo!

Tina: All right. You got that. Bam. It is a 2015 Riesling. It is from Washington State. This is also Chateau Ste. Michelle.

CW: Ahh, man. Chateau Ste. Michelle. Doing good work this morning.

JF: That was just a simple test between pals. Something I’ve done on numerous occasions, like stump the line experts, stump the geek. But even as Chris started tasting the wine, and talking about its qualities, I felt like a soccer dad or something. I was like “Ugh, I wish you would score a goal. I’m so nervous for you, or an assist.” Or, “Oh, I’m just glad you’re out here trying son. I’m really happy for you. It’s about the journey, not the destination, et cetera.” And just to do a one on one is one thing, but to do it in front of a panel or a crowd, is another thing. It’s really intimidating and you can freak out easily. Especially, if you or myself, who is prone to freaking out. Freaking out inside won’t manifest itself outwardly, but it is a lot of emotional turmoil. I promise you, I promise you.

And that’s just me kind of having fun with my wine buddies and drinking wine. But some of these folks studying are taking these very rigorous grueling tests, and they’re preparing for it months and months in advance. And I was just wondering, “Hey, I’m a bachelor dude, I got all the time in the world. I work my job. And then I can do whatever I want.” But for people with other obligations, they have work like me. They have family. I’m wondering how they work full time jobs and some semblance of a social life at the same time. Or they just huddled in a room, looking at flashcards nonstop and are antisocial.

MT: I think a lot of the people who come to the college are looking for somebody to guide them through it, and sometimes that can be difficult, because it really is self motivated. I had to … working 60 hours a week or something at a restaurant, I had to take it upon myself to sign up for all these certification programs like the Quarter Master Sommeliers and WSET. Because I knew that if I paid for a test, that that was the only way I was actually gonna learn the stuff because I’m so tired. Every time I get home, I sit in front of a book and I fall asleep or something. But lot of these people, they want sort of an avenue out of what they’re doing, or if they’re in the restaurant business, they want a way to make more money and be more informed when they’re talking about wine. And I think that we really enable people to take handle of that at the college. But at a certain point, it becomes your own journey as well.

You have to go out there and pay for the test and then have it impending so that you sit for it and pass and all that. Because there’s Associate degrees and certifications out there, but it’s not like sitting in front of an examining body as far as you would do for the Sommelier exams.

During diploma, when it got down to two to three months before test time, my alarm was set at 4:00 o’clock every morning. I was at the books in the morning about 4:15 till about 6:00 when my kids … Through the span, diploma is a three year process, so my kids, when I started, they were three and one. Now they’re gonna be seven and five. There’s times they were up at 5:30, 6:00 o’clock, so I had the clock at least an hour, an hour and a half in the mornings. Blind tasting in the mornings did not work for me, so I had … those were the midnight session. I was burning the candle literally at both ends. I was doing early morning study sessions, having my wife blind pour me at 10:30 at night and tasting through till midnight, 1:00 o’clock sometimes. It was a lot of hours.

Having a full time job, having a family, I was really not able to even go into the city and take the classes there. I did it home school and online.

JF: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

MT: Which was interesting. The advanced was all home, and it’s lot of memorization. A lot of it is just simply committing facts to memory, index cards, spreadsheets, charts, rewriting it, all that kind of stuff. And the advanced was really palatable to do that at home.

CW: First would be my WSET workbook. This comes from … it’s a British organization. Once you get into it, they send you a workbook and kind of a textbook that you can go through. That would be kind of the primary reference. There’s some supplementary stuff. This is a great book. Kevin Zraly wrote a wine course called Windows on the World. Karen McNeil, a brilliant brilliant woman wrote the Wine Bible, as you can maybe tell by the thud, it’s a pretty big book. But very very helpful. It’s a little bit easier to read to somebody that’s not in the wine industry, but there’s so much chunks of knowledge in here. It’s incredibly helpful.

MT: And in terms of the diploma, they set up a really well thought out and organized online system. Where you were in a class with 100 people, and working on projects and bouncing questions off instructors. You could do it at off hours. There was a week per region or section or whatever it was, but it wasn’t like all right, class is at 6:00 o’clock. Class is this week, and here’s our project for this week. And here’s what you gotta study. And here are the questions you gotta answer. It was kind of on your own time, granted it does take up a good amount of time. And I think finding people to taste with were lucky like you said to work here.

