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  • Writer's pictureAllison Sheardy

Seminar in Seattle

I attended the Master of Wine Stage 1 residential seminar waaaaay back in early February -- already seems like a lifetime ago. This experience is mandatory for students and involves five days of mock exams, masterclasses, lectures, and tasting seminars. It was an intense, exhausting week, but also really helpful and insightful.

Before the official seminar began, there was an optional pre-trip to Woodinville Wine Country. While I've been to Seattle before (during my and Danielle's epic Pacific Northwest road trip a few years back), I had not had the opportunity to visit Woodinville. I loved it! Interestingly, in Washington State, most of the grapes are grown and wines are produced in the eastern part of the state -- the Cascade Mountains create a rain shadow, resulting in dry conditions with wide diurnal ranges, ideal for quality grape growing. However, most of the wine tourism is west, near Seattle. Woodinville has dozens and dozens of tasting rooms, but very little of the state's volume is produced here. We spent two days visiting tasting rooms, learning about DTC and wine business, tasting (lots of Syrah!), and getting a deeper understanding of the wine industry in Washington.

A evening in Woodville was spent enjoying different courses in different urban tasting rooms -- a veritable movable feast!

After Woodville, I was based in Seattle for the next several days. I had Sunday afternoon free, so you know it involved a visit to the original Starbucks in Pike Place and a gander at the sea otters at the aquarium -- putting me in the right mental state for the rest of the trip, ha!

I won't go into the nitty gritty details of the seminar, but there were some highlights worth mentioning -- the 28 wine deep dive into Burgundy, for starters. We had a fascinating lecture on smoke taint and innovative research taking place, learned a lot about sustainability and what that means in Washington State, and enjoyed a masterclass on the wines of Australia (to call out a few).

As I've mentioned, I was pretty anxious leading up to the seminar. This entire MW experience has had a lot of emotional ups and downs and has especially been a test of my own self-confidence and endurance. Furthermore, I'd heard from other more advanced MW students and/or current MWs that the seminar can be very intense, very critical, and often upsetting and overwhelming -- so I was worried. I was especially concerned about the mock exam -- a full 12 wine flight that was graded, and we received one on one feedback from a MW. As per usual, I shouldn't have been so anxious. Did I do perfectly on the mock? Of course not -- but I did well enough to help with my confidence, and the constructive criticism was delivered so helpfully, kindly, and thoughtfully. I walked away from the week with a better understanding of my strengths and weaknesses, an updated study plan, and renewed motivation -- which was kind of the whole point. Hearing from current MWs and getting their insights and feedback was invaluable.

Each evening after the program concluded, my study group pals and I would head out for dinner, or drinks (or both) to decompress from the day -- this ended up being a key part of the process. Having a strong support group is absolutely necessary to the entire MW endeavor.

Highlights from a free afternoon in Seattle.

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