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09.2007

Massachusetts Beverage Business

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Article By: David Singer

Last summer I wrote about going to the Society of Wine Educators Conference and getting my wine geek on. This year the conference was in Monterey, which is a part of California wine country that I had not yet visited yet, so I was looking forward to this trip for many reasons. I started with the pre-conference event, which consisted of a two day seminar on Spain. If you just responded internally with "cool" or "that sounds like fun" please do continue reading. The seminars were even more appealing this year, especially in areas of winemaking that I would be like to be more familiar with, such as the Organic versus Sustainable Viticulture. There were many classes like the aforementioned, with a natural emphasis on AVAs in the Monterey area, as well as seminars on selling and marketing, and even one on how to be a better blind taster. At the end of my previous article I encouraged others to attend the Society of Wine Educators Conference. It was more than a "the more the merrier" invitation; an underlying concept was in play. I've mentioned this before and with the Conference on my radar it is always worth mentioning again.

So, why should you attend a conference such as this? In some scenarios, like the previously mentioned Spanish Seminar, the top combined scores in the theory and blind tastings will win a paid trip to Spain for a further in-depth education. Now, I'm not sure if I qualified for the trip, but I certainly did to be a Spanish "Ambassador" which is an opportunity to teach about Spanish wine on behalf of the Spanish Wine Academy. Yes, this is a paid gig, much as SOPEXA does for me now for Bordeaux. In cased you missed it, the Bordeaux seminar came to Boston on August 21 to 23. Contact www.wine.gurus.org for future events. So if you qualify as a wine geek, i.e. you love wine, you love learning about wine and love sharing knowledge about wine, and you know that with some extra study someone else is going to pay for a trip to Spain or Bordeaux with greater connections than you (probably) have, how can you pass opportunities like this up?

What you learn is certainly not limited to the seminars themselves. The people around you, some who come from all over the world, add to the wealth of knowledge that is around you. Having a winemaker's, importer's, educator's, or retailer's perspective on the lesson at hand can be a much different one than yours. Even little things are amazing how they add up. For example, in blind tastings I was having difficulty identifying Malbec from Argentina. Then someone mentioned to me that their identification note was apple. "Apple," I thought, "in red wine?" You know, they were right and now it's my note as well. The value of blind tasting in a group is truly measurable for increasing your skill in a blind tasting environment. This again was enforced during a seminar called "Beyond the Pale". Six wines from grapes that are traditionally non-oak were poured blind. The presenters, an MS from Texas and an MS candidate also from Texas listed the different characteristics of about ten traditionally unoaked grapes and what it is about them that are hallmark notes and characteristics. It's a hard exercise in the best of environments. By removing all bias of what the wine is, we have to truly look at all aspects of the wine and judge it on its merits alone. And via the thought process of the detective work to understand what the wine is, the end result does make us a better judge of wine.

The Society is certainly not the only conference worth attending, and the following are just on a national scale. Events like Hospice du Rhone and Pinot Camp are just a few of the many events that cause us to roar like only wine geeks can do.

MY LIST of THE TOP 5 EVENTS that HAPPENED

1 Playing Wine-opoly (monopoly with a wine theme) with a few people -including an MW who jokingly told me to go to hell after successfully spelling Gewurztraminer.

2 Two amazing presentations by Tim Gaiser, MS, on dry Riesling, Spatburgunder, including up-to-date-details on Erst Lage.

3 Tasting at Morgon Winery - seeing how the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA in the Salinas Valley is different temperature-wise from the northwest to southeast. (www.morganwinery.com/pdf/MorganTradeHandout2OO7.pdf)

4 Finally understanding the nuances between sustainable vs. organic viticulture.

25 Yes, this number doesn't make sense. Tasting Rutherford Cabernet to show the typical "Rutherford Dust" component was very interesting, but at 8 o'clock in the morning, not as pleasant as it should have been. It was hard to do, though the lessons learned will not be forgotten easily.


This year I saw only one member from the Boston Wine Community that happens to be a long time member of the Society. So Boston, again I say - who's coming with me next year?

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