taking the Certified Wine Professional exam at the Culinary Institute of America.
Last week I got word that I passed. I was going to wait until I had the hard-copy certificate in hand to brag about it -- the birthers need somebody else to doubt now, why set myself up? -- but I'm off to Luxembourg to judge at Europe's most prestigious wine festival, the Concours Mondial. So I'll run the short-form document now.
I redacted my address but otherwise it's as I received it. I'm happy with my written score; I got 5 questions wrong out of 120, and I can live with that.
I emailed Paul Dray asking for more detail about my practical tasting score of 83, which is passing (you only need 75%) but not as impressive as the scores received by most Napa Cabs. Now I have to worry about wines I'm trying to rate mocking me for my undersized score. (Maybe I have too much acidity? Not enough fruitiness?) But Paul hasn't responded, as he warned during the test session, saying, "You will never learn the identity of these wines."
What 83 most likely represents, of the three wines we were supposed to identify blind, is that I got one wine half-wrong, or in other words (since I passed), I got 2 right and one half-right. I said the lineup was a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, a Pinot Noir that I guessed was from Carneros, and a cool-climate Syrah for which I was going to guess a coastal region in California, possibly Sonoma Coast, but ended up backing down and saying it was cool-climate and Old World style. I figured an accurate description was most important, and that if I guessed wrong it would hurt me more. Was that true? What if one of the other wines had been more challenging? What if my parents had never met?
In any case, I'm glad to be W. Blake Gray, CWP. You may address me that way on all correspondence, but please do not use the abbreviation W., C.
In other notes, since this post is braggadocio, yours truly has been "shortlisted" twice for the Born Digital Wine Awards, a London-based contest that is trying to establish what might be the first real international wine journalism awards. Wine writing has never had respect from traditional journalism awards, mainly because it hasn't had respect from mainstream newspaper and magazine editors. This isn't the most important topic in the newspaper, I admit, but when I was a sportswriter I won a bunch of awards, and there's nothing inherently more important about covering a football game than reviewing a bunch of Syrahs.
Anyway, the Born site links to my shortlisted blog posts, but I'll duplicate here because I'm proud of both:
The 10 most overrated wines
Sustainable Wines and Whole Foods Market
The latter post is particularly gratifying to see shortlisted, because my CSWA investigation took me longer than any other story I've not gotten paid for. Don't know if I'll win anything, but I hope so because there's a cash prize. Journalistic satisfaction is nicer when one can pay the rent.
Of course, if this freelance writing thing doesn't work out, I know there will always be job openings in the wine industry for a Certified Wine Professional. In fact, I have a photo of me doing just such a job below; kind of a visual resume. Thanks for visiting.