Women for Winesense: Back to School

This past week, I got to attend my first Women for Winesense meeting at Heron Hill’s winery on Keuka Lake. Following the great educational seminars they hosted at the Finger Lakes Wine Festival, I was incredibly curious about the organization, and excited to join the FLX Chapter. What’s Women for Winesense? It is a wine education and networking organization for wine industry professionals and wine aficionados (and digital nerds who love wine).

At this meeting, we got to learn all about wine as a career path, including the different types of paths you can take, from sommelier to scientists, advice on how to up your wine tasting game, and practical advice that the panel wished they had known before getting into the business.

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And of course, there was wine. Each of the panel participants selected two wines, some of which were important to their journey in the biz, some of which they were really excited about right now.

The panel included: Christopher Bates, Master Somm, and Chef at FLX Wienery and FLX Table; Maureen Bayer, New York Wine and Culinary Center; Lorraine Hems, Lecturer, Department of Hospitality and Service Management; Anna Katharine Mansfield, Associate professor of enology at Cornell University; and Brandon Seager, Chair of the Wine Marketing program at Tompkins Cortland.

We had the opportunity to taste ten different wines, two of which were from the Finger Lakes region. Maureen chose Damiani’s Gewurztraminer, which had notes of peach and stonefruit with a clean minerality. On the palate it had a clean, nice acidity, and was low in sweetness.

Lorraine selected Heron Hill’s 2016 Dry Riesling, a special pre-release for us to try. The wine had notes of tropical fruit, like pineapple, and a nice tangerine like citrus that continued on the palate. There was a medium acidity and nice silky mouthfeel.

Instead of sharing the rest of the wine, I’m going to share some of the advice that stuck with me.

Why here? Why are you in the Finger Lakes?

“This region is a cool place to be in right now” -Bates

“Place to do your passion [for wine] locally” -Bayer

“There is a level of collaboration here that isn’t elsewhere” -Mansfield

What Certifications are a Good First Step?

WSET for local recognition

MW for wine distribution

MS for service

EnoCert to get an introduction to the science

Smell everything, take notes at every opportunity, and ask everyone and anyone for help

Improving Your Wine Tasting

“The more you know, the more you know how little you know. The wine world is do big and there is so much stuff to learn… need to get past your preconceptions and continue to try things” -Bates

“You need to learn how you experience wines… what does acidity mean to you, what do different flavors mean, then you can begin to learn the jargon” -Mansfield

“Observe and take in the world around you” -Hems

“Stop paying attention to your eyes. We all have the ability to taste wine, we’re just afraid of failure” -Mansfield

“Find people to drink with, and find a group that fits your style.” -Seagar

Advice for Novices

“Don’t drink alone. Talk to people about wine, and do tastings with others” -Seagar

“Smell everything and write it down, even the bad stuff” -Mansfield

“Ask questions” -Hems

“Take classes and get training” -Bayer

“Gain experience, don’t get overly focused on certifications. You learn by doing and meeting people” -Bates

And some awesome advice from Marti Macinski of Standing Stone Vineyards–  “Remember that its hospitality in the end.”

My Favorite Advice

“Every bottle is an opportunity to learn”

Someone asked if the panelists if they do tasting notes and pick apart every wine they taste. The answer was yes, because regardless if its a $5 bottle or a $500 one, it can be a moment to learn something and continue your skills.

“You need to get beyond your own subjective understanding of wine”

I LOVE this quote. A few of the panelists noted how just because you don’t like a wine doesn’t mean its not a great wine, and just because you didn’t like a varietal in the past, doesn’t mean you won’t find one you like in the future. You need to get past what you think you know about wine, and be open to the experience.

Join Us!

You too can join Women for Winesense and attend the meetings. You can sign up at  womenforwinesense.org, or just get start attending the meetings- you don’t need to be a member but you do get a discount. Also, you don’t need to be a woman! Everyone is welcome. Hope to see you at the next one in September.





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