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  • bradagordon7

You can do that for a living?

I was 14 when I realized that there were people in the world who tasted wine and spirits for a living. Not only that, but producing wine and spirits was an intricate and complex process that people took seriously and to which they dedicated their lives. My parents hardly drank at all when I was little, but my Italian great-grandmother, who didn't speak a word of English, but probably understood more than she let on, would have a small glass of Chianti with dinner every night; not in a wine glass, mind you, but a short water glass. She lived to be 96.

My curiosity piqued, I set out to do what I always did and still do--buy books and read up on the subject. The first volumes I picked up were The Sommelier's Guide to Wine and Wine for Dummies. I immediately became intrigued with Old World Wines, particularly French and Italian, with their complex system of naming and hierarchies. I made it my mission to learn and memorize which grapes belonged to which regions. I spent time on the official Burgundy and Rhone Valley websites looking at maps of the region and reading about the different appellations and their soil types. There was so much involved in learning about wine--soil, geography, language, culture, chemistry, meteorology, geology, etc.--but the deeper I went down the rabbit hole, the more enamored I became. I hadn't even begun to taste the wine yet, but just reading about it stirred a passion in me that has never left.

I applied to the University of California in Davis for a degree in Enology and Viticulture and the University of Mississippi for a degree in International Studies and French. I went where the scholarships were and enrolled at the University of Mississippi. I told myself I could always circle back to wine in the end. The road has been winding, but that is just what I have done. Four years of undergrad and another six of grad school passed before I officially decided to professionally pursue wine, but I continued to drink and learn all the while. A semester abroad in France gave me the opportunity to visit wineries and do research on organic and biodynamic wine trends. My class had to write a 10-page mémoire on the topic of our choosing, so I decided to write about whether or not organic/biodynamic wines were just a simple fad or here to stay. Ten years have passed since writing that paper, and I'm happy to say that organic/biodynamic viticulture is very much de rigueur in France, and throughout the world for that matter.

During my time in grad school in Madison, Wisconsin, I quickly found my favorite purveyors of wines-Steve's and Barriques. I highly recommend both if you're ever in the area; both have multiple locations in the Madison area and a great selection of wine. Barriques is also a cafe, so grab a cup of locally roasted coffee or your favorite espresso drink while you browse their Wall of 100 (give or take) wines. I spent more money than I care to divulge at both places over my six years, but I consider it all as educational expenses. My last year in Wisconsin, I actually worked as a barista at Barrique's Middleton location, and was able to assist with a handful of wine tastings. The pandemic caused us (my wife, me, and our two girls at the time) to reevaluate where we wanted to be, and we decided to move back to my hometown of Pascagoula, Mississippi to be close to family.

Another kid and two jobs later, I am WSET Level 3 certified and ready for the next chapter. I will start my WSET Diploma at the end of May through Napa Valley Wine Academy. My aim with this blog is to educate, but also to learn. Wine is a subject for endless exploration, and that's why I love it. You can never know everything about wine; there will always be another grape variety, region, producer, method, etc to discover. I am excited to share my continuing wine journey with you all. It takes a village to raise a child, and I have a hunch it takes one to grow a wine professional as well. My name is Brad Gordon. Welcome to my cellar.

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