Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Catching up with Amanda Barnes of "Around the World in 80 Harvests"

My husband, Aaron, describes me as a pretty even-keeled person. He has trouble discerning whether I’m happy, excited, sad, or angry, because I usually roll happily in the “all is good” zone. But every once in awhile, I get excited. Around the World in 80 Harvests is something I was excited about from the get go. This gal Amanda was traveling “around the world” to participate in “80 harvests” on a global wine and travel adventure. The name of her project an ode to the Jules Verne novel Around the World in 80 Days.

Wherever did I find her?

I am part of a WSET students/alumni group on LinkedIn (nerdy, I know). Someone in the group posted about about Amanda’s 80 Harvests project and I was intrigued. I immediately went to her website and read it front to back. It turns out, she was in the middle of a Kickstarter fundraising campaign! I took a look at her Kickstarter page, and watched her short video HERE. From there I was hooked. I had no choice but to back this ambitious and exciting project. I felt inspired to join her journey and she even had a backer level specifically for wine students, which I joined. Amanda offered many generous perks at this level, including access to online content, virtual tastings with winemakers, etc.

This girl kicked ass! She's traveling the world, participating in harvests, and sharing her experience! I had to be a part of this. It helped that her journey coincided with my WSET Diploma study, so I could utilize her fodder as a more "hands on" way to experience the vines, grapes, and harvests in general.

I supported her journey, shared it on social media and crossed my fingers that the project got backed. Alas, it did not. The project fell short financially, but Amanda continued forward.

I was super bummed, but I made sure to add myself to her mailing list so I could follow the project. Fast forward a few months, and I saw her name appear on the Wine Bloggers Conference attendee list! Woo Hoo! I was so excited to get to meet her.

Because I was so jazzed about her project, I decided to reach out to Amanda. I conducted an email interview and had the pleasure to meet her in person at the Wine Bloggers Conference. And I can attest that she is as wonderful in person as she is on the page!

Before Amanda started her Around the World in 80 Harvests project, she lived in England. She grew up in the country and attended the University of London. Post university, she worked in newspapers and journalism, but always had a thirst to explore. Amanda soon developed the itch and became interested in learning about wine in a wine producing country. South America beckoned the loudest. The fact that she spoke a bit of Spanish couldn’t hurt!

To date, Amanda has completed approximately 16 harvests. She has participated in harvests in these countries: Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, United States (Napa, Willamette, and Walla Walla), Canada, and Mexico. Next up on her list is: Niagara (Canada) and the Finger Lakes in NY . Amanda is interested adding one of the lesser known regions in the US to her itinerary. Please share your ideas below, and I will pass them onto her!

According to Amanda, she’s trying to reach “Wine lovers who have an adventurous spirit and want to know more about where and who their wine from around the world comes from.” Though she is intentionally keeping her blogging style and “voice” accessible for everyone. There’s something for new wine drinkers, top somms, industry professionals, etc.

Naturally, Amanda loves drinking wine with others. According to her “It is an emotive and bonding experience. You can speak different languages and yet when you are drinking wine you suddenly find yourself having the same conversation.”

Amanda recounts one of her favorite drinking stories thus far on her journey:

One of my favourite drinking experiences so far though was probably in Peru with Don Jaime, an elderly Peruvian man who had been making mezcal since he was a young boy. He dusted off an old demijohn he’d made years ago, and we took it in turns drinking it from the bottle. It was pure nectar and very boozy! His daughter kept telling him off for drinking too much in his old age and he would cheekily wink at me and take another swig each time she looked away. On reflection it sounds like I was a bad influence, but I’m pretty sure Don Jaime was the one encouraging me to drink more!

When asked what her life could look like post-80 Harvests, Amanda admits she can’t think that far ahead! She is “up to her eyeballs” in planning her visits to 42 countries around the world. Upon completion of the Around the World in 80 Harvests project, the plan is to turn it into a book.

It sure does sound like Amanda will be busy for quite a while longer!

What do you think of Amanda's ambitious 80 Harvests plan? Any locations you'd love to see her visit? Please leave me a comment below!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Ode to Bubbles #MWWC27

**This post is being entered in the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge hosted by wine blogger, The Drunken Cyclist. See more details HERE. The winner last month was my blogger buddy Jim of JvB Uncorked. He won with THIS POST on the topic of “solitude”.   Jim also selected the topic of “bubbles” for this month’s challenge. Enjoy!

