Discover white wines from Germany this Summer


Are you tired of the same old same old when it comes to your summer wine choices? Time to try something new! Let’s discover 3 refreshing white wines from Germany and some fun facts you probably didn’t know!

First up: RIESLING

Riesling is a classic, but so so misunderstood. Did you know somms all over the world go crazy about German Rieslings? There’s so many reasons to love it! The most important thing you should know is that Riesling can be sweet, but also DRY! So many people think that Riesling is only sweet (which is also very delicious). If you like a dry style Riesling, look for the word Trocken on the label. This means dry. The Germans are very serious about their wine and give us tons of information of the label, but it definitely takes some schooling to understand it! Another term commonly used is labeling the level of ripeness of the grapes picked at harvest. The longer the grapes stay on the vines, the sweeter they get. Here are the terms in order from driest to sweetest:







Keep in mind that the winemaker might ferment to different levels, so a Kabinett level Riesling grapes could still be vinified to a slightly sweet wine, and a Spätlese Riesling grapes could still be vinified to a fully dry Riesling (in that case, it would be labeled Spätlese Trocken). It can be know confusing if you don’t know the terms, right!? A lot of German producers are starting to indicate the style on labels in English or even put a sweetness scale on the label which makes it a lot easier for us! Another term that is super important to know is the GG (Grosses Gewächs). This essentially means Grand Cru. These grapes are coming from the best vineyard sites and undergo strict quality assessment.

When it comes to food pairing with Riesling it’s quite unique! Depending on the style you’re drinking, German Riesling can pair perfectly with a wide variety of cuisine, partly due to the iconic high acidity. I like to pair Riesling with Asian cuisine, spicy foods and sushi! Due to the generally lower alcohol on German Rieslings, it pairs perfectly with spicier foods. Alcohol tends to make spicy foods burn more!

I really enjoyed this “Bone Dry” Riesling which you can currently find on www.Wine.com for $24.99.

Von Buhl Bone Dry Riesling 2020, Pfalz

Use promo code GERMANY10 for 10% off your purchase of 6 bottles of German wine or more.

This Riesling is very refreshing with notes of lemon, lime zest, white peach, and white florals. It had high acidity-meaning it makes your mouth water a lot. Perfect for a hot summer day!

Second white wine from Germany to be sipping on this summer is:


Pinot Blanc is such an underrated grape IMO! I don’t hear a lot of people talking about Pinot Blanc which is a shame! It just screams summer!!! This one is full of refreshing citrus and apple flavors. Balanced with a beautiful minerality and high acidity.

This wine pairs perfectly with all those summer cheeses like havarti, mozzarella, and feta. Can someone say Caprese salad!? Or watermelon and feta salad with PINOT BLANC!? Um yes please!

Fun fact: the Germans may call Pinot Blanc “Weissburgunder” so be on the look lookout for that! It’s just the German name for the grape. Another fun fact: Germany has the highest number of plantings of the grape in the world!

You can find this one on www.Wine.com for $24.99 as well.

Weingut Wagner Stempel Estate Pinot Blanc 2020, Rheinhessen

And the 3rd German White Wine you should know about is:


Yes, Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are synonymous, but a German Pinot Gris and an Italian Pinot Grigio are quite different! This Pinot Gris is packed full of stone fruit flavors like peach and apricot with a ripe citrus like lemon curd. It also has beautiful floral aromas and refreshing minerality and acidity. I find German Pinot Gris to be much smoother than other regions’ as well. I’d pair this with a summer peach salsa, or some brie with apricot jam. It would also go great with seafood and pastas. I’m drooling!

Fun fact: the Germans refer to Pinot Gris as “Grauburgunder” or “Grauer Burgunder” so you might see that on the wine label.

You can find this delicious German Pinot Gris on www.Wine.com for $18.99.

Freiherr von Gleichenstein Hofgarten Grauer Burgunder Trocken 2016, Baden

Remember to use promo code GERMANY10 for 10% off your purchase of 6 bottles of German wine or more!

