If you don’t throw an idea, thought, desire, dream, or goal out to the universe, it may never happen. That’s what I did early last year, in late January or early February 2021. A Facebook friend and former wine instructor of mine at Capital Wine School had posted a few photos of little vials of wine that she was tasting at home, as part of the judging for the Virginia Governor’s Cup competition. She holds the highest level in the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), and is a WSET instructor, and a high-level manager of a large wine distributor, and I replied to that post with an emphatic “A goal of mine is to be a judge in the competition.”
The universe was looking out for me, and Jay Youmans, the director of the competition, a Master of Wine (and more), and owner of Capital Wine School in Chevy Chase, saw my reply. I’ve been a student at Capital Wine School (CWS) for nearly a decade at this point, so Jay knows me quite well. The next time I went to pick up wine for a virtual class at CWS, Jay remarked “so you want to be a wine judge?” Jay and I went on for a few minutes, discussing it. The first round of judging takes place for a week or more as all submitted wines are tasted. Think hundreds. Jay stated that it’s a long process and remarked that I had a full-time job, which I do, but I did share that I get lots of vacation time, and using a week would be not a problem.
Months passed and I didn’t think much of it, until I saw some posts and emails requesting wine submissions for the competition. Sometime late in 2021, I received an email asking about my availability to be a judge in the FINAL round of the competition which was scheduled for Sunday January 31, and Monday February 1, 2022. I think I stared at the email for what seemed like an hour, though I’m sure it was seconds. A few tears flowed. I can neither confirm nor deny that I squealed aloud and did a happy dance.
Who was I to think I should or could be a judge? Was I worthy? Was I skilled enough? There were definitely some doubts that filled my head. Can you say imposter syndrome? Stepping back, when I jumped into wine, I jumped in with both big feet. I took local beginners wine classes, and then jumped into wine certification programs, and am currently working towards WSET diploma which is like getting your masters in wine education. I went to many Virginia wineries. I spent a good amount of time building a network of cool wine friends and mentors on social media platforms. I got invited to many in-person and online tastings. I embraced Virginia wine and held on tight.
I have always said I was a blogger without a blog as I mostly Tweeted, Instagrammed, and Facebooked. Now that time has passed, I indeed have a blog, and have written one weekly for City Vino for the past three-and-a-half years now. I am a board member of the Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association, helping promote east coast wine with their social media account, press releases, and selection of award recipients for the same period. Jay Youmans and others have told me that I’m an “influencer,” and I’ll leave that term for others to decide.
Now back to the competition! The competition was slated to be held at Capital Wine School in their classrooms. There was a dinner the night before judging started, and a dinner the night of day one. There was information for room accommodates for those coming from afar, requests for vaccinations, and for a tax form as there is a stipend for the judges.
Not long after, came news that due to the ongoing concerns for everyone’s health, the judging would be either from home, if you were local, or at a hotel near CWS. Small bottles would be tediously hand filled and labelled by Jay, staff, and his family. Each individual bottle is labeled with a wine ID and a category. This happened for round one, where over 600 wines were tasted, and for the final judging.
On Sunday morning January 31, 2022, I drove to CWS as I have so very many, many times before. I drove to the rear of the school and saw a few other familiar faces picking up their wine, and exchanged pleasant words or friendly waves. They are former or possibly future teachers of mine, mentors, and friends. Jay brought down my big box of wine. There were over 60 wines in two-ounce vials, divided into 12 flights of two to six wines.
I took the precious cargo home. I already had 12 matching wine glasses set up on my dining room table, along with my laptop to record my scores. My fancy Pioneer Woman stainless steel tall cup to use as a spit cup was set alongside a couple of bottles of water and I was ready to jump in.
Sorry to keep you all in suspense, but you’ll have to wait a bit for part II and the conclusion of this story.