I decided not to bank entirely on the whole Sommelier-superhero career change. Rather than take the 10 week day class (which met 5 days a week M-F) I kept my day job and took the night class for 3 nights a week (T-Th) from 6:30 to 9:30PM. Not being a night person I would nearly die several times coming back over Highway 17. For the CHP officers reading this, we were not allowed to swallow any wine tasted – that would result in more professionalism* points taken off. I now spit expensive wine like a champ.
*Professionalism points. Did you meet or exceed grooming standards? Did you remove your nose ring, lip ring, 3rd earring before entering class? Did you wear a blazer and tie? Were your shoes properly polished? Have you shaved that shaggy beard off yet? Turns out I clean up pretty good. My professionalism points would save me on more than one occasion.
PCI is a new gleaming bejeweled glass of champagne in the world of culinary education. Its staff is friendly, professional and guided by a cohesive vision of excellence. The new Sommelier theater is the Met of wine education rooms. Its 125 bottle wine cellar is visible by all through the floor to ceiling transparent glass. The ancient world of wine is evoked in the rugged stone wall that encircles the amphitheater style seating. Each chair is equipped with its own spittoon, water spout and embedded table light attuned to provide the perfect quality and brightness of light to illuminate the fine wines we’d be examining.
This court of viniculture perfection is presided over by Master Sommelier (MS) David Glancy. Like most MS’s I’ve met David wraps the qualities of teacher, administrator and wine guru within a glamour of celebrity. Perhaps its part of the MS super-hero powers, but each MS I’ve met made me feel as if I was in the presence of an international celebrity. Surely they’ve dined with people so important and famous, people like me aren’t allowed to even know who they are. David has that kind of glow, with a lot of caffeine added.
We were warned early on not to expect A’s in our classes. Each course would culminate in a written test and a blind tasting of a red and white wine. It was these tests that would prepare us for our final exams presented not by PCI but by the Court of Master Sommeliers. We would be tested on our wine knowledge (theory), our ability to deductively analyze 2 wines without knowing anything other than what was in the glass (blind tasting), and a service exam (live torture with champagne and judges.)
By the time this course ended I would have shaved my head and beard, started using flash cards again for the first time in 20 years, and promised my wife I was “quitting tomorrow” about 10 times. Ultimately I’d have to say it was ego that kept me going. I just couldn’t let my butt get kicked that quickly. While complaining during the first 3 weeks I got to visit two local world renowned vineyards, enjoy some really great wines and learned how to discern important qualities in wines. Other tidbits that stuck in my head from this module:
* Grape Juice is not red.
* A parasitic infestation that decimates the vineyards of Europe can have an up side.
* If it weren’t for prohibition, Italian vintners would probably be the most popular people in Santa Cruz today.
* There are 5 tastes, not 4 – can you say Umami?
* The Romans rocked.
I got an A- on my first test. It would be my last brush with an A at PCI.