I hope you enjoyed diving into the key white wines of Germany with me! If you’d like to dive even deeper into the Wines of Germany, follow @germanwineusa on Instagram and be sure to follow me at @bythestem to learn all things wines, food pairings and wine travel!


Love, Your personal sommelier, Casleah


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Discovering Sannio DOP of Southern Italy

Sannio (pronounced like San-yo) is located in the Campania region of Italy. The Campania region is in the southern part of Italy. It is below Rome and just 30 miles east of Naples. It has rolling hillsides and altitude making it the perfect location for vineyards. The soil is mostly clay and limestone, but there are areas where volcanic soil can be found! Sannio is made up of 11,000 hectares (27,181.59 acres) of vineyards. And 7,900 vine growers. There are many different grape varieties that grow here, but the two most famous are Falanghina and Aglianico. I recently attended a beautiful luncheon at N10 Italian Restaurant in downtown Los Angeles with Italian Wine expert Laura Donadini (@theitalianwinegirl) to learn about Sannio wines paired with delicious Italian dishes. 

The first wine we tasted was a sparkling Falanghina from Corte Normanna. It’s a Brut style sparkling wine made in the Charmat method (tank method). Oak aging in uncommon in this region. It spends 11 months on the lees with lees stirring which add complexity and delicate bubbles. This wine is refreshing with high acidity and notes of floral, citrus and a finish with a touch of almond. The almond finish is a marker common on Falanghina. This wine was paired with a Bruschetta with sun dried tomatoes, basil and mixed vegetables on focaccia. The acidity in the tomatoes really balanced the acidity in the wine.

The second was was a still Falanghina from La Guardiense ‘Janare‘. This wine recieved the highest award from the Gambero Rosso called Tre Bicchieri. It has beautiful dusty minerality with aromatic floral notes. It’s has a stunning and unique salinity resembling capers. It has the classic bitter almond finish. What stood out to me about this wine was the mouthfeel. It had an oily texture that is very pleasant on the palate. It has medium plus intensity of aromas, a complex, refreshing acidity and a long lingering finish.  

 Wine number 3 was another still Falanghina from the opposite side of the region from Terre Stregate ‘Svelato’ . This one has 4 months on the lees giving its a cheese rind, yeasty aroma. Along with a refreshing green apple acidity. 

 These Falanghina wines are if the DOC designations. They were paired with a chopped salad consisting of  romaine lettuce, mozzarella cheese, avocado and dill herb dressing. The freaking notes of the salad brought out the citrus notes of the wines. The mozzarella brought if the lees nots as well as the creamy mouthfeel. Great pairing!! 

The tasting concluded with a beautiful complex red wine of Aglianico. This is the famous red wine of Sannio and is of DOCG designation. There are 3 biotypes of Aglianico in Sannio: Taburno, Taurasi, and Vulture. I tasted the Fattoria La Rivolta Aglianico del Taburno DOCG 2018 . It was full of black fruits and spice. It spent 1 year in neutral oak and organically farmed. Full of complexity, these wines have so much aging potential! This wine was paired with shredded braised beef in San Marzano sauce in a homemade Tagliatelle pasta. What a perfect pairing! 

I highly recommend checking out the wines from Sannio for great quality and great value! I hope you discover this up and coming region! Cheers! 

Love, Your Personal Sommelier, Casleah

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Celebrating Black Wine Producers for Black History Month

There are a thousand words to describe the chaos that was the year 2020. One thing that was very positive and eye opening for me was the realization of where I am putting my money and energy when deciding to purchase wine. Who am I supporting? One goal I set for myself this year, is to promote more diversity in the wine industry and particularly black owned and black produced wines and wineries. An industry with diversity is an industry that is a better place for all. I’ve been meaning to write this article for a while now, so no time like February- Black history month to share some outstanding black owned and black produced wines with you! Here’s 3 black owned / black produced wines you should check out!

