Browsing Tag

Wine Education

Musings on the Wine Life

Six Reasons Why I’m Not a Sommelier

January 5, 2017
Rosé wine in glass

I was having dinner with some friends recently and talk turned to sommelier training. This is a fairly common occurrence in my life, since I’m surrounded by people who either work in wine or are wine nerds like me. And having this blog means that a lot of people just assume I’m a sommelier or some other sort of certified wine expert, despite my best efforts to remind readers frequently that I’m just a person who really, really loves wine.

White wine and flowersNot that I haven’t taken wine classes or learned so much about wine through tastings, books, interviews and other things since I started blogging. In 2016 alone, I took an Introduction to Spirits course and amazing seminars on Bourgogne and Napa. I am constantly learning about wine and loving every minute of it, but as I explained on this recent night (and on many others like it), I’m probably never going to be a sommelier.

There are a number of reasons for this:
1) I don’t want to work in wine service. This is not uncommon among my other wine-loving friends. We love learning about wine, but we don’t especially want to serve it. Now, not all sommeliers are in wine service – many teach, write or do other wine-related things. But the majority of sommelier positions are in restaurants and a large portion of the training is around service and that’s just not where my interests lie. Plus, there’s the whole tremor thing.

2) The tremor thing. I have a condition called Essential Tremor. You can click on the link and read all about it, but essentially I have a slight tremor that will get progressively worse as I get older. When my neurologist diagnosed me many years ago, she told me that I’d be fine so long as I didn’t want to be a waitress or a surgeon. So the sommelier thing? Where I have to pour wine? Um, no. I already have a hard enough time being served wine, as sometimes my hands shake or jerk if I’m holding up a glass to receive a pour. This is always super awesome, I say with great sarcasm, as it means I have to explain the whole tremor thing for the umpteenth time.

3) I am terrible with names. And pronunciations. If you would like someone to butcher the name of your wine or region, I’m your girl! This is a constant source of embarrassment and frustration for me, but I seem to have an unending ability to have the name of a grape on the tip of my tongue or a slightly adulterated version of a wine name tumbling out of my mouth. So unless there is a sudden uptick in the need for sommeliers who feel more comfortable hiding away behind their keyboard so they can triple check that they got the name of a wine/grape/region correct, then I’m likely not going to be in high demand.

4) I’d be the world’s most awkward sommelier. When you picture a somm, you likely think of someone suave and graceful. They sweep over to your table all polished and perfect, chat knowingly about the wine list, make smart decisions based on your tastes. They are awesome and I am always in awe of their skill – especially since I often feel a little bit like a wild bull set loose in a room full of wine glass towers. I knock things over, I spill wine, I once spat wine on myself at a tasting with the delightful owner of Grand Marnier (whose photo should be in the dictionary under debonair). I am neither elegant nor refined.

5) It’s expensive. I love learning about wine so much that despite all of the above, I would probably have already taken my sommelier training (possibly even eked out a pass), if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s really, really expensive. I have a full-time job that I love and it pays for the very expensive hobby that is this blog, but dropping $10,000 or more to become a certified sommelier is just not in the budget. Especially if, as outlined above, I’m never going to work as one. Taking seminars or short courses has the benefit of being affordable and it also fits into my schedule much more easily. It’s also been noted that you can take the exam with just independent study (and it’s not that expensive to do so), but I’m not sure I’d be able to pass that without the classes under my belt.White wine tasting

6) Wine school is hard. Really, really hard. If you’ve taken a wine course, you will know what I mean and understand why I have so very much respect for those who have completed their certification. Because I have a job outside the wine world, I need to study in my spare time, which I currently fill with writing, editing and attending events to support this blog. I also run and go to yoga and try to fit in time with friends and family. When I’m studying for a wine course, most of those other things take a backseat while I try to cram in every detail about grapes, vintages, terroir, etc. Right now, I don’t think I can handle sommelier studies. That could change down the road, but after seeing many a wine industry friend disappear down the WSET rabbit hole, I’ve realized that right now that’s not the best path for me.

Will I change my mind one day and decide to take the plunge? Maybe. Wine is one of the most fascinating topics in the world and the idea of being a certified wine expert is appealing. But for now, I’m happy to be a slightly shaky, somewhat awkward wine nerd who shares her experiences with wine with my amazing readers. I hope that’s OK with all of you!