JF: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

MT: But being able to bounce stuff off of guys like Joe and Nelly and-

JF: Right. Uh huh.

MT: And Sue and everybody was, Lauren, is hugely helpful in getting perspective. Even if they weren’t WSET, tasting grid trains using it.

JF: Right, yeah.

MT: Just going through a tasting process with professionals is amazingly helpful. I would say, for people who are trying to do it, make sure you have the time. Make sure it’s something your really want to do, because it’s not a … pardon my French. You can’t half ass your way through it.

JF: Right.

MT: It’s legit. And to get some other people around you who are if they’re not doing it or into it.

JF: Basically, all this stuff is difficult. The tests. Studying. It’s just, to me, it can take over your life. It can take over your world. I’m wondering, is there an end goal to all this? Is there a finish line that you’re reaching for? Something tangible. It can be like, “I have accomplished this, and now I am done.”

MT: I hope there’s not an end goal. I do plan on getting the Master Sommelier diploma in about three years, which is an eight percent pass rate for that. That’s kind of like a life long pursuit. But I always want to be able to travel and meet wine makers and taste new wines and enjoy food and wine pairings and learn about the world as it changes. The wine world’s always gonna change, especially with climate and everything. The wine regions are gonna become extinct to a certain degree, and others are gonna be blossoming. It’s just a fascinating world for me. I don’t ever want to stop having to learn about it. That’s the fun part.

That’s the big question right? This could be the end goal, or there’s still the Master of Wine possibility out there, and I don’t know is really the answer. I feel super accomplished. The feet are halfway up. I think I’ve gone to a point where I feel really educated, really knowledgeable and I can distinguish myself a bit out there and talking about wine and educating about wine. I’m in certain groups and it just happens. You’re talking to ten people and oh, how come this wine tastes like this? Well, let me tell you why it tastes like this. And it just happens because you’re trained to do that, right? I’d say the feet are pretty much kicked up unless there’s some super driving force to step up to that next crazy level.

CW: Absolutely not. I have a goal for sure. I would like to, yeah, maybe get a Master’s Degree in Wine with a WSET. After you reach a certain level, you get to put the title, Master of Wine after your name, which is really cool. But you can spend your entire life delving into it, and only scratch the surface. There’s so much out there, like we were talking about earlier. The chemistry, the topography, the geography, the culture. It’s kind of an exercise in self hatred to get into wine, but in the best possible way. Because the reward is that you get to drink wine at the end of the day.

JF: At the end of every show, I like to ask folks if they have anything they want you to know that I didn’t touch on. And all three of this week’s guests did, because they’re very curious, interesting people. It was a simple message about wine education, why it’s important, why they had they do it? What all our guests had to say was super genuine and made me think about something entering the wine world now, like where I was back in the day, and what their hopes and goals are, and what they want to contribute to the industry and hey, possibly even change it.

MT: The teacher … it means that when someone asks a really simple question like that, it’s so easy, like you said earlier, just be like, “That’s so silly.” But instead to turn it into a teachable, that’s a great question-

JF: Yeah.

MT: And you know what? When you get one person excited after a question like that, then all of a sudden, their passion starts to develop, and I don’t know. That’s a fun part of it for me. I really enjoy that aspect. One thing I always like to talk about is people assume that sommeliers are kind of snobby. Or there’s this air of arrogance that is associated with being a sommelier. And I really always talk about how important hospitality is. How much we have to care for other people. It extends to all aspects of life. And that’s really what I try and teach. I try and talk about wine, as if we enter into it knowing nothing, right? Nobody has the key to the golden lock about the secrets of wine. It’s always changing, and I think it’s important that everyone realizes that everyone has the right to this knowledge and that it’s all about fun drinking wine. And the more knowledge we share, the more we all get to enjoy it.

CW: For the people at home, go out and drink some whine. Do some blind tasting yourself. Help us make it not so pretentious. Wine is there to be drank, not to be talked about. It’s there for fun. Get out, enjoy it.

Speaker 8: This podcast is produced by Larj Media. L-A-R-J Media. Wine Enthusiast is made possible by grapes, sunshine, and wine. And by the hardworking editors who bring  you news and information on your favorite beverage everyday. If you like what we’re doing, share our podcast with your friends, and give us a review on iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts. For more fun wine information, follow us on Twitter and Facebook at Wine Enthusiast.