Thomas T. Thomas Vineyards

Out of Mendocino County in the Anderson Valley, we find these lovely Pinot Noirs from Thomas T. Thomas Vineyards . These Burgundian inspired wines came to life in 2001. Thomas visited Burgundy, France and was inspired to bring that environment to California. From the Dijon, Calara and Pommard clones these Pinots are complex with earth and ripe fruit. Very well balanced with oak notes and acidity. Highly recommend checking them out! The Anderson Valley Pinot retails for $45 and the Estate Pinot retails for $65.

Theopolis Vineyards

Also from Mendocino County in the Anderson Valley we find the bold wines of Theopolis Vineyards. Founder and Winemaker Theodora R. Lee is a “bold and dynamic Texan and San Francisco trail lawyer and is now bottling her own wines.” I had the pleasure of tasting the two wines pictured above. The 2017 Petite Sirah is bold and lush. It’s rich in black fruits and complex with black pepper and earth tones. It’s beautifully balanced. The Theopatra’s Cuvee Cerise has an intriguing spice component that adds so much complexity, red and dark fruits yet refreshing with a balanced acidity. This wine is a blend of Mourvedre, Syrah and Petite Sirah. These wines have been highly rated, and I can’t help but agree! The Petite Sirah retails for $39 and Theopatra’s Cuvee retails for $36

Longevity Wines Family Winery

Moving to the Livermore Valley, we find the unique wines of Longevity Wines.” Longevity Wines is a boutique family operated, urban style winery located in the Livermore AVA, whose focus is on quality not quantity.” Winemaker Phil Long has over a decade of experience and started in his garage with his wife! I had the honor of tasting the 4 wines above. The Pinot Blanc is ripe and fruity with a creamy mouthfeel and stunning minerality. The Pinot Gris was is beautiful! I love the hint of skin contact as shown in the “Pink” color. It has orchard fruit notes with a touch of phenolics for complexity. Super fun wine! I also enjoyed the Grenache with ripe fruits of cherry and strawberry. It has beautiful oak notes of vanilla and coconut. Lastly, I tasted the Deb-Ru-Vee blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Petite Sirah. This deep and rich wine has aromas of dark black fruits and lively red fruits. Finishes with a chocolate note and will only get better with age! The Pinot Blanc retails for $26, the “pink” Pinot Grigo is $26, the Grenache retails for $38 and the Blend at $36. Fantastic wines coming from Longevity Wines, definitely recommend!

Thank you so much for reading! I hope you go and do your part to support and celebrate diversity in the wine industry!

Love, Casleah

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Alcohol FREE wine!

I have to admit, I was pretty skeptical when I first heard of alcohol free wine, but I have to say, this is a trend we can’t ignore. More and more people are picking up products with lower alcohol. Look at the boom of White Claw in the last few years. This boom brought a lower alcohol beverage to the forefront of social gatherings. Not to mention people who are sober, pregnant or just plain don’t want alcohol. Ever craved a mimosa on a Tuesday morning, but can’t have it because you need to work? Well now you can have it all!

The Wine

Codorníu Zero is a zero alochol sparkling wine from Spain. It is made from 100% AIRÉN grape. “The alcohol is gently removed by an innovative vacuum distillation system at low temperature, respecting the wine and minimizing the loss of characteristics.” Serve Chilled.

The Tasting Notes

This wine has a fairly pronounced, refreshing and fruity nose with notes of ripe peach, crushed pineapple, lemon curd, yellow apple and ripe green table grapes. Its slightly off dry with a hint of residual sugar. It has a mouth watering acidity, which makes its delightfully invigorating.

Food Pairings

This wine would be insane paired with fried foods such as fried chicken or French fries. It would be absolutely ideal for spicy foods. When pairing wine with spicy foods, the thing you need to be careful of is the alcohol level. Spicy food makes alcohol in wine even more intense. So this alcohol free wine takes out that difficult pairing factor and makes for the picture perfect pairing. Indian food, Thai food and Mexican food would all be perfect for this wine. Even better yet, combine the spice and the fried and grab a spicy chicken sandwich and paired with this wine, you will be in pure heaven.

