It’s been over a year since I successfully passed my Sommelier Level 1 exam.

In that time, I’ve patiently waited for the organization I began my studies with, the Court of Masters Sommeliers, to offer their Level 2 exam somewhere in the Pacific Northwest at a time that fits into my schedule. I’m willing to travel to Portland, Seattle or Vancouver BC to sit for the exam. I’ve held off from crashing the books and the wine tastings. Frustration was setting in. Then, I read about another Sommelier certification program based in London called WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) and was glad to learn they have regularly scheduled courses in Portland, Newberg and Seattle. After looking at the program’s syllabus, WSET seems to be a better fit for me as I won’t have to demonstrate a wine decanting, wine service or champagne service as part of my examination. While those skills are definitely required for a sommelier working in a restaurant, they aren’t something I ever do or expect to do at The Wine Shack. Time to get my somm studies going again, WSET here I come!

I’ve registered for an upcoming course in Seattle and am really looking forward to the class time. The discussion on wine will be intense, with a focus on major wine regions, their main varietals and styles of production. The course also digs into the winemaking process. We’ll study winemaking and learn how the final flavor and style of the wine is impacted by each of the winemaker’s decisions. This will be a re-fresher for me as I’ve already taken two years of enology (winemaking) classes. Spirits are also on the course agenda and so I expect they are fair game for the Level 2 exam as well. One of the topics I am most interested in learning more about is wine-food pairing. Every day, customers ask me to recommend a wine that will pair well with their meal. I have the classic pairings down cold … pinot noir goes with salmon, cab sauv goes with a steak, chianti goes with a Bolognese sauce and chardonnay goes with chicken. But, I’d really like to take my wine-food pairing recommendations to the next level and offer some suggestions that are more experimental, but equally excellent.

Because we carry a variety of cheeses in Provisions 124, I am eager to share more about complex wine-cheese recommendations to customers. I am also looking forward to the wine tasting and evaluation component of the two-day class. We can expect to taste and analyze approximately 40 iconic wines from around the world. We will learn to properly evaluate a wine and make a determination of what grape it is, it’s vintage and what region of the world the wine is from. If you’ve seen the movie “Somm,” then you have an idea of what the process looks like. But in the movie those candidates are preparing for a master’s level examination which is way beyond the scope of this level. WSET doesn’t include a “blind” wine evaluation as part of their level 2 wine certification, so this part of the program is to get your ready for level 3.

But I always enjoy the wine evaluation classes. After the two-day course in Seattle, I’ll have a couple of weeks to further study and prepare for the level 2 examination which will be administered in Portland. I expect to pass the WSET level 2 exam with flying colors and then begin my WSET level 3 studies immediately. That’s when it gets serious.

I may need some help with the wine evaluation, who’s in?

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