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  • Writer's pictureAllison Sheardy

So, that happened: Stage 2 seminar

Updated: Mar 19

Last month saw me travelling to Napa for the annual residential seminar. Some of you may remember my discussion of this last year, but to recap: Attending this seminar is a prerequisite for sitting the exam in June. There are a few to chose from around the globe (typically somewhere in Europe, Australia, and the US). As tempted as I was to go to the UK seminar, I opted to attend the most local option (in this case, Napa) for economic and convenience sake. The seminar runs Monday-Friday, typically 8 AM until evening (some evenings include dinners and other events that run later). The agenda includes calibration tastings, mock exams, master classes, lectures, and more -- it is intense, and a lot to process during that time period. This was I was especially trepidatious because I knew fewer people, and it was my first official event as a stage 2 student (last year we had course days prior to the seminar, so there was a chance to meet fellow students ahead of time, plus I has the members of my trusty study group close at hand).


One of the highlights was a fieldtrip to Spottswoode Winery in St. Helena. They practice organic, regenerative viticulture, and we can to speak with vineyard manager/winemaker at length. It was a beautiful spot with some lovely wine.


So, how did it go? Ups and downs. A roller coaster. This is par for the course with these kinds of events, at least for me. There were several times I was disappointed in my performance (in terms of blind tasting) but there were many useful takeaways, too. I was able to identify some blind spots (high end vintage champagne, for example) and figure out a framework for a study plan moving forward. I didn't do so horribly that I felt like there was no point in taking the exam in June; I feel like with a lot of focus and hard work a pass is...possible, at least in tasting. The pass rate for tasting is very low (about 10%), while theory is closer to a 30% pass rate. With that said, I actually feel more confident about tasting. Yes, me, a writer. I am really struggling with theory and structuring effective yet efficient essays. If you're reading this, you're familiar with my casual, albeit sometimes rambling style. Good for a blog, or even for journalistic writing. Not so great for hardcore, analytical academic writing. I'm not saying I can't get there, but I am not there yet...and not sure I can be by June.

Study group is ramping up, as we all felt the post-seminar pressure. I am looking at attending some local tasting groups; I figure it might be helpful even if they are not fellow MW students. I have a color coded spreadsheet with weekly goals for both practical and theory. I decided not to attend course days next month; I felt like the time and money could be better spent on things specific to me and what I want to work on. Exam registration isn't open yet, so I am keeping my eyes peeled for that and doing what I can. My family experienced a loss right around when I got home from seminar, which has triggered a number of life changes for various family members -- plus a lot of time and energy put into things related to that, so it has been a lot. I feel stretched pretty thin at the moment, so I am trying to focus on "progress, not perfection."


Another highlight was on my free day (Sunday) before the official start of seminar. A drive to the coast, lunch in Bodega Bay, and beers on the beach -- perfection.


Currently listening to: Anti-Hero, Taylor Swift, on repeat.

Currently drinking: Coffee. I am over wine for the moment.


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