Ok, ok, ok. . . I have been mysteriously absent for quite some time now (see most recent post below, dated 4/7/12), but I will contend that it was all in the name of wine. Sometime around new years of this year I decided to try my hand at adding some oomph to and somehow quantifying my wine credentials, which up to this point has basically comprised drinking a lot and reading wine books. In January I did my part and joined the Society of Wine Educators and to commit to taking their Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) exam. As the website details, this is intended to be a self-study program that culminates in taking (and hopefully passing) their 100 question exam. The society was nice enough to produce a study guide from which all of the exam questions are taken, and they strongly recommend that you get this guide in order to study for the exam because they contend (and I can now agree) that the material covered takes a different angle on much of the material and focuses on certain things that may or may not be adequately covered in other materials.
Taken directly from their website, “The Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) Exam is a rigorous exam, which tests a candidate’s wine knowledge and mastery of key elements within the worlds of viticulture and wine production.” My method of study involved approximately 6 months of review of the study guide (with varying degrees of discipline) along with flashcards and some cross-training with other wine related books and materials. My wife deserves special thanks for putting up with me during this time and I became more and more eccentric throughout the process, demanding that we spend hours in coffee houses and that she “leave me alone” for long expanses of time so I could try and focus on the material without distraction. I will not try and put a number on the hours spent studying directly for this exam (as I am a constant student of wine), but let just say it was significant given that this is a hobby for me and probably rivals the amount of time I have spent studying for any other test I’ve ever taken. I took the exam at the Cleveland based American Wine School, which is the closest testing location to my Dayton, OH.
It should be noted that the results of this exam must be reviewed by the society directly and cannot be scored by the American Wine School or anyone else. Because of this, they give a rather lengthy time frame for getting the results back. . . Not sure if I can hold my breath for 6 weeks, but I will try. In the meantime, for anyone who is currently studying or planning on taking this exam for their certification, know that it is a very difficult exam. Being the enthusiastic and curious person I am, I thought I knew something before beginning to study. . . and in short I probably could’ve used another month or two to study. The study guide is around 250 pages long, and approximately 50% of the words in the book are in bold. You know, this is to indicate a term of particular importance, heh. This is the functional equivalent of highlighting every line in a book, it sort of loses its punch. The following are example of subject that my now mangled brain can remember from this particular version of the exam:
-% of wine required from the label vintage in a certified S. African wine.
-Which 3 AVAs lie in both Oregon and Washington?
-Chiavennasca is a synonym for what grape?
-U.S. Control states take what part in wine distribution?
-Styles and production characteristics of Madeira/Sherry/Port
-What wine region lies between the Vosge and the Rhine?
-Vin Doux Naturel is most like what other wine?
-What is the production breakdown of Maconnais (red/white/etc.)?
-What are the stylistic differences between Sancerre and Fume’ Blanc?
As you can see, pretty much anything is fair game. 100 questions in 1-hour tends to become a bit of a chore with an onslaught of questions like these. Belated wishes of luck will be accepted. I will update when I learn anything new. Until then, I hope to have the reviewing on this blog revved back up a bit. Cheers!
$29, 16.2% alc./vol.! www.turleywinecellars.com: If the wine world has rock stars, Helen Turley is certainly the Paul McCartney of wine. She has worked as a winemaker/consultant with all kinds of producers and has been in the game for years and years. To that effect, any bottle that she had a hand in making will probably cost you around the same amount as a ticket to a Paul McCartney concert, somewhere north of $100. If you noticed, the wine being reviewed here was nowhere near that expensive, but then again Helen Turley has not actually been the winemaker at Turley Wine Cellars since 1995. I did, however, sit on a waiting list for about 18 months before I was offered an allocation of Turley wines. This was the only bottle I purchased in the first go-round and it is the cheapest bottle they offer. I thought I would give them a test run before really investing in what has been called the best Zinfandel made.
It is obvious from the color and the nose of this wine (as well as the date on the bottle) that it is very young, but the nose is so massive and floral and toasty and elegant I might have paid money just to smell it. I get cinnamon and dark berries (blackberries and blueberries predominate) as well as an unmistakable cream layer that I have trouble rationalizing I can actually smell. A slight oakiness also comes through. On the palate this wine has a hammock full of fruit and the best way I can describe the overall effect is to describe it as drinking a berry pie. There are blackberries, blueberries, and cherries as well as a slight sweet and toasty note (the crust ). The best part is the balance. You would never know that this wine is over 16% alcohol until just at the end of the finish because the pure fruit, the fine tannins, and the acidity all work to keep everything in perspective and under control. Despite my ravings, there aren’t a ton of what you would call secondary aromas or flavors in this wine right now. These tend to be described in less fruity and more complex terminology like leather, cigar box, tar, etc. I have no doubts whatsoever that this wine will develop wonderfully into an entire bouquet of subtle complexities, but you better give it 5-10 years. Most exciting Zinfandel I have had in some time (my wife gushed about this wine for hours afterward!) 93+ pts.
Before I start to get into any reviews or anything of that nature, I thought I should probably say a little bit about my preconceived notions and established tastes. Now while I am still learning things about the world of wine and my taste preferences, there are a few things that I know I like and you the reader will benefit from having a sense of what that bias is. That way, you can see through the fog of any reviews I post and have a better idea of whether you might like it (or hate it) as much as I do! Okay, enough ho haw, lets get going:
-As far as I can tell, pinot noir has the best potential to steal my heart and my wallet. And although my French Burgundy experience is limited, I tend to prefer the Californian New World style.
-The best Zinfandel (Red!) has the soul of a pinot noir with the body and fruit cranked to 11. So called, fruit forward and lighter style zinfandels are missing the essence of the grape.
-Huge, over extracted Australian shiraz is awesome! Fruit bombs, as they are commonly known, get a bad wrap from a lot of snooty wine types but I believe they deserve a certain respect.
-Napa Cabernet and propriatary red blends have a great potential to silence many a wine lover, but there is also a lot of crap out there with no character and too much (or not enough) oak.
-Oh yeah, and there are white wines too. . .
Now that you know a little about me, I hope that the following entries will make a little more sense. There are, however, exceptions to every rule. . .