**Voting began on Tuesday September 13.  Please vote HERE.

I remember that feeling of excitement when bubbles were blown in my vicinity when I was a little girl. The goal was to either catch them on your finger or pop them, but you pretty much HAD to get up and do something. Because…...BUBBLES! Fast forward 30 years and I pretty much still have the same reaction to bubbles, aka sparkling wine. I hear a cork pop, or I see a glass of sparkling wine and I just HAVE to get up and do something! My name is Brianne and I was a kid who loved bubbles and I am now an adult who loves bubbles. Bubbles are alive in the glass and somehow make life more exciting. 

Interestingly enough, sparkling wine was first made by mistake. Fizziness in wine was considered a fault during the winemaking process. At the risk of this post becoming a history lesson, let’s fast forward to a time when wine was intentionally made fizzy and consumed with bubbles. In a nutshell, sparkling wine was first made accidentally. Through years of trial and error, a sparking wine was successfully produced. Because of the involved process, sparking wine was more expensive than still wine, and hence became a drink of the wealthy upper class. It became a status symbol to have sparkling wine in your home and serve it at dinner or at an event. How is sparkling wine made? Take a look at my previous post HERE for a quick read on how bubbles get in bubbly.

Somewhere along the way, sparkling wine (mostly Champagne) became associated with celebration. It is served at important life events such as weddings, it is used in the symbolic gesture of a “toast”, and is also used to christen a ship before its maiden voyage.

Let us deconstruct the bubble. Sparkling wine (whether it’s Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, etc) is a sensory experience. We HEAR the “pop” of a cork after it is released from the bottle. Visually we SEE the bubbles race up the side of glass after the frothy liquid is poured. If you sniff a glass of Champagne, you can SMELL the yeasty lees on the nose. Put the juice in your mouth and you can TASTE the complexity and FEEL the effervescence of bubbles on your tongue.

Bottom line, Champagne is sexy as hell. The sensory experience above can be read as a step-by-step recounting of opening up and enjoying a bottle of Champagne, or it can be read as a metaphor for the excitement of being with a lover for the first time. The sounds of lovemaking, the smell of each other, the taste and feel of that lover on your lips, and final release. The parallels are clear. In fact the two are quite complementary. A glass of bubbles before or after lovemaking is quite extraordinary.

Sparkling wine is no longer something reserved for the upper class elite in society. That’s why god invented Andre and Cooks, both of which both clock in at about $4-$5 a bottle! Not my bubbles of choice, but there is something for everyone. We can all have the experience of a celebratory glass of bubbles. But why wait for a wedding or a toast? Let’s all enjoy bubbles when we please. There is nothing more satisfactory and pleasurable than sitting on the couch with a glass of bubbles on a Tuesday night while watching TV.

Bubbles are alive in your glass.  They are dynamic, moving, and ever-changing.  Like us.  So sit back, relax, and enjoy a glass of humanity.  Enjoy a glass of bubbles.  Why?  Because the meaning of life is to live it.

**Please vote HERE for this blog post in the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge.

Speaking of bubbles, in about a month I will be attending BubblyFest in Avila Beach. Bubblyfest is the definitive festival for all things sparkling! Thanks to Create Promotions for granting me a press pass to cover the event. Stay tuned for more bubbly related posts as I lead into the event!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Hallelujah, We Have Been Fortified!

Forgive me if there are a lot of exclamation points in this post, but I have received word that I passed the Fortified Exam I took back in June!  Whoo hoo!!!

I wasn't sure about this one.  I even kept my big wall infographics in case I had to re-take the exam.  But alas, I have passed!

Here is where I stand:

Unit 1: The Business of Wine and Spirits
     Case Study PASSED
     Research Paper PASSED

Unit 2: Viticulture & Vinification PASSED

Unit 3: Still Wines of the World SESSIONS BEGIN IN OCTOBER; EXAM JUNE 2017

Unit 4: Spirits PASSED

Unit 5: Sparkling Wines PASSED

Unit 6: Fortified Wines PASSED

As you can see, all that remains to complete my Diploma certification is a passing grade on the Unit 3 exam, which is the most difficult one.  This test is about 3x the size of the other exams I have taken.  It consists of 12 blind tastings, about 4 short answer questions, and 1 long essay.  The exam isn't until June of 2017, so I have close to 10 months to study.

Our classes begin in October, and from there our tasting group and theory group will commence.  I am also working one-on-one with a classmate and we are reviewing the entire viticulture/vinification unit in order to prepare for Unit 3.  The viti/vini unit is the backbone of the entire diploma.  The content in that unit is used to understand the ideas in each of the other units.

So there you have it.  I am now just one exam away from my Wine & Spirits Trust Diploma certificate.  Just one little test!

Have you taken on any wine certification?  If so, from which school?  Was it a doozy? Or a breeze? Post your comments below so we can compare notes!

Have a great Labor Day weekend everyone!