Our second episode of A GenXer and a Millennial walk into a winery… and Ute and Ali are tasting a Passetoutgrain from Domaine Divio and are chatting about Madeline Triffon, one of only 25 women Master Sommeliers in America… and then get carried away just a little bit when it comes to all the different types of wine certifications.
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Full episode transcript:
Ute: Welcome to the Thru the Grapewine podcast. We are your hosts, Ute Mitchell
Ali: and Ali Simpson!
Ute: And we love that you’re here again for another episode of a Gen Xer…
Ali: and a Millennial…
Ute: …walk into a winery!
Ali: Before we get started today, please do remember to hop into the show notes for your freebie downloads and our topic request form.
And right now the best way you can help us out is to subscribe and download our episodes. And please leave us a rating and review, but only if they are nice.
Ute: That’s right. Only if they’re nice.
Ali: If you don’t like what we have to say, then there are so many other podcasts you can go find.
Ute: Exactly .
Ali: But we love that you’re here. Thank you.
Ute: Listeners, you already got to listen to a new episode this year. We are aware. This was with Liane Morris in Australia. But to us, as we record this, it’s actually our first A Gen Xer and a Millennial walk into a winery of 2023. Hence our New Year’s catch.
Ali: Happy New Year
Ute: And happy New Year to you.
Ali: Thanks! What did you do for New Year’s?
Ute: Well, that’s a loaded question.
Ali: Tell me all about it.
Ute: So, my daughter… I’ve talked about my daughter on the podcast before. She lives in San Diego, and her plan was to come and be with us for Christmas and her flight got canceled because of the crappy weather we had here in Portland.
And my daughter was like, “there’s no way I’m not gonna be there for Christmas Eve. So I am driving up!” And so she did. So she drove first from San Diego to San Jose, just south of San Francisco, and she drove from there the next day to Portland. And so it was really great. We had a wonderful time together, and on the way back we decided we didn’t want her to have to drive all by herself the entire road down to San Diego.
Ali: How long of a trip is that?
Ute: So our trip that we took to San Francisco was over 11 hours [ insert Ali making a “sheesh” noise] and she was driving another seven hours [insert Ali making a “blach” noise] from San Francisco to San Diego, but it was, it was crazy. We left New Year’s Eve very early in the morning, and we were on the road for 11 hours. And San Francisco was great. We had a really wonderful dinner at a place called Lark.
I highly recommend it. We went to the Palace of Fine Arts and walked around there, and then we wanted to see the fireworks, or my daughter in particular, and she’s like, “let’s go to the Embarcadero” and you know, do that. And so we drove there and we tried to find parking for about 45 minutes, and then we were literally right around the corner from where the fireworks were happening, and it was gridlock.
Nothing moved, no car was able to move. People just stopped. They were like, that’s it. It’s 12. We’re gonna just watch fireworks.
Ali: Did you get out of your car and you were able to still see them or were buildings blocking?
Ute: Oh, buildings were blocking everything.
Ute: And so I sent her to go around the corner to look at the fireworks while I sat in the car waiting to maybe have something move, nothing moved. And she came back after about 15 minutes when the fireworks were over, and we decided let’s go back to the hotel now, and that should have been a 30 minute drive and it turned into two hours.
Ute: Yeah. So that was great.
Ute: But January 1st was great. We looked around and I got to walk on the Golden Gate Bridge, which is something that I’ve been wanting to do. So very exciting. And then I flew back on the second. And she drove to San Diego.
Ali: Silver linings.
Ute: Silver linings.
Ali: You got to spend time together.
Ute: Yes. Yeah.
Ali: Lots of bonding time.
Ute: Yes. Lots of bond time.
Ali: Delicious food.
Ute: The food was great.
Ute: The bonding was great, too.
Ute: What did you do for New Year’s Eve?
Ali: We had a few friends come down and we went wine tasting first at Dobbes in Dundee.
Ute: I saw you post.
Ali: Yeah. And then we headed over to Domaine Willamette, which is Willamette Valley Vineyard’s newest facility.
Ali: I guess… it’s their sparkling house just south of Dundee.
