I first caught the “wine bug” back in the late 1990s when I was a student at Westminster Theological Seminary (now simply called Westminster Seminary) near San Diego California. While dining at a restaurant and glaring at a menu I found myself completely ignorant about anything on the wine list. The list of wines might as well have been written in Sanskrit as I hadn’t a clue about not only what the named wines were let alone what would pair well with my meal.
At the time I was studying Hebrew, Greek, philosophy, and various theological subjects and exploring different genres of music that I was not accustom to listening to, namely opera and classical guitar. It was then that the thought crossed my mind, “Since I am studying so many different things, I should learn something about wine so I can know what to order from a wine list.”
That was as far as I wanted to go. I ONLY wanted to be able to read a wine list and be able to choose a wine to go with a meal.
A few weeks later I found myself going wine tasting with a fellow student in the Temecula wine country in the north-east side of San Diego County. Our first stop was at Callaway Vineyard and Winery where we were shown a video and then took a tour of the winemaking facilities. Then at the first sip I became enamored with the whole winemaking process, the effect of the soil and climate on the wine, and the enormous list of wines to explore. It was as if a whole new world had opened up to me and I wanted to know more.
It was not long after that first visit to a winery that I began reading books and watching VHS videos from the public library (this was before the age of high speed internet). I also found myself exploring the wine country whenever possible and it wasn’t long before I had been to every winery in Temecula and in the San Diego Mountains.
Then one day I was visiting Shadow Mountain Winery in Warner Springs, high above the Temecula Wine Country, and I was talking to the owner and winemaker who was pouring the wine. I told him that I wanted to learn more and get some “hands-on” experience harvesting and making wine. Three days later I was out in the vineyard harvesting grapes and helping him through the crush process.
After graduating from seminary and returning to my origins in the San Francisco bay Area I immediately began visiting the surrounding wine countries – Sonoma, Napa, Livermore, Lodi, the Santa Cruz Mountains, Monterey and the Sierra Foothills. I also began doing long road trips up and down the coast to visit wineries in San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, Santa Barbara and Malibu as well as further up north to Alexander Valley, the Russian River and Mendocino.
A few years later, in 1998, with the dawn of digital photography and high speed internet, I began my first wine blog CaliforniaWine Tasting Adventures (I know, the name is too long and it sounds as if I run a wine country touring business) which I later renamed The California Winery Review. My only desire was to share my experiences, my love for the beauty of the wine country and to learn more about those who make it in the writing process. I also got more into wine country photography and started posting videos on YouTube and created another blog Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography dedicated solely to photography. Later I began exploring Oregon and started a second wine blog The Oregon Winery Review, which due to time and distance doesn’t have as many posts as California.
About that time I learned that Las Positas College in Livermore has an enology and viticulture program with night courses available. So, I began taking classes and did an internship with two wineries, one in Livermore and another in Lodi. It was a great experience and it greatly enhanced my understanding and appreciation for wine but it became clear to me that becoming a winemaker was not in my future. The best class was the “World of Wines” course which exposed me to the wines beyond my California borders.
I then learned of the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), a British organization founded in 1969, headquartered in London, and is generally regarded as the world’s leading provider of wine education. They too have night courses in San Francisco so I went through their courses which greatly expanded my knowledge and appreciation for non-Californian wines and earned the Intermediate and Advanced Certifications.
Recently, I learned about the Intensive Sommelier Training at the International Culinary Center (ICC) formerly known as the French Culinary Institute, in Campbell located in the South Bay near San Jose.
One night after work I visited ICC, which is about 30 miles south from where I work, an hour drive in commuter traffic. While there I checked out their Intensive Sommelier Training and interacted with one of the 11 Master Sommeliers that work there. The course is 17 weeks (6-10 PM 3 nights per week) and it costs $9,880. The following week I audited one of the classes, was thoroughly impressed with the depth and quality of instruction and decided to take the next class which begins in October 2013 and ends in March 2014.
I already have the texts books and plan to have them read and make copious notes before the course begins six weeks from now.
Why ANOTHER Wine Blog?
Although I have read many books about wine and have taken a lot of classes, I learn more by writing than I do from listening to lectures or reading. The purpose of this wine blog is to share my experiences and explorations of non-Californian (or Oregonian) wines, and anything wine-related outside of what I share in my other wine blogs. My intent is to expand my own understanding of the world of wine and perhaps also inspire others to grow in their knowledge and appreciation of the world of wine.