A running commentary and recap on SommCon 2017 in San Diego California. Day One:
I woke up early as compared to my day-to-day routine at 5:45am to shower. I then made my way down the steep hill to catch public transportation to the Marriot Marquis. (I have positive vibes for the San Diego public transportation system as it blows MARTA out of the water!)
Upon arriving I was able to locate the Coffee, Pastry and Networking area of SommCon. First off, I know coffee can kill the palate but screw that…I need coffee at 7:45am. It isn’t very clear how we were to network as I didn’t know anyone. Everyone either seemed to arrive with colleagues or were too tired to bother quite yet. I decided to sit on a bench and observe until the appropriate time. By 8:15am it would appear that the crowd was fulfilling the stereotype. The few scholarship recipients I recognized, from stalking their profiles, had their heads down in their phones. I followed suit and pretended to have very important business to respond to…
Session 1: Credentials and Your Career
The session selected for us provided an opportunity to scope out my fellow Young Leaders Summit recipients. (We are very much giving off the type A personalities.) The moderators explained the major certification programs and the focus of each. They went over the Society of Wine Educators (CSW & CWE), WSET, CMS and Master of Wine. It was a great overview as each panelist had a different track and perspective. I was even able to glean a few tidbits on the testing processes. The session finished off by expressing what recruiters look for in resumes, experiece and credentials. It was helpful to get an understanding of standards for the top positions. Yet discussed positions were on the buyer & distributor side versus the hospitality track. It appeared evident that longevity on the floor isn’t the norm. I was very pleased with the conversation and information as it highlighted the positives of gaining credentials. I only wish they could have provided information on how to finance. It is not easy to come up with hundreds to thousands of dollars up front to finance the next steps while working in hospitality. (Adulting is not easy…)
Following the first session was a tasting that included a couple of wines from a sponsor. I wandered around and settled on listening to Lindsay Pomeroy,CWE from the San Francisco Wine School. She led a discussion on study tips for preparing for the upper levels in WSET and CMS. It was a great opportunity to listen in and glean some tips that might enhance my own study practices. The biggest tips I took away I listed below:
- Teaching is a very helpful learning tool
- The use of flashcards
- Understand your own personal style of learning
- Understand if you are a social or solitary learner
- Create systems to enhance mental connections
- Structure a study group and stick to it
- Invest in a coravin and/or wine fridge
Again, some were obvious and others also helped solidify how I need to further improve my study habits.
Lead by: Clark Smith
It could have been a more succinct lecture. Yet, Mr. Clark Smith seemed to have his own personal agendas to cover. Now he did highlight some disparity between wine produced in the US and the reality of what is available. (Which we will explore at another time.) I was most looking forward to this session as it relates to my current position. It is important to note he isn’t wrong. You only need to push through all the scientific slides, down the nose rambling and opinions. There is a connection between how music can affect the wine you are drinking. The simplest way of reducing his work for easy consumption is by putting it as follows. Different styles of music evoke different emotions, memories and sensations as do wines. When you take two sensory evoking experiences you are going to see them play off of each other, for better or worse. Thus, you should pay attention to what you are listening to and what you are drinking to wholly enhance the experience.
To further explore Clark Smith’s research and position I recommend checking out his site: http://www.postmodernwinemaking.com/wine-and-music
I succeeded in not having to undergo the stress of finding a seat at table. The Young Leaders Recipients had a table in the front. I sat down and very grateful for the seat next to Christie. (Made a friend!) The sponsors were wonderful and it was great to meet the few that represented the scholarship committee. A few girls moved to integrate the table a little further. The rest of us made quick introductions and conversations and began to group up in appropriate pairings. Thankfully but throwing us all together basic human niceness took over and we were able to break the ice.
Session 3: Discover the Versatility of Moscato d’Asti
Lead by: Geralyn Brostrom, CWE
This next session was not one I signed up for but was rather placed in. Discover Moscato d’Asti is one that evokes a lecture on the positives of sweet wine. However, I must say this session was impactful! I had never understood or actually wanted to explore Moscato d’Asti before. I walked away feeling that I have been overlooking a fantastic grape & wine style that is quite versatile. The session began with going over the region details of climate, soil, topography and vinification. It was then followed with a pairing of 6 different moscatos with 4 food preparations. We were to select 2 of the 6 moscatos we enjoyed the most and try them with each of the 4 pairings to discover pairings. Surprisingly the moscatos didn’t clash with the savory. Some were more complimentary then others but all in all it was sensory delight. The desserts also required some finesse in appropriate paring. I found the moscatos with higher RS (residual sugar) didn’t match best with the richer dessert. On the other hand a fruitier style of moscato did great with a simple dessert because it enhanced the profile. While I would not have picked this session for myself it opened my eyes to this overlooked wine and region.
Lead by: Maurice DiMarino
I was a little naïve walking into this session as it was Agave: The Wine of Mexico. So here I am thinking it is going to go over wineries in Mexico…. HA! It was by far the best session I took over the two days. It was a discussion of Agave and the creation of Tequila, Mezcal, Bacanora and Raicilla. Atlanta is a market that has embraced mezcal on all the top cocktail lists. But by asking those in the industry to explain mezcal you discover that most are not knowledgeable. The honor to sit and listen to producers talk about their method, terroir and experiences was both humbling and eye opening. They highlighted the importance of climate, location, the actual species of agave and the process of production. I never understood how much history and politics play into production and the identity of tequila vs mezcal. At one point a fellow attendee asked why is Blue Agave only used in the production of tequila. The response further indicated the complex relationship of social and political elements in the industry. I walked out of the room feeling like I needed to get my hands on more information.
My general feeling of Day 1 was that of excitement, annoyance and exhaustion. It was a day that reminded me why I got into this field and reignited my focus and passion. Stay tuned for SommCon Day 2 recap!