May 2, 2010


"Students who pass the Advanced Course (on the average about 25%-30%) are eligible to take the Master Sommelier Examination itself. The pass rate for the Master Sommelier Examination is approximately 10%. [...] Knowledge of cigar production, with special reference to Havanas, will be required."
-From Master

My favorite part of my job (besides eating dinner) is talking about + drinking wine with people. I love it. Especially because I am continually amazed by all the bullshit and elitism that still surrounds the subject. People are often afraid of wine to the point of catatonics, or have to show off by undermining your every move. I think Navarre is unique in pairing a huge, intimidating glass pour list with service casual enough that people don't feel too afraid to ask questions or ask for something to be chosen for them (which might even be part of the fun). I feel lucky that through working there and through my parents I have learned a lot from people who are genuinely interested in wine and who have passion for it, for having connected with growers and salespersons alike and to have been spoiled rotten with the good stuff - without being made to feel like a peon. I have been encouraged to learn - and to help customers learn - through the actual process of taste... to make wine approachable, and hopefully even meaningful, through one's own experience - versus this preconceived idea about what it is supposed to be.
And this is the beginning, no? In the 1970s California growers shocked everyone by proving Americans could make wine (and great wine at that), and I think it's time us hillbillies start being known for drinking more than bud light and bad chardonnay at the party. It's the system of wine that's the problem I think. We are taught to believe that certain people just have incredible taste buds instead of ever trusting our own. We have these crazy regulations on how wine (and all alcohol) travels from state to state. Boring, overweight men talk to us in points rather than telling us to just go out and have dinner. Even the whole rarified ritual of restaurant bottle service seems passe in many regards. Much hangs upon the small pour, laden with expectation, produced for an anxious diner at a table upon whom the success or failure of an evening can be pinned.
I would like to continue to have wine jobs, so I would like to get "certified," to become a sommelier, but so far the cost eludes me. So in the meantime... how can wine be more approachable? How can people feel empowered about their knowledge of it? I'm not sure. I'm surely fascinated, though.

(Pictures from harvest at Antica Terra, Fall 2009, the most mornings I've even been up before 6.)

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