Are you a sommelier or do you hope to become one? Share your experiences in the comments below or on social!

Musings on the Wine Life

Wine Quizzes Make Me Crazy

October 17, 2016
PInot Noir wine tasting.

Recently, one of my lovely friends in wine tagged me in a Facebook post with a link to one of those Decanter wine tests.

For those not familiar, Decanter posts these regular quizzes so you can test your wine knowledge. For many of my friends who work in wine, these are a fun way to test your mettle because they are often really tough! The Facebook post had quickly filled up with comments like: “Four out of four!” “Perfect!” and “Three out of four – that was hard!”

I already knew going in that I wasn’t going to comment. As with most Decanter tests, I clicked on it, read the wine description, thought long and hard and then made my guess. And I got a big, fat zero. But, Krista, you’re thinking, you know wine! How could you fail this test so miserably when everyone else was sailing through?

A lovely white wine at a tasting.Well, I do know wine. I’ve taken a number of classes, read a ton of books, attended many, many tastings and, yet, I still couldn’t pass one of those darn Decanter tests. Why not? Well, 1) because they’re hard and deliberately aimed at the super smart sommelier set and 2) because I have pockets of wine competence. What does that mean? It means I have focused my areas of interest and study on certain regions and topics, so I flail when you remove me from my comfort zone.

Ask me about Ontario Cabernet Franc or Pinot Noir? Or Ontario wine in general? I am probably going to be on point. I’m also pretty well versed in California and New York State wines, which I’ve spent a lot of time studying. And because we’ve spent a lot of time in Germany, I’m pretty good with those wines too. But French wine? I remember much of the theory from class, but because I rarely drink French wine, I’m pretty rusty. And Italian wine? I’m a bit scattered with my knowledge there too.

So how did this happen? I think partly it’s because I started my wine journey in a bit of an odd way. Most people begin with French or Italian and then gradually slide into other regions. I became interested in local wine first – part of a period of time where I was learning about the locavore movement and wanting to eat (and drink) things grown or made close to home.

I hyper-focused on Ontario wine until I started taking classes and began to dip a toe into the French, Italian and other wine regions of Europe. But then I visited California, Germany and the Finger Lakes and found myself drifting from super intimidating regions to ones I could wrap my head around a little more easily. I fell in love with those regions and started soaking up knowledge about them.

Along the way, I have fallen for some very good French wines (rosé from Provence is a new obsession and Champagne a recurring one) and batted around a few Italian options (Valpolicella and Chianti are my typical go-tos, as well as a nice Prosecco). I like many wines from Spain, Chilé and South Africa too. I like to go to Salt Wine Bar and have manager Phil Carneiro school me on Portuguese wines. I’ve become a little obsessed with Austrian Gruner Veltliner and a good Malbec from Argentina is a thing of beauty. But I’m nowhere near an expert on any of these regions – yet.

I’m not a sommelier, I’m not sure I really want to be a sommelier and I’m OK with that. I’m someone who is in love with wine and in love with learning about wine. I want to be good at the Decanter quizzes, and maybe one day I will be. Or maybe not. Some of those things are hard, guys. Really, really hard. And if you’re one of those people who can ace them, can we have drinks so I can sit and listen to you fill my head with even more wine knowledge? I’d like that.

What to try your hand at one of these quizzes? You can find them here!

Food & Wine

Wines of Germany with iYellow Wine School

July 3, 2015
German Pinot Noir

Two years ago, Shawn and I spent a week driving around the Mosel Valley, one of the most stunning parts of German wine country. It was an unforgettable trip and I loved tasting through such a varied selection of Rieslings and other German wines.

My passion for German wines was on display at iYellow Wine Club’s recent Wine School class. Known for their wine events, iYellow also offers a fantastic range of classes that are perfect for those new-to-wine and looking for a quick and fun entrée into a region. Angela Aiello walked us through six German wines – five whites and one red – and provided good information about the various German wine regions and how the terroir affects the wines.

German wine tasting at iYellow Wine School

We started with an entry-level Gewürztraminer from Boden, which was quite nice for the price-point. It had all the typical Gewürztraminer characteristics – floral notes, a hint of sweetness and a good mouth feel. Perfect for take-out Thai food or any spicy Asian dish.

