After a successful first experience in January 2019, 2020 marked the second year that the stage one North America seminar week was held in Washington State, thanks to the continued generosity of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. Stage one took place the last week of January 2020 at Chateau Ste. Michelle in the picturesque town of Woodinville outside of Seattle, WA.
Whether it is the location, or the special welcome and hospitality from Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and the Washington Wine Community, we never have challenges recruiting a top team of MWs to help lead the tastings and seminar sessions as well as guide and mentor the students. This year’s Team Woodinville included a great group of veterans on the MW seminar program circuit, as well as one of our newest MWs, Nick Jackson MW.
As ever the NA S1 program was popular. This year we had 42 students from 11 different countries. The study week itself kicked off on Monday 27 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. T 24 students participated on the pre-seminar programme, which was once again generously organised by the Washington State Wine 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 Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW and Matthew Stubbs MW after which, students received small group or individual feedback on one question to help prepare them for the rigors 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 truly 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 eminent climatologist Dr. Greg Jones, PhD (Director of Evenstad Center for Wine Education, Linfield College) who led a compelling, if concerning seminar and discussion on Weather and Climate Influences on Viticulture and Wine Production.
An absolute highlight of the week for students and MWs alike was the expansive Burgundy tasting led by experts Charles Curtis MW and Nick Jackson MW. The depth of their knowledge as well as their personal narrative provided an incredible useful learning experience for the students as through the lens of the wines, they took us up and down villages, across different terroirs and different quality levels.
Later in the week, DC Flynt MW teamed up with Annette Alvarez-Peters, just recently retired as Asst. Vice President/GMM, Beverage Alcohol, Costco; Zach Long, Vintage Wine Estates and Daniel Pi, Director of Winemaking Grupo Peñaflor to deliver a unique presentation and discussion on Private Label and Control Brand Wines – offering students the rare opportunity to see behind the scenes of the negotiations, deals, trade-offs and contracts involved in creating and bringing to market these big business types of wines.
Another afternoon four of our MW team paired with four Ste. Michelle winemakers and cellar techies for a student Down & Dirty in the cellar session – a deep dive into papers 2 and 3. Other highlights included a presentation on the Impact of Laws and Regulations on the Wine Trade with Caroline Hermann MW as well as five theory sessions to help students tackle questions, plan, structure and write passing essays.
Once more, the entire Washington 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, Washington State Wine and the Woodinville Wine Country Association each hosted separate evening events.
It takes a team, and Woodinville 2020 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 Patrick at HQ.