Park City Wine Club president to become a Certified Wine Educator
Park City Wine Club President Pamela Wood, a certified sommelier and a professor at the Fox School of Wine, decided to take a trip down another wine-glazed road to become a Certified Wine Educator.
The journey, which Wood called a “rabbit hole,” took the past year and a half.
“I decided I was going to focus more on wine education than sommelier studies because I’m not in the food and beverage service industry,” Wood explained. “My passion is the sharing of wine, which includes traveling, learning how it’s made and where wines come from.”
Certified Wine Educators (CWE) are administered by the Society of Wine Educators, an international professional organization based both in Washington, D.C. and Paris. There are a total of 442 CWEs worldwide, and of those, 25 to 30 percent are women, according to the Society. There are five CWEs in Utah, two of whom, including Wood, are women.
“The depth of knowledge as a wine educator covers not only the grapes and tastings, it also covers the world, the chemistry, the (cultivation) and the culture of wine,” she said. “CWE is a certification that not only tests a candidate’s wine knowledge, but also validates his or her tasting acumen and teaching ability.”
Wood stepped onto the CWE path after she became a Certified Specialist of Wine in 2015. Being a CSW is a prerequisite to becoming a CWE, according to Wood.
“I took a year break to really think about what I wanted to do,” she said. “Since I still have a passion for wine, I decided to go for it, not realizing how intense it was going to be.”
Wood took the certification exam during the 2018 Society of Wine Educators conference, which was held in August near Rochester, New York.
“The candidate manual states that only 12 percent of the candidates who take the test pass it on the first try, so you cannot imagine my excitement when the letter came that said in all caps, ‘You have passed all portions of the test,” Wood said. “My husband thought somebody died because I threw the phone in the air and started crying. So I made him read the letter.”
The test included tastings, multiple choice questions and a timed, handwritten theory essay..=
“The timed theory essay gives you an hour and a half to write at least seven pages about a topic that isn’t given to you until you sit down to write,” she said. “The topic that was assigned to me was how would I go about teaching a two-hour class to consumers about Washington state wines.”
Wood was graded on content, knowledge, details, pronunciation, organization, grammar and conclusion.
“Luckily for me, I know Northwest wines,” she said.
For the three-part tasting portion, Wood first had to taste four glasses each of red and white wines, then write an assessment of their varieties and their origin.
“I didn’t have to know the exact region or vintage year like a master sommelier does, but I did have to know the grape and where it was from,” she said. “You have to get six of eight (correct) to pass, so when I got eight of eight, I was really excited.”
The next test required her to write a detailed profile of a single glass of white wine.
“I had to guess what (variety) it was from sight, taste, color, viscosity, smell and brightness,” Wood said. “Then I had to tell them what kind of wine it was based on those observations.”
The hardest tasting required her to find and describe the differences between eight glasses of the same variety of wine – all but one of which had been tainted.
“I had to figure out which glasses were too sweet or had too much acid, tannin and alcohol,” she said. “I also needed to figure out which ones were oxidized.”
Wood scored 100 on the tasting section as well, and she said her husband, Tom, had a hand in the perfect score.“He is a saint,” she said. “He tasted so many wines and helped me with flashcards. We would take road trips and bring out the flashcards.”
Wood also joined a nine-hour group study the night before the exam.“The next day we actually had some of our group bow out of the test, and some of the group were taking the test for their second and third times,” Wood said.
She completed the last portion of the test in Park City a few days ago.“I had to submit a live presentation of me teaching,” she said. “I’m super confident about that because teaching is what I do.”
Once Wood becomes a CWE, she will be able to teach anywhere in the world, but she said she wanted to focus her efforts on Park City.
“I will be working more with Fox School of Wine and the Culinary Wine Institute, and I’m looking at becoming a corporate consultant and trainer,” she said. “I would love to do some consulting with local restaurants and fill them in on the different wine opportunities they are missing.”
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