Where To Find It?

You can find this lovely, alcohol free wine for $9.99 HERE

Would love to hear your tasting notes! Comment below, Cheers!

Love, Casleah

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WSET VS CMS: Wine Certification Programs

Wine education programs: comparing the Court of Master Sommelier program to the Wine and Spirit Education Trust program

I have taken and passed WSET courses 1, 2 and 3 and am a current diploma (level 4 ) student have also taken CMS courses 1 and 2 and received the Walter Clore Scholarship for having the highest score in my group of the Certified Sommelier exam.

Both are great programs, however, there are some major differences you should be aware of when choosing which path you want to take when continuing (or starting) your wine education.


Click here to find courses near you

Get 5% off WSET classes at the Napa Valley Wine Academy when you use this link to register!!

*Also note, during the pandemic in person courses may be limited and lots of places are offering online programs.

WSET 1: This is a one day course with an exam at the end. When you pass, you receive a pin and certificate. It is a fairly easy course if you have some basic knowledge of wine and the majority of the class passes. The focus of the course is on food and wine pairing and learning what works and why.

There is also a focus on learning about the noble grape varieties and learning where they come from. If you have a decent amount of wine knowledge, I’d recommend skipping ahead to WSET 2 as WSET 1 is not a requirement. This course is approximately $300.

WSET 2: This one is a big jump from level 1. This is an 8 week course with an in-person class once a week for 8 weeks and the last week being the written exam. Each class covers different regions and you get to taste different wines. This also includes a course book and work book. Once you receive your passing results, you receive a pin and certificate. This course is approximately $800.

WSET 3 is 30 hours of coursework and recommended 80 hours study time outside of the course. The exam is multiple choice and short answer as well as a blind assessment of 2 wines. At the completion, students receive a certificate and pin. This course cost is approximately $1300.

WSET 4: is the diploma level. This is 6 unit and exam program and is 500+ hours of study time (116 hours in course and the remainder self study). This takes 18 months to 3 years to complete. This exam consists of multiple written exams, 12 wines to blind taste and minimum 3000 word essay. As you can see, this is quite the accomplishment! Cost of this level is approximately $1200 per course plus wines

The WSET program is based in London, therefore results may take up to 12 weeks. WSET also offers awards/courses in Sake and Spirits.


Click here to find a course near you.

CMS 1: Introductory Sommelier – This is a two day course. It is a fast paced and intense course. It is really just a review of the information and students are expected to come prepared with a prior understanding of the material. During the course, there is also a tasting component where students are exposed to the deductive tasting method for blind tasting. With my experience, the Master Sommeliers are fairly intense and expect the students to have some experience with blind tasting. However, blind tasting is not on the final exam. There is also a service demonstration so students can begin to learn the proper techniques. There are service questions in the exam, but not demonstration. At the end of the 2nd day, a written-multiple choice exam is given. Shortly after the exam, is an awards ceremony where students receive their results. It is only a pass or fail score and not everyone passes, but majority do. Passing students receive a certificate and pin. I prepared 6 months prior to the exam. Level 1 expires after 3 years and is required to continue to level 2. Approximate cost of the course is $700.

CMS Level 2: Certified Sommelier- (click here to read my post about my entire experience of the CMS 2 exam) There is no course work for this exam, it is all self study, unless you pursue a program such as the Culinary Institute of America. It is a 3 part exam of blind tasting, theory and service. Only at the completion and passing of this exam are students allowed to call themselves a Sommelier. It is recommended 3 years of working in the wine industry and preferably the service/hospitality side of wine before attempting this exam. This is a very difficult exam of 50-60% passing rate and a lot of preparation required. Not only should applicants have some service experience, I recommend joining or creating a blind tasting study group to build tasting skills. (Check out my post on how to create your own blind tasting group here) CMS offers an additional deductive tasting course as well (learn more). There are many recommended resources for self study. (See here). After the exam, there is an awards ceremony where students immediately receive results and names are called out one by one. Upon success students are given a certificate and pin. Results are only pass or fail, however, they do give you papers with feedback and areas that could use improvement. The course cost is approximately $600.