Ali: So we went there and had some bubbles and some little bites, and then headed back to our house and we cooked steak and baked potatoes and salad.
Ali: And then just hung out and played games. Everyone got into sweatpants almost immediately. And we just played games and the guys watched… what would that have been? There was a football game going on. I had already turned Harry Potter on and then they were like, “but the football game!” And I was like, “oh, sorry! I didn’t know there was football.”
So we, we watched a little bit of that and then switched over to Harry Potter and just had some delicious wine and played fun games and rang in the new… we tried to find… we don’t have like a TV service or anything. So we were just trying to find like live streams,
Ute: Where can you stream New York?
Ali: We found a Las Vegas one that was happening and then realized that it was actually like a minute off. But then we realized early on, but then I’m looking at my watch, which has like seconds countdown on it and I was just, “Guys, this is also like…. my watch already says that it’s this time!” And someone’s phone already said midnight.
We’re like, “we’re just going with whatever the TV says.” It was kinda a mess, but, rang in the new year and then I think we played one more round of the marbles game that we were playing.
Ali: And then it was way too late. All of us just wanted to go to sleep at that. So we all crashed and then got up and just had breakfast in the morning and I tried sabering a bottle.
Ali: …in the morning.
Ali: And I think I had too small of a knife or something. There’s no, I mean there’s like this tiny little cut on my hand. I was sober when I was doing this. I need to disclaim that. I guess I just didn’t commit enough and so I tried hitting it a couple of times and it just wasn’t, the cork wasn’t popping out
And so I was like, “whatever! Like, I fail! Everyone delete these videos you were taking of me.”
And then I went to twist the, I, I went to actually like pull the cork out, twist the bottle, pull the cork, and as soon as I clamped my hand tight enough, I was like, “oh, I think the bottle did break in fact.” And the, the very top of the neck had a little broken piece, and that’s how I cut my hand.
So I had to be very careful of getting the cork out. And then we strained the Prosecco …
Ute: Just to be on the safe side.
Ali: …to make sure that we weren’t drinking little shards of glass. But…
Ute: yeah, that would be…
Ali: So, yeah, I fail at sabering apparently. And maybe I need to look into an actual sabering class.
Ute: That is hilarious.
Ali: Ohhhh… Yeah. Fun times!
Ute: Okay. Well, great .
Ali: It was something.
Ute: Wow. Well, okay, since we are talking about wine, Let’s talk about wine, shall we?
Ali: Let’s do it.
Ute: Do you wanna tell our listeners what wine we chose to taste today while I open the bottle?
Ali: Yeah. Today we are tasting the 2021 Passetoutgrain.
Ali: From Domaine Divio. I had to practice that so many times before we started recording. Domaine Divio is right here in the Willamette Valley. The Passetoutgrain basically translates to “pick them all”. It is a blend that used to be shared in the villages in Burgundy as a wine that could be enjoyed daily. So this wine is made up of two-thirds gamay and one-third pinot noir.
Ute: Ooh, there it is!
Ali: And Domaine Divio sells this one for $28. According to their website, on the nose, you’re going to get “earth and fruit, some blackberry, spice, white pepper, crushed rock, and cranberry.” So it sounds very like fruity and, and rich and tart almost, too.
Ali: On the palate it’s going to have “a juicy show of Bing cherries, spiced plums, a crunchy bowl of fresh raspberries and strawberries.” What are these tasting notes? I am intrigued!
Oh my gosh. I can smell that! You poured that like two feet away from me and I can already smell it. The finish is “smooth with savory notes, dark chocolate and orange zest to round it out.” So, oh, you need my glass.
Ute: Give me your glass so I can pour.
Ali: So this, I’m already excited to, to taste this one. I can smell it from here. And these tasting notes are just very intriguing.
Ute: Well, so full disclosure, this is actually one of my favorite wines Domaine Divio, and I know that they have much fancier wines and I’m really a big fan of all of their wines. I don’t think that there is one that I don’t like.
Which is super cool when you, when you’re able to say that about a winery. This is one of the very first wines I tasted there, and somehow it just stuck. Bruno or Bruno Corneaux, who is proprietor and winemaker at Domaine Divio hails from the beautiful Burgundy region, and he makes his wines with minimal intervention.
