Happenings at WWA (and beyond)
A collection off WWA event recaps, job postings, interesting articles, DC area events, wine industry happenings, and more. Bloggers will include WWA employees, event attendees, and students.
I met Jessica Milby at a food bloggers social event a few weeks after the start of my internship here at WWA. I had a great time chatting with her, and her love and knowledge of wine and the wine industry really made an impact on me—she showed me that wine brings people together and that wine events can be fun and filled with youthful energy. Jessica also told me about her group, Young Winos, a social group that gathers young wine enthusiasts together to chat and learn about wine through creative social events. Young Winos sounded like a great idea to me, and I wanted to learn more about Jessica and how wine inspired her to create a wine group that appealed so well to young people.
How did you get your start working with wine?
I started as a server at a wine bar in Richmond part-time. I had no knowledge of wine at all but did have some serving experience. I learned a ton in my first few weeks and was intrigued by all the facts you can learn and how wine brings people together. My passion just took off from there.
What about the wine industry appeals most to you?
The fact that wine is always changing. No two vintages are the same so you must keep tasting! Also, you can never know all there is to know. My knowledge and experience continue to evolve.
How would you describe the wine industry/community in the Virgina/DC area?
Growing. More and more people are getting into wine and we can't learn enough. The ambition to learn and taste has helped the wine community grow across the area. People are learning from institutions like WWA, on their own, through local groups, and just by sharing bottles with friends. That's what wine is all about.
How did you get the idea for Young Winos and what kind of niche did it fill?
I found myself wanting to attend local wine events and geek out with others. However, my friends only enjoyed to drink wine and weren't on the same level that I was. I searched for wine groups and came across Young Winos out in CA. At the time they had a couple different ‘chapters’ across the US but none here in DC. I inquired about starting a DC chapter, was approved and took off from there. Starting with just myself, a Twitter and a Facebook, I reached out to young people in the DC metro area and began planning events. The group has attracted many different types of winos, from those who are in the industry and educated in wine to those who just want to learn more. It's an easy way to mix and mingle with fellow winos at different events that we host or attend. Now, two years later (this week!) we have over 300 members on our FB group and host 3-4 events per month.
I had the distinct pleasure of volunteering at the Swirl and Sip wine and food tasting at the Hillyer Art Space this past Saturday. Swirl and Sip is an online wine retailer based in the DC area, and their website highlights highly rated, quality wines. Former Washington Wine Academy WSET student, Jason Kim—founder of Swirl and Sip, was the host. The event showcased unique and delicious wine and food pairings. Swirl and Sip partnered with a handful of food vendors here in DC to create a fun night of food and wine. Apparently Jason was impressed by my wine-pouring skills in the WSET class because I was the designated pourer at the very first table in the rotation— sparkling wine.
Each table had two to four wines and a particular food that paired to match. I poured a Scharffenberger Brut NV from Mendocino County. It was fruit-forward, contained citrus notes and had a slight creamy finish. The Scharffenberger was paired with Brie cheese topped by a dried cranberry, and out of every pairing I tried at the event, it was my favorite (not like I’m biased or anything…). The other wine that I poured was a Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut NV from North Coast California. This wine contained more apple and citrus flavors than the Scharffenberger, and it had a delightful tartness to it as well as a refreshingly crisp finish. It was paired with Parmesan stuffed olives from Sapore Oil & Vinegar, which I’m sure were delicious to someone who actually enjoys olives.
Last week Nikki and I sat in on the week long intensive WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) Level 2 Intermediate course taught by instructor Tom Finigan.
This course not only opened my eyes to the intricacies and complexities of the wine world, but it also allowed me to sharpen my palate and increase my sensitivity to wine quality and components. Despite the barrage of information, I never felt intimidated by the subject matter because Tom lectured in an accessible, approachable manner.
The most memorable aspect of this course was learning about the different wine producing regions all over the world. I am passionate about traveling and learning as much as I can about the world, so I was fascinated by the ways wine is produced and viewed in different countries. There was so much I didn’t know! For instance, I always knew that French wine was de bon qualité but I had never even considered South Africa or New Zealand to be wine countries as well. I began thinking about wine in a whole new way, and now I can associate different types of wine with different regions of the world.
We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to taste wines from all over the globe. One of my favorite wines was the Folie a Deux Chardonnay 2010 from Russian River Valley, California. I know I know, it’s not a super-hip wine from a tiny village on an island off the coast of Chile—but it’s delicious and refreshing and I loved it!
Wine-sniffing goes hand in hand with wine tasting, and I quickly discovered that I am a terrible wine-sniffer. Embarrassingly, I thought that quite a few of the wines had bacon-y undertones (wishful thinking). But as the classes continued I learned how to isolate the scents that were actually present in the wines. For example, I can now discern the scent differences between tropical fruit, red fruit, and purple fruit in wine! I considered taking myself out to a celebratory dinner afterwards.
Despite starting at 9:00AM, this class was interesting and engaging throughout. I certainly learned a lot, and I recommend this class for all wine beginners with an interest in expanding their knowledge and their palate. Who knew wine could taste so delicious before noon?
Tom Finigan is one of the talented instructors here at the Washington Wine Academy. He teaches the level two intermediate WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) course, and his students leave each class inspired and more interested in wine than the class before. Tom has completed the WSET Level 4 Diploma—an intensive program that can take two to three years to complete. His passion for wine and the wine community carries through in his lectures, and I had the pleasure of sitting down with him and asking him a few questions about his experience in the wine community.
“How did you get into the wine industry?”
I began working at a high-end restaurant in college and during summers as a bartender. After college, I bartended full-time, and this is when my knowledge of the wine industry began to expand. My manager at the time would hold weekly tastings with the bar staff where she would teach us about wine and spirits. The more I learned, the more inspired I became for the industry. I continued to work in restaurants during grad school and I slowly found myself becoming the ‘wine guy’ wherever I worked. As I moved up in the wine sections of the restaurant sector I began to get introduced to more prominent people in the wine industry. I learned from them and continued to expand my knowledge and passion for the wine industry.
“What is your most memorable experience in the wine industry?”
My first visit to Napa Valley, CA as a wine professional was an especially memorable experience. It was amazing to see the industry working as a whole, and experiencing the industry in Napa helped my knowledge to grow and expand. I admired the pride and openness of the wine professionals I met there, because everyone was so kind— regardless of their prominence in the industry. Every wine maker I met was eager to share their philosophy and knowledge, and that the welcoming sense of community was inspiring.