Level 3 is Advanced Sommelier which first students must take a qualifying exam offered once a year. If selected from the qualifying exam, then students may take the official Advanced Sommelier course and exam, which is a very difficult exam with a low passing rate and usually requires the recommendation of a master sommelier. The application fee is $100. If accepted, the course fee is $1500 and the exam fee is $1200.

Level 4 is Master Sommelier
. There are only 270 (and counting) Master Sommeliers in the world and has been rated by Forbes Magazine as potentially the worlds hardest exam. There are some really fascinating documentaries called “Somm” that show a deeper look into the lives of students studying for Master Level of Sommelier. In total this one costs about $3000 as well (not including travel).

Hopefully this is helpful for you! Please drop any questions below! Happy to help!


Casleah-Certified Sommelier and WSET Diploma Student

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A fresh look at classic Italian wines

Let’s talk about two of the most common Italian wines, but also two of the most interesting! You’ve probably all tried a Chianti and Pinot Grigio, but let’s dive a little deeper into these two wines from Caposaldo shall we??

Pinot Grigio-love it or hate. It may have gotten a bad rep from the mass produced, bottom shelved and boxed displays, but I invite you to reconsider! Did you know that in 2017 Pinot Grigio was promoted for IGT level to DOC? Indeed, a vineyard area covering the Veneto, Friuli and Trentino-Alto Adige is now called Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC. This is the second highest ranking level in Italy and guarantees quality and eliminates the possibly of poor quality when sporting the fancy DOC label. You can expect beautiful citrus and stone fruit notes, minerality and mouth watering freshness. It’s easy-drinking and pairs perfectly with a poolside day of sunshine as well as a divine plate of seafood. See the photo below to know how to identify the DOC quality level on the label.

Tell your friends! You are now a Pinot Grigio pro. Now, let’s talk about Chianti.

Chianti is a region in Tuscany, Italy. The land of spaghetti, lasagna and Sangiovese! Chianti DOCG must be at least 70% Sangiovese. We can expect red fruit notes of cherries, cranberries and strawberries, dried herbs, spice and earthiness. These wines are refreshingly lighter in weight on the palate with a full bodied tannin (dryness) structure. Chianti typically has quite a bit of acidity (mouth-watering sensation) which makes it the perfect partner for tomato based dishes. They pair with Italian dishes like this Tuscan chicken pictured above and even pizza! You should know that in 1996 Chianti DOCG became official, which is even higher ranked than DOC. There’s many sub-regions, categories and aging requirements in Chianti, but what’s most important is that you enjoy the wine! Next time you cook up an Italian dish or order a pizza from your favorite local spot, open up a Chianti. You won’t be disappointed!

Cheers to discovering Italian wines with Caposaldo Chianti and Pinot Grigio!

-Casleah Herwaldt, Certified Sommelier

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Wine Shows to Binge Watch During Quarantine

We are spoiled with so much good wine TV out there! Check out some of my favorites!


  1. Somm: this is a fascinating documentary following the lives of students studying for the very challenging Master Sommelier exam. Length: 1hr 33min
  2. Uncorked: A heartwarming movie following a man’s sommelier journey. Length 1hr 44min
  3. Sour Grapes: an eye opening documentary of a label falsifying scandal. Length: 1hr 26 min
  4. Parks and Rec Season 6 Episode 18- Watch the crew go wine tasting for a good laugh! Length: 21 min