So he uses biodynamic farming practices to create an ecological balance in the vineyard. There’s actually a pond down the hill. This is so great. So there’s a pond. You know, you walk out of the tasting room, you kind of see down the hill, there’s this little pond and it has frogs in it. As some of you may know, I did work for Domaine Divio for about five minutes, and it was so funny to walk into the tasting room in the morning and hear the croaking.
A couple of the frogs kept making their way. Into the tasting room and crawled into a flower pot and just sat there in the bottom of this pot.
Ali: Oh my gosh.
Ute: And just were croaking. And so we started naming him. So we call him Fred.
Ute: And sometimes Fred was alone. And sometimes Fred brought, you know, a buddy. But it was still both Fred.
Ali: Fred and Fred.
Ute: And so we would pull the pot out of the big pot and, and carry the frogs back down to the pond. And the next day Fred was back. Fred loved us. Anyway, so Bruno is really an awesome and very brilliant winemaker with many, many years of experience. And he is quoted for saying, “If I had stayed in Burgundy to make wine, I would be boarding a train that was already in motion. Here in Oregon’s Willamette Valley I’m helping lay down the tracks.”
Ali: Oh, interesting.
Ute: And it makes sense. I mean, when you’re looking at the history of Burgundy…
Ute: …it has such a long, I mean, hundreds of years of wine history.
Ute: And Oregon, compared to that, is just a baby.
Ali: Right. Really just anywhere in the new world.
Ali: Versus Old world.
Ute: Sure. Well, do you wanna try this?
Ali: Yes, I do.
Ute & Ali: Cheers.
[ slurping ensues]
Ali: Oh, that’s, candy. But in like the best way.
Ali: It’s not overly sweet. It’s very fruity.
Ute: Right. It’s not sweet, but it is fruity. That’s exactly it.
Ali: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
Ute: It is. And when, now when you’re thinking about the crunchy bowl of raspberries…
Ute: …now suddenly you’re going, “oh,…”
Ali: I get it.
Ute: “…okay. So I see what you’re saying here.”
Ali: I get it.
Ute: Yeah, it does have that acidity that the fruit brings with it, but not necessarily all the sweetness that you would get from like a really ripe raspberry or really ripe strawberry.
Ali: Yeah. You get almost that the whole talk of the cranberries and crunchy raspberry or like orange zest, you think of those as a little more sharp.
I guess in my brain I’m thinking crunchy raspberry, strawberry is like the not quite ripe. So it’s still good, but it’s gonna have that tartness to it. And you definitely can get, especially at the end there.
Ali: A tartness that really balances everything.
Ali: That’s delicious.
Ute: Yeah. And it, it has some tannin, it has at higher acidity, you know, so one way that you can tell the acidity of a wine is by tasting it. So you take a sip, you slurp it, you swish it, and then you swallow it, and then you open your mouth and, it’s a little gross, but you open your mouth and you look down over your sink and you start counting how long it takes for you to start drooling. And if it happens pretty much right away and there’s a lot of drool, you probably have a very acidic wine.
And if it takes a long time and you’re counting to 10 and there’s just a little bit of drool, it’s probably not very acidic wine at all.
Ali: And you can still do this if you’re like out in public and don’t have a sink. You can just tilt your face forward and keep your mouth closed. And just notice how much your mouth is filling up with saliva.
Ute: Yeah. Exactly. Yeah. Don’t, don’t spit in the winery.
Ali: Don’t just start drooling all over the floor.
Ute: Well, actually you could just get a spit bucket and say, “excuse me, I need a spit bucket. I have to see how much acidity is in his wine.”
Ali: Oh man.
Ute: Okay, so today I actually want to talk about a very special lady and her name is Madeline Triffon. I’m not entirely sure if it’s Triffon or Triffon.
Ali: If you know, please let us know.
Ute: Please let us know.
Ali: Reach out to us. Let us us know proper pronunciation here.
Ute: And Madeline, if by the very off chance you listen to this, we’re sorry.
Ali: But also hit us up! We’d love to chat with you.
Ute: Yes, for sure. So she is the very first American female Master Sommelier. So Ali, do you want to explain what a master sommelier is?
