Today begins the official start of the North American Residential Seminar for the Institute of Masters of Wine. That is quite a mouthful to describe a bunch of wine people sitting in a room discussing fermented grape juice. My day started early, I am on east coast time so I was up before 5 am. I know some of you live that schedule but I like to see the David Letterman Top Ten list and the first guest every night if they are interesting. Fortunately I used my quiet time this morning to work out an Internet connection and make friends with the graveyard shift help in the lobby. This provided me with some very strong coffee to clear the cobwebs out of my head. At daybreak I did a short jog around Yountville and then prepared to visit the Robert Mondavi Winery for a tour of their bottling line.
As most of you know I would rather cut off an ear lobe than sell a large conglomerates wines so I was happy I did not burst into flames when I pulled into the parking lot. Can you believe in seventeen years in the wine business I have never visited Robert Mondavi Winery? Pretty place, lots of nice sculpture, very clean. The cellar master, Gary Midyette (pronounced midget) was very nice and tolerated the questions from us. When you get a bunch of cork dorks in a room we come up with some stupid and barely pertinent questions.
After the bottling line tour I zipped up to V. Sattui, a winery that does not sell their wines into distribution. I had a quick taste through a few wines, nothing exciting and sort of expensive, and made my way to the deli. The deli case featured several Italian themed dishes and several sandwiches. I settled on a tri-tip steak sandwich on onion foccaia, a broccoli, macaroni and cheese dish and an arrancini. That is a ball of cooked arborio rice and tomatoes stuffed with mozzarella, rolled in bread crumbs and fried. I took all of this food, and that really just touches on the offerings, outside to their picnic area for a quick picnic. The weather is perfectly sunny and the temperature is cool enough that I needed to put my jacket back on over short sleeves. Dont hate me just because the weather is beautiful.
I returned to my hotel, The Villagio Inn and Day Spa to prepare for my seminar, which is on property. The first two seminars cover the ins and outs of writing a good essay, something I should have paid more attention to in high school. The third seminar covered the ins and outs of blind tasting ala Master of Wine exam. I feel good, I guessed seven of nice varietals, six vintages and four appellations. That is not good enough to pass but I feel it is a good foundation for day one. Tomorrow the real tasting starts, we will see what that holds.
For any of you have read this far and still think this is interesting I am going to throw you a bonus contest. Anyone who emails me the definition of “sparging” will win a free seat to any wine class. Answers must be received by Sunday, 10 am to count.