January 1st, 2010

Why do we want to learn about wine?

My earliest memories about wine are going into my grandparent's cellar with my Dad. He stored the wines he made down there - I was probably only 4 or 5 years old and we would come upstairs for whatever family feast it was... wine was as important as the roast beef or the mashed potatoes. Wine was a part of the experience.

Now I am a chef, finishing my Certified Chef du Cuiscene course and want to feel like I did when I was a kid, and my Dad & I would sit at the kitchen table on a Saturday morning and plan dinner, plan what wines would be served & mostly, plan an experience.

And so I have started the International Sommelier Guild's level 1 course.

It is the beginning.

I admit that whatever I may know about wine I know only through the grace of my father's patience, and the rare moments in my life I was able to keep quiet long enough to listen to friends of mine who are already sommeliers. I know enough to know how much I have to learn... it will be 3 years of studying to become a certified sommelier, and that's only if I can balance my life enough to make this happen.

But maybe that's the whole point of wine? To make us take the time for balance; for friends and family, for long discussions late in the night and summer bbqs, for romantic evenings. Maybe that is why we learn about wine: so we can create more experiences with the time we have.

November 1st, 2011

After almost two years of sommelier-schooling I have come to learn, in far greater detail, how little I know about wine. Being a certified sommelier is a vast amount of work and dedication and what I have learnt so far has served to enlighten me as to how far I still have to go. I see now, why it is that there are people who will spend years in study just to become experts on Burgundian Pinot Noir (such as the Burghound) and after decades still seem reluctant to call themselves “experts”.

Perhaps, if I can call myself an expert at anything after so short a span, I can say that I have become very good at research (lol). No, seriously, I am very proud of what I have accomplished so far and am still full of energy and excitement at the future prospects I can see in the horizon. In the next year I will be taking my FWS degree (French Wine Scholar) which is recognized by both the French Wine Society and the North American wine industry. If that weren’t enough in and of itself, I shall prevail on from there and finish my long journey to ISG (International Sommelier Guild) certified sommelier.

I haven’t actually told my wife and 3-month old that I’m going back to school for almost a year. Perhaps I had best wait until after I pass out the Christmas gifts?

And yet, for all of this schooling, for all of the multitude of tastings; the swirl, sniff, slurp and spit, for all the countless bottles that have been opened and drained, for all of that… in many respects I still feel much the same as I did almost two years ago.

I’m trying to create more experiences in my life.

Or perhaps, more appropriately, I’m allowing more experiences to happen within my life.

It’s one thing to have some family over for dinner, but another to remember it fondly – correct? I can still remember, many months ago now, when we had family over and had lasagne for dinner. Why do I remember a lasagne dinner from six months ago? Because we cracked open a 2003 Chateau St. Jean La Fleur from Pomerol. It was the first time in my life that wine was an emotional experience. It opened my eyes.

And I know that for years to come, I will treasure the memory of sharing that bottle of wine with my family and savouring every last moment. That was why I started this journey in the first place, and why I know I shall never stop.