  1. Somm: Into the Bottle-sommelier perspective looking into cult wineries. Length 1hr 30min

Amazon Prime

  1. A Year in Champagne: a deep dive into Champagne houses. Any Champagne lovers dream. Length 1hr 22min
  2. V is for Vino: An entertaining wine series with a good mix of wine discovery and education. Length: 2 seasons
  3. Bottle Shock: is an exciting movie exploring the historic news of the Judgement of Paris of 1976. Length: 1hr 48min
  4. Somm III: Master Sommeliers and top wine critics compare Burgundy Pinot Noir to Santa Barbara Pinot Noir- the next Judgement of Paris? Length 1hr 18min


Somm Tv

Still can’t get enough? Check out this streaming program to get a deep dive look into food, wine, blind tasting and hospitality. Start your free trial here.


Let me know your favs! Love, Cas- your personal Sommelier

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How to start a Blind Tasting Group

Having a hard time finding a study group? Start your own!

I just recently passed the Certified Sommelier exam through Court of Master Sommelier and plan to continue my wine education. I study wine a lot and a big part of that is studying blind tasting. I started to look for a good blind tasting group and found it difficult to find, so I decided to start my own. Here’s some tips and advice I’ve learned along the way.

First, you need to establish a location. You need a space with plenty of seating, a table and good lighting.

Next, establish the type of group you want to have. Is it just for fun and to expand your palate, or are you studying for an exam such as CMS or WSET? If you are planning to have a more serious group to focus on studying, I recommend only inviting serious wine students to keep the group focused. Invite the people you know that are studying for an exam. And if you don’t know anyone, I recommend reaching out to local wine instructors to see if they can connect you to other wine students. The best way I have found and has worked well is through Instagram. Look for other somms in your area and see if they would be interested in joining your tasting group.

Once you have members of your group you need to establish a schedule. I recommend finding a date that works for the majority of the group, however, it is near impossible to find a date that will work for everyone. I also recommend keeping a consistent schedule whether that will be weekly, monthly or quarterly. For example, my group meets every other Tuesday evening.

The wines:

CMS and WSET tasting methods are slightly different so you will need to decide which method you want to follow. CMS tastes traditional wines from classic wine making regions. Below are the testable varietals.

Click here for the testable white wines

Click here for the testable red wines

If you are following a more WSET approach or more just for fun approach, there are many more wines that could be tested, but the focus is more on describing the wine then calling the varietal and location. You will need to inform the group which type of wines you would like them to bring. I suggest having each member of the group bring a wine that is covered in a paper bag. If it is a smaller group, you may want to have everyone bring 2 wines.

Tasting Methods:

There are 3 methods I have found that work well.

1. Have one per person per wine. Everyone takes a turn calling a wine, this works well when studying for advanced level CMS and wanting to practice the grid verbally. Everyone else in the group silently tastes along while making their own judgments. After a call is made, then the group discusses the wine.

2. Go around the table. This is my favorite method. It starts with one person describing the “sight” part of the wine so color and viscosity. The next person describes the nose of the wine. The next person describes the palate. The next person makes an initial conclusion listing all possible varietals and countries. The last person makes the final conclusion of varietal, country, region and vintage.

3. Tasting grids. This method works great for those studying for level 2 CMS. Print off the following tasting grids and everyone fills them out individually. In the actual exam, you have 30 minutes to call 4 wines which is approximately 7 minutes for each wine. So for this exercise, I set the timer for 7 minutes and everyone starts filling out the sheet for the first wine. Once the 7 minutes is up, discuss the wine with the group and reveal the wine. Then reset the timer for 7 more minutes and fill out the sheet for the next wine and so on.

Materials needed:

Glasses: I picked up 24 affordable glasses from Ikea and store them in the boxes in a closet and I pull them out for the tasting group. They’re dishwasher safe and easy to clean.

spit cups/spit bucket: of course this will depend on the goals of your group, but for my study groups we spit out the wine so we can stay focused.

