Lindsay Pomeroy founder/owner of Wine Smarties in San Diego, CA, is currently one of the few women in the world to have undergone the Master of Wine Certification. With over 10+ years experience in studying wine, Lindsay talks to Chef’s Roll about her journey in the industry and wine trends we should expect to see in the New Year.
You are the Founder & Chief Wine Educator of Wine Smarties, offering an array of classes from Wine 101 to WSET Level 2. Where did your passion for wine education come from?
That’s a great question! Back in 2000 I started working at an English language school in Boston. I taught English to adults from all over the world and made many amazing friends. I then got my teaching credentials and decided to teach English abroad. I moved to a little town in Italy called Vigevano right outside Milan. After a year of teaching English in Italy I moved to San Diego where I had numerous jobs, one of them being a wine broker. I knew nothing about wine, but the silver lining was every day at around two o’clock I’d sample wine at work. A few years later I got a job at the original Wine Steals in Hillcrest, which is where I started to really learn about wine. I felt that to be someone legitimate in recommending wines I should have some formal certification, so in 2005 I got my first certification with the Society of Wine Educators, the CSW certification. While interacting with customers at Wine Steals I found a niche group of people wanting to learn more about wine. This sparked the idea for Wine Smarties, which I later founded in 2006, as it combined my knowledge of teaching and my love for wine.
You are currently completing the Master Wine certification. What can you tell us about your journey so far?
In 2011 I started the WSET Level 4 Diploma, which took two years to complete, I then applied to the Master of Wine in 2013. I’ve been in the study of wine now for about ten years. It’s like getting a PhD, the amount of hours I have put towards it – even though rewarding – has been exhaustive. It has to be a passion to dedicate this amount of time in an area of study, especially in an industry where it is hard to make money. With 10 years of studying, 15 exams and blind tasting every day for 4 years my palate has dramatically improved. I’ve been able to learn how to assess the quality of wine and understand its textural components. Texture is not necessarily talked about much when you’re a beginner, but I think is the direct connection to the quality of wine. That has been a fun “aha moment” for me to play around with. I can taste cheap wine from good-quality wine, just on texture.
You’ve written some great blogposts and articles in the past, one of them being on Champagne. Has Champagne regained its title of World’s Most Consumed Sparkling Wine? What are your thoughts as to why?
This conversation is an interesting one because it used to just be Champagne, but now there are all these Champagne alternatives. I think it depends on the market category, of which there are roughly three: Champagne, Champagne alternatives (traditional method) and lower end (Prosecco, Cava, Crémant, etc.). For a decent bottle of Champagne, the starting price would be around $45/$50+. This already makes the Champagne market not as approachable to the new consumer. As a rough estimate around 90% of consumers drink wines which cost less than $12. The price range of Champagne marks the market segment as a luxury product. Yet, Champagne is the epitome of celebrations, luxury and special occasions and that will never go away.
One of your prior class offerings was on the exploration of Riesling. Riesling is such a great grape that can be implemented in sparkling, bone dry, and even aged wines. How can this grape produce such great varieties of tastes?
I think it is part of the barrier to understanding Riesling, just like Chardonnay, it is made in different styles. So what are those styles? You’ve got sparkling, sweet and you’ve got everything in between. Technically sweetness refers to residual sugar, meaning sugar left over after fermentation is finished. Therefore, the dryer the Riesling the less residual sugar, meaning no sweetness. You can have bone dry (no sweetness at all), to off-dry, medium sweet, to very sweet. I think this is the challenge for the consumer when they go to buy Riesling, they don’t know how it’s going to be, therefore they don’t buy it. Consumers think it’ll be sweet, when that is just one of the styles offered. There’s a big trend for dry Rieslings at the moment.
What are some regions where we can find the best Rieslings?
Southern Germany and Austria, produce some killer dry Rieslings. Alsace, France produce dry Rieslings as well as some sweets. Australia produce great bone dry Rieslings, they’re a little austere for me as I prefer Riesling with some age. My favorite Riesling producer would have to be Pacific Rim Winery in Oregon. Nicolas Quille, who is also in the Master Wine Program, makes such a beautiful amazing quality Riesling and for $10! The challenge being that Riesling is not a popular grape, which is why it is so cheap. But now you’re in the cheap cycle mentality, “Oh it’s $8.99, it’s cheap!” When in actuality it is amazing quality; because there’s not a big demand for it you can get it a quality Riesling for a low price.
What are some global wine trends that you are the most excited about in the next year?
A trend in California I’ve been observing for a while is the movement away from overly done up wines which have a high alcohol content, intense ripeness and bold oak notes. We are going to see wines with complexity and nuances that directly relate to the vineyard site. This is something the Europeans – particularly the French – have based their labeling on. I’d say in the past 10 to 15 years the growers have started to understand and respect the concept that is dubbed terroir in the world. The understanding of terroir, the influence of the site and how it can in fact influence the quality of the style of wine, all the way down to the unique biomes found in individual soils in sites. We are going to start seeing and tasting wines that reflect the soil and land where the grape was harvested, and that is really exciting.
What has been the most surprising/interesting/memorable bottle of wine you have had the pleasure of tasting?
Back in 2008 in Germany I had this wine from 1969, it was the first time I really had a wine that was very old (50 years old) and with the ability of all these changes it had undergone: the color, flavor profile and texture. The fact that it was a white wine, a Riesling, blew my mind. It was like, wow this grape is amazing! As I said before this is a very misunderstood grape, it makes wines that can age longer than a lot of reds, and gain complexity and nuances. I would say that was one of my favorite moments in wine, in fact that I’ve ever tried!
Wine Smarties promotes thoughtful drinking – through certified wine education and consulting for the wine consumer and wine industry alike. Wine Smarties cater to the needs of many different wine lovers: from the aspiring aficionado just beginning to understand the joy and complexity of wine to the expert sommelier looking to expand their restaurant’s or personal cellar’s wine selections. Contact Wine Smarties at (619) 955-8884 or visit winesmarties.com for more information.