Ali: Yeah. I can do that. We have to start out by saying that it is the Court of Master Sommeliers that awards this very distinguished diploma. There are only 273 Master Sommelier in the world, at the time of this recording.
Currently, there are 168 professionals with the title Master Sommelier as part of the Americas Chapter. 143 of those are men, and only 25 of them are women.
Ute: Okay. Can we let that number sink in for a moment?
Ute: before we continue on here. 25 women.
Ali: Yes. 168 American Chapter Master Sommeliers. 143 of those are men. And 25 of them are women. As of January, 2023.
Ute: Yeah. So that, and it kind of makes you wonder, you know, why there’s not more, and I’d really like to have a better understanding. So I don’t know who I have to hit up for that, but I want to know.
Anyway, so Madeline was born in Connecticut and she also lived in Greece as a child with her family. She put herself through the University of Michigan and graduated in 1977 when I was three years.
Ali: I wasn’t even thought of.
Ute: I know! She thought about going to medical school, but instead ended up in the wine industry. She worked as a sommelier after studying and tasting herself through every wine that was available to her.
And at some point she was promoted to wine buyer by the West End and she was even sent to the Best Sopexa French Sommelier competition. And you know how it is, once you’re a part of this industry, you really can’t get out of it. I It’s just you, you have to stick around. There’s just something magical about it.
Ute: It can be very stressful. But it’s just magical and it’s really just a question of what you do with it then once you’re in it. What’s really funny to me is that apparently Madeline said about herself that she’s not all that ambitious. And all I can say to that is if passing the Master Sommelier is not all that ambitious, then I really don’t want to know what is!
I’m having the hardest time even getting motivated to study again for my WSET 3.
Ali: Yeah, I’m looking at. . I created a study schedule for myself for the Certified Specialist of Wine…? C S W? Yeah. I created that study schedule like two weeks ago, and I’ve been having to just continuously edit the dates because I haven’t actually started.
Ute: Okay. You know what? That makes me feel a little bit better because before we started recording this episode, we had a meeting together, and in the meeting she suddenly, I suddenly see pop up (because we’re using Google Drive) and I see this thing pop up, “create a study schedule for WSET 3”, which she doesn’t even have to do.
I am the one who has to do it because she already passed.
Ali: I am helping you and Tamara.
Ute: I know. All I’m saying is it makes me feel better that you haven’t started yours yet and that you’re having to change the.
Ali: This is why I do it on a spreadsheet and not handwritten, because then it’s way easier to change the dates.
Ute: Okay. Yeah. So there you go. I’m gonna just leave it at that. So Madeline was only the second woman took pass the Master Sommelier exam, and at this point we should probably tell our listeners what is included in the exam. You wanna help me do that?
Ali: Yeah. So the exam consists …and we’re pulling this information from the Court of Master Sommelier’s website, as Ute and I, neither of us have gone through Sommelier examinations before. So this is where we are pulling that information if you want to find out more for yourself as well. So the exam consists of three parts. There is a theory exam, which is actually oral and not written, and it lasts about 50 minutes. And that would give me so much anxiety.
Ute: Oh my gosh. 50 minutes of talking.
Ali: Well, not just that, but like to have a nice, concise, presentable answer.
Ali: I’m thinking of doing the theory exam for WSET 3 and just having to word vomit everything, erase it all, and make it sound better. And actually as a cohesive thought! I can’t imagine just having to speak it all out right away.
Ute: I agree.
Ali: So you have to know everything about wine to just be able to keep going with your train of thought. Wine areas of the world. The products, the grape varieties, winemaking techniques, international wine laws. Knowledge of fortified wines and sparkling wines and storage and handling and methods of distillation making of spirits, liquors, and beers, ciders… I’m already stressing myself.
Ute: Ciders! I didn’t even know that!
Ali: I’m stressing myself out. I’m not even taking this exam. Then you have to do a deductive tasting of six wines. So you have to be able to not only know what wine you’re tasting, you also have to know where it’s from, what year, and exactly what you’re tasting.
And of course there’s a time limit on that too.
