Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Chatting with Somm Cristie Norman

If you are into the social media wine scene and follow all the hip and cool somms, then chances are that you know Cristie Norman. Cristie is a bikini athlete, a sommelier at the world-renowned Spago in Beverly Hills, and today is launching her Online Wine Course. One thing about Cristie is that she ain’t your daddy’s somm. She’s young, energetic, entertaining, AND knows her wine shit. I mean, working at Spago you HAVE to. Across her Instagram feed she’s opening things such as: Guigal (the LaLa wines), Domaine de la RomanĂ©e Conti, and Krug Champagne. If that doesn’t give you street cred, I don’t know what does.

The road was not always easy for Cristie. When she first got started (and even still today!), she would get responses like “Can you send your boss over to help?” or “Are you a real somm?”. There were times she cried in the cellar. She has since grown more confident and is more comfortable in her own skin. Cristie now sees herself as a sommelier/leader first, and a woman second. And she demands that others look at her the same.

Let’s talk about her current venture the Online Wine Course, which launches TODAY. Cristie wanted to help people build a foundation of knowledge when it comes to wine. In her experience, people try to taste and learn about wines sort of “ad hoc” and are missing some of the fundamental building blocks of wine, which will allow them to understand wine better and taste more effectively. Her goal with the Online Wine Course is to give them the building blocks to start with and that they can build from.

You may have seen her fun “Adulting with Alcohol” YouTube web series. Lets’ call the Online Wine Course the more “adult” version of that. Minus the swearing! It’s hilarious….you should seriously check it out.

How does the Online Wine Course work? Well, it launches today! The program is $149.99 OR she has a lifetime access option for $299.99. I have a 50% off promo code (SOMMSPIRATIONS). The course is broken down into 2 modules/sections and gives you over 2 hours of solid content, including quizzes in each “mini-section” and an exam at the end. And once you pass the final exam…you get a pin!

After sitting with Cristie, it is clear that his is HER BABY. She spent her own money on this (she even turned down sponsors as she wanted the content to be unbiased and all her own). She enlisted the help of a WSET educator to write all the questions. Each section/module has a learning objective. The background music (including music during the exams) was created all original for her by friend, Gosh Father. The music used is intended to keep you focused.

What’s next for Cristie? Well, she’s crossing her fingers with the Online Wine Course. So far, pre-sales have been strong. A natural progression would be to create a new “201 Level” course to follow this initial one. Perhaps something more focused on how to taste wine. Speaking of tasting wine, she’s also in talks with VineBox about creating an at-home wine tasting kit featuring wine in test tubes. Stay tuned. She’d love to stay at Spago as long as Wolfgang will have her, as that has been an incredible experience. Looking to the future, she wants to create more job opportunities for those with an MS/MW. Enrichment trips for somms, scholarships, etc. She hopes to grow the Online Wine Course and one day be a big player in the wine certification arena.

Cristie seems to be expertly clearing her own path in this industry. Is she a respected sommelier at Spago in Beverly Hills? YES. Is she also a millennial wine influence? YES. And she’s confident and unabashed in both of those roles.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Wine Tasting in the Columbia Gorge

In the vineyards at Cathedral Ridge Winery

As the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla, Washington came to a close, my post-conference excursion was just beginning! We headed off to the beautiful Columbia Gorge to visit Maryhill Winery and Cathedral Ridge Winery. The Columbia Gorge, 60 miles east of Portland is part of two AVAs, the Columbia Valley AVA and the Columbia Gorge AVA. The unique climate of the Columbia River Gorge earns it the title “Mediterranean of the Northwest”. I will say that we visited in October and it was sunny and the weather was beautiful. Insert gratuitous scenery shots!

Our first stop was to Maryhill Winery, which opened in 2001. The winery lies on the northern side of the Columbia River and in the southern tip of the Columbia Valley with Mt. Hood as its backdrop. Family owned by Craig and Vicki Leuthold, Maryhill is one of Washington’s largest and most visited wineries, with over 80,000 visitors annually.  They also have a tasting room in Spokane.

On our visit we met Kiwi winemaker Richard Batchelor who joined Maryhill in 2009. Visiting in October, there was A LOT going on. Fall is a great time to visit a winery if you want to see all the hustle and bustle up close! 

Look at those skins!

Owen Thornhill tapping one of the stainless steel tanks

“Great wines are our inspiration. For us, winemaking isn’t about lifted noses or highbrow personalities. It is about sourcing the best grapes and treating them with passion, patience, and balance. “ -Maryhill Winery

After 5 solid days of wine tasting for 10+ hours, by the time this post-conference excursion came up, I was in NO mood to write more tasting notes. With that being said, almost all tasting notes below came directly from the winery. Wine tasting fatigue is a real thing!

Maryhill Wines Tasted

Chardonnay 2016 $16
Winery Tasting Notes: Vibrant aromas of melon, pear, and apricot with traces of pineapple and grapefruit, continuing into a sensational and crisp fruit finish.

Pinot Gris 2016 $16
Winery Tasting Notes: Rich nectarine and pear notes mingled with honey. Crisp fruit flavor is delivered at the front of the palate, while a slight cream texture fills in the finish.

Sangiovese 2015 $26
Bri Note: A true New World Sangio but with a nod to the Old World.
Winery Tasting Notes: Delicate red fruit notes are framed by warm cedar. The palate has a richness of fruit accompanied by mild tannins and huckleberry, allowing this wine a smooth jammy finish.

Marvell (GSM) Hattrup Farms 2013 $44
Winery Tasting Notes: A sound and savory wine featuring an aroma of wood (New French) and spice and an herbaceous and lingering toasty finish with smooth tannins.

Zinfandel Proprietor’s Reserve 2014 $44
This is a new release (no tasting notes online). I got spice box on the nose and jammy fruit on the palate.

Petite Sirah Art Den Hoed 2014 $40
Winery Tasting Notes: Aromas of cherry, berry, graphite and a hint of sandalwood are met with tart cranberry on the palate.

Riesling 2016 $16
Winery Tasting Notes: Lively citrus flavors frame the palate with honey and pear, with lemongrass aromas complemented by lilac.

Our next visit was to Cathedral Ridge Winery founded in 2003 by Robb Bell. Their wines are self-described as big, bold, and sensuous...and boy were they! Here are a few shots from our visit to Cathedral Ridge.

Cathedral Ridge Wines Tasted

2017 Necessity White $30
Winery Tasting Notes: Delicate aromas of pink grapefruit and rose. Notes of crisp green apple, dried apricot, and honey.

2015 Necessity Red $30
Winery Tasting Notes: Our Pinot Noir (60%), Zinfandel (27%), and Barbera (13%) blend. Currants and raspberry with a touch of spice. 

2015 Bordheauxd Red $30
Winery Tasting Notes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah. A local favorite. Perfectly balanced, notes of deep black fruit, and cherry with a kick of pepper.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon $34
Winery Tasting Notes: Earthy, dark fruit on the palate with a touch of pepper and robust tannin finish.

2015 Rhett’s Red Reserve $44
Winery Tasting Notes: 50% Barbera 50% mystery? Bright and boisterous just like Rhett (the dog!). Fresh orchard on the nose, raspberry, and vanilla. 

2015 Winemakers Reserve $58
Winery Tasting Notes: A premier Bordeaux-inspired blend bursting with Oregon blueberry pie, toffee, and vanilla.