The First Step…

A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step

Lao-tzu.  The Way of Lao-Tzu – Chinese Philosopher (604 BC-532 BC)

And so it was this week at the NC Wine Academy, Asheville, where some of the Van in Black team, together with individuals representing various aspects of the hospitality industry, took a single step in their collective journey toward WSET Level 2 Award in Wines.  The class, lead by Mary Montalvo, a WSET Level 3 with Distinction instructor, began with a review of the various factors that influence grape growing: climatic and weather influences, vineyard management, and, finally understanding labeling terms related to grape growing.

The first step into our journey tapped into our prior knowledge gained from Level 1 and set the stage for the next step – tasting and evaluating wine.  We learned, and had to identify, the appearance of the wines – in other words, is the intensity of the wine pale, medium or deep?  What are the colors? For white, are they lemon, gold or amber?  And what about the reds?  Purple, ruby, garnet or tawny?

The next challenge was to correctly identify and describe the aroma and flavor characteristics of the various wines. As you can imagine, this portion of the evening sparked lively conversation and debate, and the discussions became increasingly intriguing and vibrant as we began tasting wines and learning about the different components to be considered on the palate – sweetness, acidity, tannins, alcohol, body, flavor intensity and characteristics, as well as finish.  And if this wasn’t complicated enough – we had to use the correct terminology to describe the aroma and flavor!  Describing an aroma as “citrus” was too broad – we had to determine if we could identify specific flavors – grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange.   Okay – now you try – if you smell “herbaceous notes” – define the specific flavors – grass, tomato leaf, asparagus, ahh – thought so – I will fill you in next time. 

Finally, a varietal study! Completing our fascinating first step into this new journey, was a globe trotting glimpse into Pinot Noir production around the world – from Australia, California, Chile, France, New Zealand, and South Africa – and identifying the specific regions within those countries which produce Pinot Noir.   

So, Pinot Noir is yours to discover! And which ever region you chose, we invite you to enjoy a glass of this remarkable varietal and continue the journey with us.

Until next time –


Avatar for Christine Vincent

Who knew that "retirement" was going to be exciting and open so many new doors for personal and professional growth! A relocation to Western North Carolina, and subsequent introduction to it's many stunning vineyards, reignited my passion for wine - literally from soil to glass. It was during my tenure at a local winery where I met several folks who were instrumental in encouraging me to keep exploring this new journey. I am now WSET Level 2 in Wines Certified, currently studying for Level 3 and proud to be a part of the Van in Black team! Stay tuned as my journey continues! Cheers!

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