The final day included another seminar-Diversity in Balance at Edna Valley Winery, a second Grand Tasting this time at Dolphin Bay Resort, and a Taste like a Somm Double Blind Winemaker Dinner at the Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort with Chef Michael Avila.
The essence of the Diversity in Balance seminar was to pair food and chardonnays from a balanced perspective, while evaluating the different components of chardonnay and how they change the food. Our panel included Moderator Bob Bath (Master Sommelier), Joe Ibrahim-Edna Valley Vineyards, Steve Rogstad-Cuvaison, Mark Davindson from Wine Australia, Kathy Marlin of Negoicants USA, and Steve Checca-Caldora/Farnes talking about the versatility of chardonnay, the importance of body, acidity and sweetness when pairing food to it and that the acidity in the wine being paired should match up to the acidity of the dish. Once our meal, prepared by Chef Vatche Moukhtarian was served they took us through each wine pairing. The discussion including such topics as minerality and acidity, as well as how these traits where enhanced by modern wine making techniques and how the influence of different terroirs on the wine paired with complex or unusual cuisine.
Initially I was a bit apprehensive when I saw the menu was mostly fish and beets; I figured I’d be taking a bite and politely leaving it at that. There is a reason I am not “SHEeats”, I’m very finicky and by finicky I mean there are definitely things I don’t like or want prepared in a particular way, but I will always try something (unless it’s staring at me) put in front of me. I may not like it, but at least I’ll try it. The menu consisted of Cobia Ceviche marinated in lemon, lime and orange juice, accompanied by Avocado Tomatillo salsa and Yucca chips; Beet Salad with oven roasted local Beets a Goat Cheese Mousse, and Cilantro oil; and Fennel Pollen Salmon, a Fennel Pollen Sous Vide Salmon, with Green Grape Sauce, Fingering potatoes and French green beans all paired with Edna Valley Vineyard wines. Happily and thankfully, each dish was quite delicious and the pairings were naturally perfect.
Following the seminar it was off to the 2nd Grand Tasting at Dolphin Bay. Nearly identical to the event the day prior, this time though, there were different producers and wine makers. I ran into David Wilson who you may remember was my Greek Ambassador counter part and who I did a few interviews with. He was recording interviews for his radio show GrapeEncounters, at the events with the wine makers.
Post the Grand Tasting we went over to the Taste like a Somm Double Blind Wine Dinner put on by a great up and coming local chef, Chef Michael Avila at the Gardens of Avila restaurant. The set up was very cool with each table getting their own Sommelier and wine maker with whom attendees could talk and discuss each food and wine pairing. The menu was a spectacular 5 course dinner with Tuna-Crab Rolls made with big eye tuna, dungeness crab, cucumber, coriander jus and borage flower; Spring Squash and Jicama Soup topped with squash blossom, chili oil, creme fraiche and tarragon; House Made Egg Yolk Ravioli stuffed with artichoke, kale, mascarpone, roasted garlic and tomato cream; Truffle Scallop Tian with black truffle, saffron risotto, wild mushrooms, and herb fumet; and for dessert a Peanut Butter Mousse topped with caramelized banana, peanut crunch and cacao coulis.
Each course was paired with a different wine maker’s chardonnay that was poured for the attendees blind. Then we went around the room and for each wine a different Somm stood up and had to talk about the wine and determine which winery it came from, while each person had a special tasting chart to see how close they came to the Somms final conclusion and the actual wine. Once it was determined who brought the wine, the winemaker stood up and told us more about the wine. It was a great night. At the end of the evening I spoke to Fred Dame again and in the course of conversation I mentioned I was considering taking the Level 1 Master Sommelier Exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS). He said he was teaching a class at Daou Vineyards the end of August and invited me to be a participant. This invitation was a very big deal for me, since Fred is the preeminent Master Sommelier in the United States, founded the American Branch of the CMS and is extremely well-respected. So of COURSE I took him up on it.
After coming back from Greece and finding out this was not a “prep class” for the listed September exam program, it was its own EXAM class, I crammed and studied nonstop to prepare. I arrived at Daou for their welcome BBQ and had a marvelous time meeting the other participants and chatting the night away with Daniel and Georges Daou as well as Fred and a few others at the table. Then it was back to the room to prep for the next 2 days of all out wine education. I was a nervous wreck especially during the blind tasting portions (never a strong point for me), where first round I had to stand up and give the final conclusion as to what vintage, varietal, country, region or appellation and quality level the wine was. I’m proud to say I got it all correct except I said it was a Pinot from Santa Barbara and it was actually from Sonoma. The second round I had to describe all the tasting notes of the wine we were drinking. I really enjoyed the classes and all the knowledge that was bestowed on my by the Masters Fred, Brian McClintic, and Eric Entrikin. Then it was test time! You are given 70 questions and 45 minutes to complete the exam, the pinning and graduation ceremony occurs immediately after the exams are graded.
I sat on pins and needles as they read name after name just hoping mine was going to be called, knowing that not everyone passed the exam. Finally about 5 people from the end Fred called my name, and I could finally breathe. I was so proud to be able to now call myself a Sommelier and immediately after the presentations ended I called #HEeats to let him know. We decided to meet up at the SLO Brew Preview event. By the time I met up with him people were coming up to me and congratulating me…he’d told everyone even before I got there! LOL
“It doesn’t matter if the glass is half empty or half full. There is clearly room for more wine.” – Anonymous
Great up coming events: 9/12-13/15 Avocado and Margarita Fest; 9/12 Wine Women and Shoes;9/12/15 7th Annual Brews & Bites 9/19-20/15 Beaverstock; 9/19/15 CASA Rendezvous; 9/19/15 PAC Roaring 20’s Speakeasy; 9/24-27/15 Savor the Central Coast; 10/2-4/15 BubblyFest; 10/3/15 Morro Bay Harbor Festival; 10/16-18/15 Harvest Wine Weekend; 10/17-19/15 Pismo Clam Fest; 11/6-8/15 SLOwine Harvest on the Coast; 11/6/15 Wintermezzo; 11/21/15 Baconfest