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  • Writer's pictureAllison Sheardy

Birthdays and course days

Early December saw me back in Napa for the first Master of Wine course days. The course days are two days of lectures, study tips, and tastings, and this particular set served as my first true introduction to the MW program.

The course days themselves were super valuable, not only for the content covered but for the connections made. It was great to meet fellow MW students, hear about their study plans, share information, and so forth. Also, I got to spend a lot of in-person time with my study group members, which is typically online.

But to backtrack a minute, one of the real highlights was the Sunday before the course days started, which also happened to be my birthday (never mind which one...okay, okay, 36). I flew into Sacramento the previous evening and drove into Napa. That morning, two of my favorite people on the planet drove up from the Bay Area and we spent the day tasting around the valley. They are close friends from when I lived in Livermore and it was awesome to spend the day together. We hit up Frog's Leap first, which is always a favorite of ours -- and remains so. I always experience top notch hospitality there, and of course, also very much enjoy the wines.

Frog's Leap is always a first class tasting experience.


From there we headed to Gary's Market (in the old Dean and DeLuca space) and had salads and sandwiches -- oh, and a really excellent bottle of of fizz -- for lunch. I just enjoyed driving around the valley and taking in the sights. It was kind of dreary and drizzly and around 50 F, so true blooded Californians were complaining about the chill. Seeing as it was in the teens and 20s back in the Midwest, I had no complaints.

Nothing says a successful birthday lunch like a bottle of blanc de blancs.


We also visited Paraduxx (a first for me) and Mumm, always a staple of our Napa visits. The evening ended with fancy Thai food (where we were joined by my study group pals), more bubbles, some aged Riesling, and maybe a tequila shot. I couldn't have been happier.

So then we had the course days. I'll be honest, I was really nervous leading up to them, mostly because I didn't know what to expect or how to best prepare myself. So far the entire MW experience has been more a test of my own confidence than anything else and it has been trying at times. But, that said, the course days went pretty well, especially the blind tasting practice. I got some good feedback and identified some areas I need to work on (Yellowtail Chard, I'm looking at you). It was a good introduction to the program, but I'll tell ya what, the IMW is not messing around. We jumped right in without reviewing blind tasting principals or anything like that -- its expected that we already know how to taste, and taste well. You're not there to learn how to blind taste, but rather, how to answer MW style questions.

Next up is the big seminar in Seattle, now only a few weeks away. I'm experiencing similar pre-trip anxiety, although I am looking forward to being back in the Pacific Northwest. I'll also get to spend a couple of days in Woodinville Wine Country (I've never been) which should be interesting and tasty. In the meantime, my study group meets on Zoom weekly and we review past exam questions. I am also working my way through the syllabus, writing topic outlines and reviewing. I need to spend more time tasting, which is definitely my focus for the next few weeks. Wish me luck!


Lemons in December. Oh, California.


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