Ute: Yeah, and it’s ridiculous. They have to like rattle it down. If you’ve ever seen those or if you’ve never seen the SOMM movies, you’ve got to do it. So one of the SOMM movies accompanies this group of young men as they’re going into their massive Sommelier certification and…
it’s crazy because they have this time limit and they just rattle down the names and what they taste and you know, it’s like babababababa, “I taste this, I taste this, I taste this, and this is the wine.”
Ute: Yes. So the final part is a practical wine service examination, and here you have to discuss and recommend aperitifs. You have to have knowledge of the ingredients and production methods, and of course, serve them correctly. You have to be able to select, prepare, and position glassware in the lounge or restaurant. You have to discuss menu content and wine lists. You have to recommend wines for the various foods. Know all of the products, vintages, and characteristics.
You have to present, offer, and prepare, and serve wines. And you have to make it look effortless! And of course, elegant. Because you’re a sommelier. And of course you have to also do all of the same stuff with brandys, liqueurs, and spirits, and whatever alcoholic beverages you have to serve.
And here to me is the hardest. You know, you have to have all of this knowledge, and I think if you do nothing else day and night, you are eventually going to get that knowledge. But now they’re throwing a wrench in it. You have to also be able to handle complaints and questions that may come up during this portion of the exam. So you are already super nervous and you have to remember all of this information. But now you may also actually be working with a difficult customer slash examiner, and you have to keep your cool.
Ute: You know? It was in the SOMM movie where one of the guys was being a very difficult customer, and he was like, “how are you gonna cool this bottle of champagne? You know? And you’re gonna have to make it quickly, you know, I need this bottle cooled in 10 minutes.”
Ute: And it’s just, you know, and you can tell he’s starting to feel a little bit stressed out and nervous because he knows this is going to probably be part of the exam. And he’s going to have to have an answer right there on the spot.
Ali: Yeah. Those movies, I don’t remember if it’s one or two that goes through… or is it… there’s three out right now.
Ali: And I think it’s the first one that follows the four guys. I
Ute: think so.
Ali: But they do a very good job. I think it’s Jason Wise, who is the director, producer, creator of this series. They do a very good job at showing you the high stress situations that these examiners go through.
Ute: Yeah. Thousands of flashcards!
Ali: And just hours of studying.
Ali: Up in the middle of the night. They also, at least one or two of the guys, they show they’re in relationships and so they’re also talking to their partners of what they’re kind of going through as this person is studying for this massive exam.
There’s a joke at the end. I won’t spoil who passes and who doesn’t , but there is a joke at the end of when one of the guys passes getting to ceremoniously burn all the flashcards.
Ute: Gosh. I dunno if I would do that. I don’t know if I could bring myself to burn 4,000 flashcards.
Ali: Yeah. All the, all the work handwriting those flashcards. I wrote plenty for WSET 3 and I had the electronic flashcard version too.
Ute: Yeah, exactly.
Ali: So if I was on the go, I could be studying.
Ali: But WSET 3 was intense and just from what I’ve seen from the SOMM movies, the Sommelier exams are beyond next level.
Ali: They are so much more intense.
Ute: Well, and you do have to pass multiple levels of Sommelier before you can even get started on Master Sommelier.
Ute: You have to pass… the one right before the Master Sommelier is Advanced Sommelier, and there are multiple levels before then. So this is a process of many years. And what I actually found really astonishing was how young this group of men were that were going through that what, like late twenties, early thirties.
Ali: I think like mid to late twenties. Yeah.
Ute: Kinda makes you wonder when did they start? When they were 12?
Ali: Yeah! Well, and then also knowing Victoria James was the youngest to pass a Sommelier exam. I think she passed when she was like 20 because she didn’t do the tasting part. I, there’s…
Ute: Oh my God,
Ali: She’s written her, her wine memoir. But yeah, she’s, she’s like the youngest to pass or youngest woman to pass or something. But she started studying before she turned 21.
Ali: Yeah. So…
Ute: Dude… And I’m whining about my WSET 3 .
So anyway, Madeline who considers herself a not so ambitious woman, which is just so funny to me. She passes this incredibly difficult exam.