• water and water cups: for cleansing the palate but also rinsing glasses in between wines

white sheets of paper: if not tasting on a white surface , this is necessary to properly assess color

wine key

serviettes: for spillage. and drips

extra brown bags

grids if you chose this method

Click here for the white wine tasting grid

Click here for the red wine tasting grid

I am looking forward to hearing about your tasting groups and happy to answer any questions! Cheers!!

Cas- Certified Sommelier

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Test Day: My experience with the Court of Master level 2 (Certified Sommelier) exam

I woke up at 2:00am in my hotel room just 6 minutes from the Laguna Montage where the exam would be held that day. I looked at my phone to check the time and it was in the middle of Apple update! I was so nervous it would clear my alarms so I waited until it was done and reset my alarms for 4:00am, 4:15 am and 4:30am. Finally I hopped out of bed at 4:30 am to get ready, get a cram study sesh in and swish my mouth with some Sauvignon Blanc before heading to the Montage.

One by one, men and women dressed in black blazers with introductory sommelier pins entered the hotel. The tension was high. After what felt like a lifetime, it was finally time to check in. I’m first to enter the room and in true Casleah fashion, I grab my usual seat in the front row. Wines are all poured, two reds and two whites. It’s almost time to begin. The Master Sommeliers introduce themselves and explain the format of the exam.

part 1:

First up, blind tasting. We have 30 minutes to blind taste these 4 wines. Through the deductive tasting method, we should be able to not only describe the wine but tell what type of grape it is and which country it comes from. I taste the first wine and it is fresh, crisp with citrus fruit notes with ripping acid. I call New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. The next wine has the beautiful familiar and aromatic smell of terpenes and lychee! Oh happy day!! Hello Gerwurztraminer from Alsace!! Now for reds- the 3rd wine was fruit driven on the nose with red fruit notes of strawberry, cherry and cranberry. Moderate tannins and moderate acid, however there was a slight earthiness to it. Because to me the alcohol seemed slightly elevated and a hint of residual sugar I called Pinot Noir from the USA. I still wonder if it was from Burgundy though. And the last wine has familiar aromas of blackberry and black currant. Then it hit me, pyrazines!!! Thank God! I called the last wine a Napa Cabernet and I’m still pleased with that call, but I will never know if I called right!! I finished just in time as the Master Sommelier called out “time”.

part 2:

Next up, is the theory part of the exam. It’s a packet of 4 pieces of paper, front and back. 45 questions of multiple choice, matching, fill in the blank, short answer and math questions. We have 35 minutes to finish the exam. Some of the questions I knew without a doubt, other questions I had no clue what they were talking about. After I completed, I added it up and there were 19 questions I wasn’t 100% confident in. I could miss 18 to pass. I was fairly confident that I did it, but there was still a thought of not passing theory. I sat there in the front row, knowing I did the best I could do and smiling. The Master Sommelier whispered to me, “are you finished?” I nodded. He said “you can go”. So I got up and that was that. I looked at the sheet in the back of the room for my service time- 1:00pm.

I had 3 hours in between theory and service! That is a long time to think about how the Sauvignon Blanc could have been from Sancerre instead and maybe I misread the 2nd wine, maybe it was a Riesling!! But I tried to remain positive and confident. I mean as much as you can in this crazy situation!

part 3:

It was almost time for service! There were 4 of us for the 1:00 time slot. The beverage director of the Montage asked to check our pockets. He needed to see that we had a pen, a notepad, a corkscrew and a lighter (for decanting). I also brought my ah-so because ya know it doesn’t hurt!

We went inside and he says we are at “Hear the Sear” steakhouse and we all have tables of 6 guests. Full glasses are poured by 6oz and half glass poured by 3oz. Every guest is welcomed with a glass of Prosecco.

