As they say “no good story started with a salad”. Nor did mine, it started with 18th century French Grammar. During my junior year at the University of Puget Sound, I studied abroad at the University of Burgundy in Dijon, France. We were able to choose our own electives and by the time I finally found the university, there were only two left to choose from: 18th century French Grammar or Wine and Gastronomy. Unknowingly, I chose the course that would change the direction of my life. Take a wild guess, it wasn’t grammar!
It sounded wonderful, fabulous French wine, perhaps a chef with a white hat and heavy accent to teach us how to cook coq au vin or make little flower petals of chocolate. Alas, I found myself in a classroom with one of the scariest professors alive. I was the only woman and the only American, a fact he pointed out in the beginning and told me that I was doomed to fail. Hey, bring it on! Terrifying. Each class period we would taste wine and even though I made myself smaller than a baby hedgehog in the back of the class, he would call on me to describe what I smelled in the wine. If I said smokiness (which is true!) or vanilla (again true!), he would theatrically roll his eyes and ask me if I had smoked sausage dipped in thick vanilla sauce for breakfast. I had orange juice, thank you very much. Our first blind tasting exam consisted of a white and a red wine and we were to identify the origin and vintage. He returned my test and said with an incredibly sarcastic voice “at least you got the color right.” Ouch. I waited until I got back to my homestay to cry. But, I studied, drank wine, studied, more wine and emerged alive from the course!
Thus, here I am, twenty vintages later, loving working in the many facets of the wine industry. Let’s take a journey together to explore this vast world. Santé!