And what does she say when asked if she was surprised that she passed? “Not really. I waited to take the exam until I knew I was ready.” . Is this not the best thing you’ve ever heard? I bow to her. I mean, I admire the shit out of this woman. She made it basically no big deal at all. Even though she knows full well that the majority of people who take this exam fail.
Isn’t it something like 5% of people only who pass the Master Sommelier on the first try?
Ali: I don’t, yeah. I don’t know. It’s, I would’ve to look it up.
Ute: Yeah. So she does continue to work in Detroit as a Master Sommelier for the Plum Market food chain, and that’s some upscale food chain. She organizes events and tastings, and of course, she’s also the one selecting all the wines, which that will be kind of cool.
Ali: That would be, yeah.
Ute: Yeah. Anyway, so Ali, of course, I have to ask you the very important question is the Master Sommelier in your future?
Ali: I am gonna hard pass on that one. No, I kinda touched on it in the first episode that I recorded with you of when I first started researching how to even get into the wine industry.
And I had known about Sommeliers. I did not know about Masters of Wine and WSETS. And when I was researching both of those, just realizing that WSET was definitely a better… WSET into the Master of Wine program was a better fit for me. Because much like the Court of Master Somms, you have to go through all these different levels.
With Master of Wine, you can’t get into the Master, you can’t even apply to the Master of Wine program until you have your WSET Diploma, which is level four.
Ute: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah. I will say I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with my certifications, especially with where I want to go with Thru The Grapewine.
I don’t know at this point if it’s necessary for me to continue on with anything else at this point, it would literally just be for the fun of it. And she’s taking a picture right now,
I, I don’t know that it will be necessary unless I decided to start working for, I don’t know, a restaurant or like it’s something super high end.
Ute: That requires even more knowledge than, than what I do have. And I do have a bit of knowledge. Not …
Ali: …a bit. Yeah.
Ute: …not a crazy amount. Apparently not enough to freaking pass my WSET written portion.
Ali: Uh, you’re gonna pass in March though!
Ute: I will pass. Absolutely.
Ali: No, I think right now, like I was definitely very focused on, I’ll get through three and then I’ll apply for four right away, Diploma level. But since taking the exam and then going through my second harvest, and talking with people. I have really started rethinking my path.
I’m not writing off Diploma and Master of Wine at all, which we can go into, very much like Court of Master Somms, Master of Wine is a very prestigious, small group of people in the world as well. But we can get into that on a different episode. But I’m not writing that eventual path off the table.
But I think right now I’m just refocusing towards smaller certifications, “smaller”. I put that in quotes. I had mentioned doing my CSW, my Certified Specialist of Wine. I’m looking at the French, Italian, and Spanish Wine Scholars just so I can have a little bit more focused knowledge, in-depth knowledge for if we’re doing private tastings and people wanna focus on those regions.
Ali: I’ll feel a little more confident coming into those tastings then. And when I first started looking at wine education courses, the path that I was trying to sort out for myself was eventually to do wine education. Maybe even after I do CSW looking. CWE, Certified Wine Educator. So… which is ,from what I hear, intense.
Ute: Well, I mean, if you’re gonna be an educator of wine for other professionals then that’s definitely, it’s gonna have to be difficult.
Ali: Yes. Yes. So maybe we do a whole episode on all the different education options and courses that you can take.
Ute: Let’s do that.
Ali: Yeah. Because I feel like we just rattled off a ton of different courses and classes and options. That’s a lot to keep track of. So…
Ute: Let’s, let’s make that an episode. I think that might be interesting to some people out there, for sure.
Ali: Yeah. All righty.
Ute: Sounds great.
Ute: Well, and it feels like that’s already it for today. Listeners, once again, thank you for being here. And do remember to check out the show notes and to leave us a rating and review
Ali: Only if they’re nice, please!
Ute: Make sure you follow us on Instagram @thru_thegrapewine and on Facebook at Thru The Grapewine.
Ali: Leave us a comment or message us with topic requests or fill out the topic request form on our website. Or just tell us, you know, what you’re enjoying in your glass at the moment. We always love to hear from you and we always love to connect with our listeners and our followers over wine and shared knowledge, so..
Ute: That’s right.
And with that all we have to say, of course.