I approach my giraudon table and there’s a very full tray of Prosecco glasses already poured. Here. We. Go. I welcome the Master Sommelier to “Hear the Sear” and present the Prosecco. She says it’s corked!! I apologize and remove the Prosecco. She orders 2 still glasses of “Dönhoff Riesling” for her “sisters”. I bring those and she asks a ton of questions on beer and cocktails. Next, she proceeds to order a bottle of 2006 Cuvée de something something. I had never heard of this tête de cuvée!!! (Later found out that it’s from Henriot) I confirmed the wine and vintage with her but she knew that I knew I didn’t recognize the cuvée, so I decided to have a little fun with it. I brought the flutes and coasters and repeated. “I’m so sorry I want to make sure I have the right champagne. It was the 2006 which one?” She smiled and repeated it again. I returned to my giraudon and pulled the “champagne” from the ice bucket. And you bet I wiped that baby super super dry!! I present the wine and she confirms. I proceed to open.

As I am in the middle of a life and death situation with this cork, she orders a rabbit with thyme and white wine reduction sauce, something else that was super complicated and salmon with something else. Then she asked which wine I would pair with all 3 dishes. Then magic to my ears: the tiniest little hiss you ever did hear!! The. Best. Feeling. I poured her a taste while I suggested a burgundy Pinot Noir to go with all the crazy dishes. She liked my suggestion. I realized I forgot to present the cork!! I pulled it out of pocket and stated, “I am so so sorry ma’am I forgot to give you the cork of that champagne,” She said she didn’t want it. She asked more questions to which a lot of them I didn’t have solid answers for, but I was floating because that cork came out perfectly and was my best friend today. We finished and she asked me to stand facing the wall until time. 30 seconds later-“time”.

2.5 hours later…

part 4: the awards ceremony.

The Masters stand at the front of the room holding the pins and certificates as we sip on Laurent Pierre Champagne. He says, “ we want you to know, that only 56% of you have passed so do not feel bad if you didn’t pass this time. This is a really hard exam.” Then another Master asks those who are taking it for the second or third time to raise their hands, and at least 8 raised their hands. There is approximately 30 of us anxiously awaiting the news. He shuffles the certificates and says “these are in no particular order” and begins to call them out one by one. The pile is dwindling. I’m getting nervous. He is down to one certificate left. He says “ and now for the top scorer and recipient of the $500 Walter Clore Scholarship for continued wine education…..” I look at my colleague and friend in sadness. I didn’t do it. “Casleah Herwaldt” HE CALLED MY NAME!!!!!! I couldn’t believe it and I’m still so shook!! What an absolutely unbelievable accomplishment!!! So so much hard work has paid off!!!

now: I am Casleah Herwaldt, Certified Sommelier. Look out world I have some big things coming your way!!!!

Huge thank you to the countless people who sent me study guides, study tips, advice, met with me to practice service, joined my blind tasting group and tasted with me. And to my amazing husband who so patiently lived with me while flashcards, notebooks, wine bottles and champagne flutes took over our apartment. I couldn’t be more humbled or more grateful for all of the support I received!! Thank you!!!

Love you all, Cas.

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Golden Bordeaux

Discover the world of sweet wines of Bordeaux!

The process:

Did you know that these wines don’t become sweet because of added sugar (chaptalization) ?? They become sweet because of a process called noble rot (or Botrytis Cinerea). Which is a special fungus that certain grapes can develop in the right conditions. The grapes develop this grey mold as well as becoming partial raisins. And this increases the sugar concentration in the grapes and in turn makes the wines sweeter!

The flavor profile:

The beauty of wines that have botrytis is they usually are high acidity which means they make your mouth water. The combination of acidity and sweetness in your mouth is pure perfection. One wines like these, you can expect flavors of candied ginger, orange marmalade, pineapple, honey, saffron, apricots, peaches and nuts.

Food Pairing:

These wines traditionally pair wonderfully with bleu cheese, (The salty/sweet combo is insane!) foie gras, vanilla ice cream and grilled pineapple. Also, you can serve them alone for dessert.

Learn More:

I recently discovered these amazing wines from Snooth Media. They send you all the wines and food pairings and guide you through a virtual tasting with a master of wine! It was a very educational and fun course and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about Sweet Bordeaux wine!!



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