So I haven’t forgotten about my blog. I was simply avoiding it these last few weeks in preparation for my upcoming Court of Master Sommeliers Certified test. I was starting to get paranoid and therefore spent all my free time studying and practicing, and felt guilty at the idea of doing stuff for fun, like blogging. But it's all done and over now and I can get back to the fun part.
I registered to take the exam earlier this year, both for educational purposes and as a challenge to myself. I’ve been studying for months now, and as a result I have hundreds of flashcards that I had been vigorously reviewing and reviewing and reviewing along with reading loads of books and magazines on wine and of course constantly tasting new wines from around the world. Nobody really tells you what to focus on or what to study more or less of, so I was pretty much on my own memorizing hundreds of regions from dozens of countries. It can get daunting. Then there’s the blind tasting component to practice for. Now I am lucky to have a husband who is crazy for wine too, so he had no problem blind tasting me on wine daily, knowing that he got to partake in the result after my answer was revealed.
The days leading up to the exam started to get stressful. Had I studied enough? Had I studying the right things? What if everything starts to get jumbled in my head? I started to doubt all that I knew and started getting down on myself.
So after lots of advice and talks from friends I decided to take it easy the 2 days before my test. At that point, there really wasn’t much more I could learn anyway. The day before my test I got up early, ran 11 miles (p.s., I am also training for a ½ marathon, so the running was good for my training and mental prep). Then spent a couple of hours just sitting in my back yard in the sun and went through a few flashcards. Then I packed up got in the car and drove to Seattle all the while listening to some of my favorite “feel good” music. Yes, I am superstitious, so I spent the day listening to good music, trying to get in a good mood, and just be in my “happy place” if you will.
Monday, May 18th Test day!
So much for a good nights sleep before a big test. I couldn’t sleep AT ALL the night before my test! I was in an uncomfortable hotel bed, it was hot, the air conditioning didn’t help, and I kept thinking about wine, regions, the proctors and what they might ask. I tried to relax, count cows jumping over the moon, tried to meditate, nothing helped! I tried not to sweat it. I’d just cover up the tiredness with loads of coffee. I did manage to eat a good breakfast before the test so that was a plus.
8:00am: It’s Test Time!
The blind tasting started right at 8:20am. 20 minutes for the blind tasting component. Now I am not supposed to talk about the exact wines that were poured. Shoot, I don’t even know what they were, they don’t tell you, but I did feel pretty confident in my answers and descriptions. All those tastings with the NW Palate editors certainly helped! Thanks guys!
8:40am: Written Exam
WTF?! I thought I was doomed. I answered all the questions I had no doubt about first (that was about ½ the test)… then preceded to let fate take over… or rather my deduction stills. I had no idea what to expect. It could go either way. Damn Bordeaux… I guess I didn’t study my Bordeaux producers and their regions enough.
10:00am: Service Exam
So much for having time to prep for the service exam in between tests. One downfall of having a last name so early in the alphabet… I knew I should have taken my husbands last name (“M”, right there in the middle)! On the flip side, I got to go first, and get it over and done with!
For this portion I had to “properly” open a bottle of Champagne and pour it into 8 glasses evenly all in one single stream. Sounds easy, but it’s not as easy as it sounds! Especially when you’re nervous. Not only were my legs shaking, but so were my hands… hence spillage! Oops.
Luckily the proctors were very friendly and non-intimidating, so I just kept on.
Then I had to answer a series of questions about cocktails, dessert wines, and give food and wine pairing ideas. I felt fairly confident in that part.
By 11:00am I was done!
And at that point I had to play the waiting game for 4 more hours. Doah!
Luckily my trusty husband (who met me in Seattle) knew exactly what I would need when the test was over… BUBBLES! When I walked back to the hotel I was greeted with a glass of bubbles and some snacks. He asked how it went, and I just shouted “damn written exam”! I think at that point he looked more nervous than I did. We talked about it for awhile, and at the end of the day, I knew what I knew, and even if I had 2, 3 or even 4 more weeks to study I probably would have answered the exact same way and still not known the answers to the questions that stumped me.
So now I just wait.
3:30pm: The Moment of Truth
This is it. Don’t get scared now. As I arrived they had little white envelopes ready for us all to open.
As I opened mine I said to myself “either way, it’s gonna be okay… but damn I really really want to pass this!” Then I closed my eyes, opened up my little white envelope, opened my eyes and read the following word “PASS”!
What an incredible relief! I didn’t realize just how bad I wanted this until I saw that envelope and got my pretty purple pin and certificate! And, of course, they had a glass of Gods nectar waiting for us all to celebrate with… some yummy bubbles! Exactly what I needed after all that waiting and stress!
Or rather just the beginning of a new career in the wine industry!