Hello, my name is Jeff and I am the owner/operator/tour guide for Vines of Sonoma Wine Tours. As a Certified Sommelier, my passion for wine, food and hospitality is endless!
Follow me as I showcase my travels, tastings and insights into Sonoma wine and beyond. Cheers.
Yum! As an under the radar grape, Petite Sirah is widely grown within Sonoma and Napa Valley. If you have not enjoyed a bottle recently (or ever), put this grape on your MUST try list!
So what is Petite Sirah you ask? When you hear the word petite, don’t think small ( its berries are small), think big! Big jammy flavors, big forward tannins, big supple body, with a quick cleansing finish.
Accidental cross pollination by Francois Durif in 1880 - France
Jammy nose (plum, blackberry, blueberry), high tannins, med+ acidity, med+ alcohol, chocolate flavors with a spicy peppery finish
Syrah is a parent grape
Aging window of 10-20 years
Grown primarily in California and Australia
Thank you Sheila for gifting us a bottle of 2014 Fenestra Petite Sirah from Livermore Valley. With winery roots going all the way back to 1889 (via George True - a German immigrant), Fenestra Winery produces estate wines from a 16 acre vineyard.
Enjoyed this bottle at Santa Rosa’s Wednesday Night Market (Downtown Square) - featuring live music, food, and vendors. I paired the 2014 Fenestra Petite Sirah with a Rack of Ribs from Austin’s Southern Smoke BBQ in Santa Rosa. Pitmaster Kris Austin smokes his meats all-day, allowing the delicious meat to literally fall right off the bone. Yum!
I found the extra few years of bottling mellowed out the tannins, allowing my palate to better appreciate the blue fruit and secondary/tertiary components (smoke, coffee, tar and earthy texture) of the 2014 Fenestra Petite Sirah.
The stewed fruit/spicy backbone of this varietal paired nicely with the Smoked Ribs. So good, in fact, I forgot to snap a picture. Oops my bad!
Until next time….
After months and months of studying and blind tasting wines from all over the world, August 23rd was finally the day! The day on which my skills and knowledge will be judged by three of the world’s foremost experts on wine, Master Sommeliers!
This moment is huge, it’s bigger than yourself. You go into the test without any real sense of what the three-part test looks like. Its kind of odd, but that’s exactly how the Guild of Master Sommeliers want it!
There are no past exam questions to study from. There’s not one book or guide that spells out what exactly they will test you on. So you study and then you study some more. You prepare and then you prepare some more. All in hopes that when test day comes, your skills and knowledge will be just enough. Enough to pass, so that you will not have to repeat this all over again!
TEST DAY - Tuesday, August 23rd
5:45AM: Awake after a good night's rest at the hotel
6:00AM: Cram in a little reading on wine regions and last minute prep work
6:30AM: Breakfast / Coffee time
7:00AM: Sample some testable wines I brought with me - to wake up my palate
7:45AM: Check-in at the test site
8AM: Welcome remarks by your three Master Sommelier testers
8:15AM: Blind tasting of two white and two reds - 30 minute time limit
8:50AM: Theory exam with 45 questions; multiple choice and fill ins - 30 minutes
9:30AM: They announce your 30 minute slot (later in the day) for your service practical
Noon: I arrive back at the test site for my service practical
12:30PM: Service practical conducted; one-on-one with a Master Sommelier; wine glass service, bottle Champagne service and endless rapid fire questions on the world of wine, beer, and cordials - 30 minutes
1PM -3PM: Did I pass?!? Going over the test in your head, what did I do wrong?
3:15PM: Reception to announce the newest Certified Sommeliers
3:30PM: Jubilation of tears knowing that all my hard work and efforts paid off
Was it worth it? Absolutely YES! In retrospect, the anxiety, the countless hours of preparation in advance of sitting for my exam has sharpened and elevated my wine and service skills beyond my own expectations!
The fact that you go into the test somewhat blind forces you to over prepare. To go beyond the boundaries, to ensure you have all the skills needed for success. Because who wants to do this all over again? Not me!
In fact, now I’m contemplating…do I want to begin the journey to become an Advanced Sommelier? Time will tell.
If you have any questions about this journey, or the test in general, feel free to comment - as I’d love to chat with you more! Until next time…
Yay! I passed my Level 2 - Certified Sommelier exam on August 23rd! So what is a Certified Sommelier? In short, it's a certified wine/beverage expert. While there are several organizations that offer programs, The Court of Master Sommeliers is recognized as the premier certification body within the wine industry.
There are four levels to the educational/certification Sommelier program offered by the Court of Master Sommeliers. Following is a brief overview.
Level 1 - Introductory Course and Exam
Offered in-person and online, introduces students to the Court of Master Sommeliers, the deductive tasting method and service standards. This two day course is taught by Master Sommeliers.
Students attending the two-day course should be prepared with theoretical knowledge of the world of wine, and what is expected of a sommelier working in the hospitality sector.
The certification exam consists solely of a theory test, from which passing rates are about 75% of students.
Level 2 - Certified Sommelier Exam
The Certified Sommelier exam focuses on a candidate’s ability to demonstrate proficiency in deductive tasting, wine and beverage theory, plus both technical and salesmanship skills in a simulated table-side service scenario.
The title and credential of Certified Sommelier
is well recognized within the wine and hospitality industry as an advanced achievement level.
The one-day test involves three individual exams: deductive tasting, theory plus a service practical. You must obtain a passing grade of at least 60% in EACH exam to pass. Roughly 50-60% of students pass the Certified Sommelier exam on their first try.
Level 3 - Advanced Sommelier Course and Exam
A three-day educational program exploring the Court of Master Sommeliers standards in beverage sales and service in greater depth. Presentation of specific topics are designed to give candidates a template for upper-level exam study, and a clear understanding of expectations at both the Advanced Sommelier examination and Master Sommelier diploma examination.
There are extensive requirements for restaurant/hospitality experience, plus a one year waiting period after passing your certified exam. The advanced test involves three individual exams: theory exam, deductive tasting and, service practical. You must obtain a passing grade of at least 60% in EACH exam to pass.
Unlike the Certified level, you are required to successfully pass the theory exam prior to being invited to sit for the tasting and service practical exams later in the year. Roughly 25% of students pass the Advanced Certification exam on their first try. It is not uncommon for someone to take the certified exam 2-4 times before finally passing!
Level 4 - Master Sommelier Diploma and Exam
The Master Sommelier Diploma Examination is similar in format and content to that of the Advanced Sommelier examination in that it consists of three parts: a theory examination (an oral examination, not written), a six-wine deductive tasting, and a practical wine service examination.
The minimum passing score for each of the three sections is 75%. IF you pass the theory exam, you have three years from which to pass the remaining sections. If not, you start from square one. The pass rate is only 9% for the Master Sommelier exam. It is not uncommon for someone to take the Master Sommelier sections 5-9 times, from which you may never pass!
Since its inception, only 269 people have received the title of Master Sommelier, making it one of the toughest titles to receive in the world!