After many years in discussion, 2019 marked the first year that stage 1 and stage 2 North America seminars were separated. Thanks to the very generous support of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, stage 1 now has its very own seminar week at Chateau Ste. Michelle in picturesque Woodinville outside of Seattle, WA. So it was with much excitement that our wonderful team of MWs and students headed northwest to Ste. Michelle at the end of January. Fifteen MWs including four of our newest NA MWs from the 2018 crop (Caroline Hermann MW, Elsa Macdonald MW, Nicolas Quillé MW and Martin Reyes MW) comprised the MW teaching team.
As ever, the NA S1 program was popular. This year we had 57 students from 13 countries. The study week itself kicked off on Monday 28 January. Leading into the seminar week, students also had the opportunity to attend a weekend pre-program – a deep dive into Washington wines and winery visits. Thirty five students participated in the program, which was generously organised by the Washington Wine Commission and the Woodinville Wine Country Association.
The seminar week was packed – each morning starting with a practice 12 wine blind tasting, including a calibration type tasting Monday, led by Peter Marks MW, on which students received small group or individual feedback on one question to help prepare them for the rigours of the mock exam the following (Tuesday) morning. The MW team was fully on hand to grade the mock exams – and individual feedback was given to students on Friday afternoon. Student feedback continues to demonstrate how much students value this one-on-one feedback as they progress with their studies.
All week, we had a stellar line up of plenary sessions and guest speakers to fill the afternoons. Highlights included Ernst Loosen (Dr. Loosen) from the Mosel, who led an amazing discussion and tasting of 12 Riesling wines, under different lees aging conditions, including the spectacular 1981 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Heritage edition, which having spent 27 years on its lees was still wonderfully tight and racy. Dr. Kevin Pogue, an esteemed geology professor at Whitman College, Walla Walla gave an extraordinary detailed presentation on his 20 year long geological and soil research into Washington State vineyards. Annette Alvarez-Peters, Asst. Vice President/GMM, Beverage Alcohol for Costco paired up with D C Flynt MW and winemaker Marco di Giullio for a fascinating session on the product development process for private label and control brands.
Another afternoon, four MW winemakers paired with four Ste. Michelle winemakers & cellar techies for a Down & Dirty in the cellar session – a deep dive into theory papers 2 and 3. Other highlights included a Bordeaux vintages comparative tasting and discussion of three red and three white vintages; a presentation on the US and Canadian regulatory markets as well as five theory sessions to help students tackle questions, plan, structure and write passing essays.
The entire Washington State wine community welcomed the MW students with incredible warmth and hospitality. Evenings were filled with extensive interactive tastings (and great food) and a chance not just to taste a vast array of Washington State wines, but also to talk with winery owners and winemakers. Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, The Washington Wine Commission and the Woodinville Wine Country Association each hosted separate evening events.
It takes a team, and Woodinville 2019 would not have been possible without the energy and commitment from my fellow MWs, or without the incredible work from our amazing NA Administrator, Nancy Johnson and Olly Chapman at HQ. A special thanks also goes to Bob Betz MW, a luminary in the Washington State wine community and instrumental in helping pull the pre-program together.