by Mary Fuson-Stearley
Silas Zartman, assistant manager of Charley Creek Inn’s Wine and Cheese Shoppe, walks the path of the world’s famous Master Sommeliers with his recent wine study endeavors. He recently passed the Introductory Sommelier Exam, officially making him a sommelier.
The wine shop he helps manage is certainly deserving of such an expert. Named one of Wine Spectator Magazine’s Top 100 in 2013, Charley Creek Inn’s Wine and Cheese Shoppe has been serving the Wabash community for more than 4 years. Tucked into the Miami Street entrance, they stock nearly 350 wines as well as 60 craft beers, and as many cheeses.
Wine has been recognized as the beverage of choice since around 7,000 BCE when the first evidence of its cultivation was discovered in China. The ancient Greeks recognized Dionysus and the Romans later honored Bacchus as the deities of this popular fermented grape juice. And of course, the Bible is said to mention wine a total of 231 times in the King James Version, with Jesus Christ himself transmuting water into wine, and serving it at the Last Supper, alongside his Apostles. Wine was regularly consumed with meals, used as medicine, and shared for Jewish ritualistic purposes throughout history. These grapes were later cultivated in the classic “old world” regions such as France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, where it was popularized as a proper art form.
The art of viticulture was carried over to the “New Worlds” with the settlers and was found to thrive in places like California, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, and Australia. Even now, wine vineyards have been popping up in perceivably unusual places such as Slovenia, Uruguay, and even Indiana! The world of wine has truly taken a popular turn within the last 15 years, welcoming people from different backgrounds and walks of life to its enjoyment. Universities, such as the University of Dayton, have adopted “Wines of the World” courses and Sommelier bachelors and masters degree courses are offered in places like Boston University.
What is a Master Sommelier you may ask? Sommelier a French word, and it simply designates a wine steward. The attainment of a Master Sommelier’s Diploma is a four-part process that requires a precise use of all human senses. Wine can be appreciated with the eye, by observing the color and viscosity, the texture and temperature of the wine, the smell and ‘notes’ of wine, and of course, the taste and flavors picked up through taste.
After serving thousands of glasses of wine to locals and tourists alike, Zartman decided to broaden his knowledge in the area by successfully completing level I, the prerequisite course to the Certified Sommelier Exam administered by the Court of Master Sommeliers. With only 200 official Master Sommeliers in the world, the fourth level has a mere 10% pass rate. It is the most prestigious recognition in the wide world of wines.
The introductory course includes intensive instruction on all of the major wine-growing regions of the world, proper wine service, and an introduction to spirits, beer, and saké. In addition to these important skills, a participant in this course is also introduced to the CMS Deductive Tasting Method- a method of blind tasting that allows the wine taster to fully and analyze and understand the composition of a wine from the visual aspects and flavor to vineyard and vintage of a wine.
In the fourth, Master Level, a Sommelier is expected to blindly taste 3 white wines and 3 red wines accurately naming five of the six wines.
“You have to know grape varietal, region, and not just the country, not just Bordeaux, but what region of Bordeaux, like Médoc. And then you have to say vintage, and you have to do six wines and get five correct in 25 minutes,” Zartman explained.
What can we expect going into a wine tasting at the Wine Shoppe? First, you’ll receive a warm greeting and an offer to try a few wines free of charge. There’s always good music to provide a backdrop to the experience, and if wine’s not your thing, there are plenty of other options: beer, cheese, crackers, and spirits. As for wine tasting, there’s always a nice variety from which to chose.
“I try to always keep a nice lineup, where you can try a couple dry whites, a couple dry reds, and then a few sweet things too, because you always have a variation of people who want to try different things, especially the sweet stuff,” said Zartman.
Knowledgeable as always, Zartman introduced a beautiful Portuguese red blend and the poetry went as follows:
‘This is the Quinta do Crasto Douro red blend. Douro is the region in Portugal where port wine is made. So they take all of the same grapes that they use to make port wine and make a red table wine with it, but it’s done a lot different than most of your typical red table wines. It only sees about 5% oak, so it’s very fruit forward. It’s still a nice dry, red wine, but it just makes it very drinkable and very food friendly as well.”
Silas is planning to work towards the second exam that will officially certify him as a sommelier.
“I want to get my Cicerone Beer Certification next. I decided to take a break from wine for a little bit. It seems like it’s an easier test,” he laughed.
Wabash wine enthusiasts are quite lucky indeed; few towns this size have their own sommelier. We certainly look forward to raising a well-researched glass to the accomplishments of Silas and our fine collection of wine in the Wine and Cheese Shoppe.