Happy New Year! I'm easing myself out of 2017 and into 2018 - still reflecting some on last year and how many wine surprises it held. It was the year I felt I finally could legitimately call myself a wine journalist and not just a journalist who sometimes writes about wine. Sure, I cover other topics, particularly food over on Mother Nature Network, but the majority of my focus in2017 was on wine - finding new publications to write for and learning as much as I possibly could.
It was a full year with far too much to recount every detail, but there were definitely some highlights that deserve looking back on.
I did not begin 2017 with the goal of becoming a certified Somm, but when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped on it. Over the summer I received an invitation from executive director Keith Wallace to The Wine School of Philadelphia as a journalist on assignment. Before accepting the invite, I did my homework. The school is one of the top two in the United States that has college-level programming, and the other top school is in Napa. I also spoke to a former student who is now a winemaker. Confident the school was worth my readers' time and my time, I enrolled in a a one week accelerated course that ended with a level three sommelier certification.
In that one week I took two fast-paced, information-packed courses: The Foundation Wine Course taught by Wallace and the Intermediate Course taught by Alana Zerbe - both excellent teachers. Thanks to their adroit ability to pass on their wine knowledge through a logical, engaging and hands-on method, I passed my tests and earned my Level 3 Sommelier Certification. I can't thank Wallace and Zerbe enough for the opportunity.
The Wine School of Philadelphia offers both professional courses and classes for non-professionals who want to learn a little more about wine. I plan on continuing my education at the school this year, and looking at their schedule it seems a Spanish Wine Specialist certification may be the goal. I'm already dreaming of Garnacha, Cava, Albarino, Tempranillo...
#NJwine month on #WineStudio
My never ending cheerleading for New Jersey wines was heard by Tina Morey, who runs an education program that I participate in, #WineStudio. In November, she chose to focus on New Jersey wines, and you know what? Wine professionals from all over the country liked us. They really, really liked us.
They had the opportunity to taste some of New Jersey's finest wines - like the William Heritage 2014 Brut pictured above. At the end of this post, I'll link to the blog posts and articles by various writers after the month was done.
I'm so excited that many people who had never given Garden State wines a passing thought are now fully aware that New Jersey is a serious wine state because they tasted Heritage's Brut as well as Tomasello’s Palmaris 2013 Outer Coastal Plain Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve; Sharrott’s 2016 Barrel Reserve Chardonnay; William Heritage’s 2016 Outer Coastal Plain Chenin Blanc, in addition to the Brut; Hawk Haven’s 2015 Signature Series Cabernet Franc, 2016 Signature Series Rosé and 2016 Chardonnay, and Unionville’s 2013 Pheasant Hill Syrah.
Conegliano Valdobbiadene and Prosecco DOCG
I spent the last three months of 2017 immersed in Prosecco bubbles. The Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG region is a sub-appellation of the Prosecco DOC in Italy. There, they make the highest quality Prosecco from gorgeous, wise-old vines that live on steep hills.
#WineStudio had two months dedicated to the sparkling wine of the region - a full month dedicated to the wines of Nino Franco and a second month dedicated to various producers in the region. I also went up to New York City for a guided tasting of the wines from the region. The full immersion happened however with a trip to Conelgliano Valdobbiadene in early December.
The wines are lovely. The region is stunningly beautiful. The people are hospitable, warm-hearted and charming. The experience was invaluable. Our group of three journalists met with six producers who took us through tastings of their wines, drank Prosecco with every two-hour lunch and four-hour dinner, and even came across a Prosecco vending machine at the top of a hill!
I have articles coming out on both Mother Nature Network and VinePair about the region and its wines. I'll link to them when they've published. In the meantime, I encourage you to look for the DOCG designation when you're buying Prosecco. You'll be in for a treat.
Wine and Wonder
Wine and Wonder launched over the summer, a website that I'd wanted to launch for two years. It's more than just a blog. It's my writer's website and gives me a home base on the Internet. There's still a lot of work to be done. Google still isn't finding it the way it should. I realized just last week I have no search bar (so sorry!). I also want to change the background color. But it's up and running, mostly due to my son Simon who did a lot of the work for me.
The name has grown on me, too. I had wanted Wander instead of Wonder because I write about wine and travel, but there is a lot of wonder in the wine world and a lot of wonderful wine experiences to be had. The right name found me.
Judging the 10th Annual Winemakers Ball
Back in October, my friend Irene, who I met at a wine tasting room, asked me to help judge the local Knights of Columbus 10th Annual Winemakers Ball. There were 33 bottles of homemade wine to sample and rate. The blind judging was (mostly) serious business, but the winemakers made it such a fun night. There were some impressive wines (and a few that I wouldn't want to drink ever again).
Being with this wine-loving group of mostly Italians was the standout part of the evening for me. I was invited into a wine community that I knew nothing about, and they accepted me. After the judging was over, the winning bottles were taken out to the tables on front sidewalk where there were lots of cigars and lots of laughs.
After the amazing experiences that 2017 offered, I am open to all the wine experiences that 2018 wants to send my way.
What other wine writers had to say about New Jersey wines after the #WineStudio tasting.