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What Good Is an Education Anyway?

I’ve been mulling over in my head whether or not I want to take wine courses.  I don’t mean the fun ones, like the one I took at the winery I volunteer.  I mean real wine classes, like something through the Court of Master Sommeliers, the WSET, NASommelier or even someplace like the U.C. Berkeley School of Extension.

I mean, if I’m going to be a wine writer, don’t I need to present something more substantial than just my own subjective tastings, such as, at minimum, a certificate of knowledge?  Experience in drinking wine doesn’t seem sufficient to make a good wine writer.

When I first started dating my ex-husband, I already knew that I wanted to learn how to ride a mountain bike effectively (bear with me, it was the 90’s).  He changed out my groupo, my brakes, and my former pile was now equipped with the tools I needed.

I pored over mountain bike magazines for months.  I read about turning techniques, climbing techniques (my favorite!), and other tricks on how to keep from looping the bike.  During this time, I rode as much as I could, but still was in the process of building my endurance.

I’ll never forget the first time I made it to the top of a one-mile dirt hill.  We’d been camping in southern Utah for the previous week, and my endurance increased dramatically after many challenging hikes during the vacation.  After that, I wanted to ride constantly.

I continuously sought out mountain bike trails that were gems, in Marin, the Sierras, the Flume Trail in Tahoe.  One of my proudest moments was coming in first in the beginner class in a mountain bike race.

I loved riding, and we rode until he decided he didn’t want to ride any longer.  It was okay; I’d reached my pinnacle.  I knew how to ride well, and knew how I’d gotten there.

When I went back to school in 2005, it was literally because of a dream.  I had woken from a dream in which I was in legal sales, I was successful, and, more importantly, fulfilled.  After I began my courses to complete my B.A., I excelled in marketing, and soon divorced any ideas of working in law – I’d had enough.

However, for all the courses I’d taken, both at university and through professional associations, I didn’t know how to sell.  I took a job selling adverting freelance for a food magazine, but faltered after one lucky quarter.  There was minimal professional support, and all the sales and media advertising books I’d read seemed for naught.

So, now, I question, what about wine?  Granted, I’m much more passionate about wine than I am media sales, and it’s something I have experience in.  But it all seems so subjective.  I mean, really?  Who cares if I can smell tobacco while another person smells the fruit?  So what if I can taste the earthiness and someone else only the herbs of a Semillon blanc?  How can that make me a good writer?  I’m not “in the industry” so I don’t have the cachet of talking that many others will.  I don’t have any certificates, so I’m not equipped to tell you what to drink or what food to pair based on acidity, alkalinity, and the ilk.

I’d started this post last night, and found it serendipitous that this morning one of the first blogs I looked at ran along a similar vein.

I’d gone over to Steve Heimoff’s blog and found an article about Jason Calacanis.  Jason is credited with developing a Web 2.0-type internet site during the Internet’s infancy, so it was interesting to see the convergence of social media/entrepreneurship and wine blogging.

Anyway, Steve states in his post that wine writers need to be intelligent about their subject matter.  He quotes Calacanis as saying, “You have to have a deep understanding to be a blogger…It is not enough to be a writer. You need to be a writer and an expert.” (My emphasis). 

I think I’ve answered my question.


About Helene Kremer

San Francisco East Bay

2 responses »

  1. I am right there with you. I recently became a member of the Society of Wine Educators and purchased their study guide with the hope of taking their Certified Specialist of Wine exam by the end of 2012. I’m finding that due to my passion for the subject matter I actually look forward to the study no matter how dry some aspects of the subject may seem to others. I’d love you hear which route you decide to take! Good luck to the both of us.

    • Thanks for your comment! I’m glad to hear someone else is in the “same boat” — good luck to you in your studies! Also, your blog is now on my radar, good stuff 🙂


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