The SOMM Journal

October / November 2016

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14 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 14 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } OCTOBER/NOVEMBER { discoveries } In 1995, Brett Raven and Diane Kleinecke gave up their careers in San Francisco's Financial District when the opportunity arose to purchase 15 acres of property in Sonoma's Bennett Valley AVA, fulfilling the mutual dream of living in the country. Frostwatch Vineyard, established in 1997, also officially became a winery in 2002 at the release of their inaugural vintage. During this time, Raven held various positions at Alderbrook Winery, Matanzas Creek Winery (Bennett Valley's most established producer) and Ramey Wine Cellars, while also attending winemaking courses via the U.C. Davis Extension program and farming the Ramey vineyards. Says Raven, "I was the Cellar Master at Ramey Wine Cellars for about six years. I'd get off work and crush at like one in the morning and come home, then put a bin on the front of my tractor, wander up and down the rows and harvest those vines." The vines he specifically refers to in this instance are the Sauvignon Blanc vines accidentally planted in their Chardonnay block, which now go into their Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend, Kismet. Raven, with his two young-adult offspring (Alec and Paige) in tow, stopped by The Somm Journal and first tasted us on this serendipitously produced blend, in addition to the Frostwatch 2013 Ophira Reserve Chardonnay, Frostwatch 2012 Merlot and Frostwatch 2012 Pinot Noir. Smacking at the polished Frostwatch Merlot, staring across the table at the polite young adults across from me, one thing seemed clear : Raven seems to take as much care raising his wines as he does his kids. —Jessie Birschbach More people have been into space than have become Masters of Wine. With fewer than 400 MWs in the world and a pass rate of around ten percent, the exam is one of the toughest in the world of wine. Those individuals who get over the line have two things in common: tenacity and problem-solving abilities. The main challenge, apart from the difficulty of the exams themselves, is that the program is self-study. This was one of the reasons Tim Wildman, MW, launched the, an online resource to provide students with a road map for their journey and to share the techniques that helped him pass. The five Theory papers in the exam are set as written essays, so no matter how much wine knowledge you have you won't pass if you can't master the essay form. Many students find the other half of the exam, the Practical tasting paper, to be the highest hurdle to leap, where time management matters as much as knowledge and skill. The videos on address the challenges of both the Theory and Practical papers, as well as covering topics in the syllabus. One of its most popular films is called "The Two Glass Technique." As part of their preparation students will taste hundreds of wines and build up hundreds of tasting notes, which Wildman describe as "passive tasting." The Two Glass Technique is a more "active" approach that helps students develop the skills they'll need in the heat of the exam. The method is to always taste with two glasses, putting "laterals" up against one another. Laterals are two wines that could be confused with one another. First students note everything that the two wines have in common; then they search for the one or two features that differentiate them—the "fork in the road." For more tips and techniques and to get an insider's view on what it takes to pass the MW exam visit All content is free to view once you've registered and signed in. Tim Wildman, MW, presents The website provides short video tutorials that advise, guide and orientate students in their self-study program. The content is free to view and accessible by anyone who registers on the website at An Insider's Guide to Becoming a Master of Wine A view of the Bennett Valley peak from the Frostwatch vineyards. Watch Out for Frostwatch PHOTO COURTESY OF FROSTWATCH VINEYARDS & WINERY

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