Champagne Floozy: [sham-PEYN FLOO-zee], noun: 1. A woman of the early days of Champagne, before her time, who decided it was ok for women to partake in the drinking of Champagne. 2. A lifelong foodie turned wine industry professional based in Durham, NC.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Eyes on the Prize

Good morning St. Emilion.
     Three months in, and 2013 is shaping up to be a pretty good year for yours truly. My best intentions to attend to this little blog here have not materialized as often as I would hope, but in my defense, I've been a pretty busy girl. Well, I suppose I should rephrase that. I've been a busy woman. At the risk of sounding cliche, life really is getting better as I get older. I'm happier, more content with myself, and my goals have come into sharper focus. I have more self-discipline than I ever would have imagined, or desired, when I first moved to this little mountain town ten years ago.
     The most noteworthy achievement of 2013 so far is a complete reversal of my night-owl lifestyle. With few exceptions, I'm up and out of bed and walking the dogs at 6:15 in the morning, and asleep well before midnight. I doubt I'd even be considered a regular at my bar anymore. Believe it or not, I spend more money on coffee than beer. I don't blame you if you don't believe me, but I assure you, I drink very good coffee.
     After the dogs are walked and fed, they go back to sleep and I settle in at my big, rustic kitchen table, books and notes spread out, and, more often than not, my Siamese sleeping next to me on the wooden bench. For two hours I take down the minutia of wine regions: soil types, grape varietals, climactic factors, terminology, prominent producers, appellation regulations, historical events, and more. I generally work in a threefold manner for each region: First I take notes from the Society of Wine Educators CSW textbook. Then I move on to the corresponding pages of the hefty World Atlas of Wine and take even more notes. Finally, I pick up a specialized book (i.e. Vino Italiano or Julian Jeffs' The Wines of Spain) on the subject and drill even more mind-bogglingly complex information into my head. At some point, the sun comes up, and light begins to creep through the kitchen windows and into the living room. I've consumed almost an entire pot of coffee. It's time to shower and go to work, where I'll stare at the labels of wines I've spent the morning intellectually consuming, or better yet, pester the German with questions.
     I am studying to take the Certified Wine Educator exam at the end of July. The accreditation is offered by the Society of Wine Educators and boasts a meager pass rate of 12%. The exam consists of a written/theory portion involving 100 multiple choice questions as well as an essay, and a blind tasting both to identify classic wine styles as well as to identify faults and practical imbalances. After those portions are successfully passed, the CWE candidate must teach a 15 minute symposium to the Society on an approved theme (i.e. "New World Sparkling Wine," "Carbonic Maceration," or "The Wines of Sicily.")
     Last fall I successfully passed the Certified Specialist of Wine exam, which is the prerequisite for sitting the CWE. That was something I had been putting off for a few years, and I finally just decided I needed to put my money where my mouth was, so to speak. The day I received my lapel pin in the mail, I knew I had to take the next step. I want that next lapel pin quite possibly more than I've wanted anything else.
     But why? Remember what I said about my life getting better with age, about goals coming into sharper focus? Well, I finally know what I want to be when I grow up. I want to one day make money with my mind instead of my back. I want to teach, or write, and most likely both.
Champagne Floozy, C.S.W.
     After the sun comes up in the morning and I put my books and notes back on the bookshelf for another day, how much of that minutia sticks with me? Some, but not all, of course. But about 2/3 of the way down the Appenines, I realized what is happening. A broader view, a more complete depth of understanding is taking form. Rather than getting bogged down in arcane academia, I am, as a friend of mine astutely pointed out, creating the forest from the trees.
     I have to admit, it actually feels a little silly to write about this, to feel the marvel that I do. After all, isn't all that the whole damn point?

     Spring is starting to stir here in southern Appalachia. Daffodils in the snow are a common occurrence, and the weather forecast seems to change every ten minutes. This really is a magical place to live. A few of the trees have dared to start greening, and soon the gnarly old muscadine vines outside my kitchen window will enter budbreak. And the sun is going to continue rising earlier and earlier, although I think I'll stick with 6 am, at least for now.