Congratulations to Anne Bilczuk, FWS, for passing the French Wine Scholar exam with highest honors!
From as far back as I can remember, grapes and wine have always been in the background as we were growing up, so I would definitely describe myself as a wine enthusiast.
As a child, I have fond memories of my Dad making wine in our basement in Northern Ontario. Being a carpenter, Dad built his own wine press which we still have to this day. He would order crates of grapes which he would crush himself and ferment the juice; quite the hands-on production! As November 11, the Feast of St. Martin approached, we would celebrate the end of harvest with the neighbourhood’s largest bonfire in our backyard using the leftover grape crates.
As Dad got older, the wine production got scaled back, but we would always have wine in the house especially Sunday dinners. When we visited his homeland in Slovenia, my cousin gave me keys to the wine cellar storing bottles of wine made from the vines on the family farm. I was only 15 at the time and was too young to drink wine back then – if only I had the keys to the family wine cellar now!
After a rewarding 30+ year career in the financial services industry, I retired in January 2020 with hopes of travelling, however, the pandemic certainly put a hold on our plans. Being in the middle of winter, my husband encouraged me to find a hobby. After taking a few online wine courses for fun, I decided to pursue the WSET (Wine Spirits & Education Trust) program. I describe this moment as “wine found me or perhaps I found wine”. Either way, I completed WSET Level 2 in 2020 and Level 3 in 2021. Not being directly involved in the wine industry, the experience was so fulfilling and as they say, the more you learn about wine the more you realize how much you don’t know.
At this point, I heard about the Wine Scholar Guild certificate programs and decided to pursue the French Wine Scholar early 2022. This was an incredibly robust and comprehensive program that deepened my knowledge of French wines. The latest course, version 7, has incredible tools and learning modules that support distance learning; I highly recommend this program for those unable to attend in-person classes.
Later this year, my husband and I will be moving to Kelowna, BC – right in the middle of Okanagan wine country. With my WSET Level 3 and FWS under my belt, I’m hoping to gain employment at a winery with the goal of enhancing my knowledge of the full production cycle of making wine – right from the vineyard through to packaging and out the door.
In the meantime, I’m currently working with a new restaurant in town in creating an enhanced wine list that will be launched with their new fall menu in September. Having lots of fun in the process working with the business owner and retailers. Global supply chain issues are even impacting retailers obtaining wines from certain regions!
As my wine studies continue, the WSET Diploma is always in the back of my mind and it is well known that Unit 3, Wines of the World, is the most challenging. Diploma candidates affectionately describe this unit as “the Beast”! As we settle in Kelowna, BC, I am considering pursuing the Italian Wine Scholar and Spanish Wine Scholar certificates. If and when I do decide to pursue the Diploma program, I’m hoping to have the three largest wine producing regions – France, Italy and Spain – under my belt so it hopefully gives me a leg up in the Diploma studies.
All in all, the world of wine continues to be a fascinating journey of discovery!