We followed that with a Salwey Pinot Gris, not a varietal I’ve had much experience with from Germany. Pinot Gris is like the more complex cousin of Pinot Grigio and I felt like this was a wine that would be better served with food. Lots of citrus, lime and green apple on the nose with high acidity and tart lemon/lime on the palate. An interesting wine.

A Sander Pinot Blanc was up next, another unusual choice for Germany, which was much more floral than I expected. There was still some tart citrus on the nose, but it was more muted overall. This was a lighter wine, with the great acidity that German wines are known for.

The Rieslings followed – very much the hallmark grape of Germany—and a personal favourite. The first wine, a kabinett from Uber, is a style I really enjoy. It was off-dry and fruity. I like kabinett’s especially as a compliment to spicy foods. This one was definitely entry-level, though, so lacked some of the nuances that can make a Riesling truly great.

The second Riesling was Loosen Bros 2014 and was likely also kabinett (the label does not say). An off-dry wine with a fruit-forward nose that had a lovey, complex sweetness. This was much more to my tastes and very much in the Mosel style.

The third Riesling, a 2011 Bollig-Lehnert spatlese was a pleasant surprise. The strong petrol note of an aged Riesling can, in my opinion, be the hallmark of a great wine experience to come. Many of those in attendance had never experienced an aged Riesling before and the gasoline notes on the nose were off-putting, but then the taste experience was a much more pleasing one. It was nice to see people discover one of the fascinating things about German Riesling and to see them enjoying this wine as much as I did.

Our final wine was a rare find in Ontario – a German Pinot Noir. While fairly easy to come by in Germany, it’s rare to see them in Canada. It’s a shame, as Germany has a great climate for Pinot and there are some good wines being made. This one, a 2012 Runkel, likely suffered a bit from being served after sweeter whites, but it had good body and I’m looking forward to enjoying the bottle I recently picked up from the LCBO to get a better sense of the wine.

Many thanks to iYellow Wine School for the invite to attend. Interested in taking a class? Visit their site to for the schedule and to register.

Food & Wine


August 17, 2013


Somm Movie Logo

Recently, I attended a showing of the documentary SOMM at the Bloor Hot Docs Theatre. If you are a wine lover and you haven’t seen SOMM yet, you must do so soon. It’s already available for download on iTunes, so there’s really no excuse not to! I saw it the night before my Wines 2 exam, when my head was already swimming with wine knowledge, and I’m so glad I decided to take the night off and indulge in this movie.


SOMM follows several young men who are studying intensely to pass the hardest wine exam in the world (given the pass/fail rate, it may even be the hardest exam in the world). The absolute passion and dedication that wine students (most of them already at the top of their game in the wine industry) put into this insanely difficult test is absolutely fascinating to watch.
Now, I am admittedly a nervous tester when it comes to wine, so the amount of pressure that these guys put on themselves is pretty incredible to see. I can’t even imagine. Well, that’s the thing, I sort of could imagine, as I watched. And that part of me that is so wildly obsessed with wine understood in a weird way why someone would put themselves through this. I don’t know that I’ll ever be in a place where I can take a year off my life to study for a test I have next to no chance at passing, but I can imagine doing it. I get it.
And the movie was so well done. I totally felt for each of these people as they went through the process. SOMM manages to be funny and heartwarming while still giving you sweaty palms as you find yourself intently invested in whether these guys will pass this test they want so desperately to master. You know the odds are long (six people out of 50 passed the year the movie filmed, one in 70 this past year), but you still hope.
I haven’t stopped recommending SOMM since I saw it and I anticipate that I’ll see it a few more times in the months to come. They talk quite a bit with the spouses of master sommelier candidates and I think Shawn would be interested in seeing that side of things! I suspect he’d already have something in common with them.
There has been some criticism of the fact that no women candidates are featured in the movie. I don’t think that took away from my enjoyment of SOMM, but it would have been interesting to see a woman’s take on the journey. Maybe there’s a separate movie to be made about that one day. I’d certainly watch it.
There was a reception prior to the movie featuring wines from Creekside Estate Winery and Tawse Estate Winery, which I was happy to indulge in. While I had tried the four wines available for sampling in the past, I think it’s always fantastic when a new crowd is exposed to Ontario wine. It was great to see people coming back to the table near me to find out where they could find Creekside’s Laura’s Blend. I hope many people picked up a bottle at their local LCBO the next day!