Lisa Redwine, Advanced Sommelier
Just recently, I had the honor of sitting for the Court of Master Theory exam in San Francisco. Some might say it did not go well…. truth be told… I failed. Well; I didn’t pass. In my eyes those are two different situations. With the evolution and the availability of wine certifications available to wine professionals, the opportunity to take an exam is plentiful. I often hear the concerns about taking the exam and the possibility of not passing from WSET, CMS, and a plethora of others.
I cannot speak to anyone else’s experience, only my own, and my thoughts about failing this exam that I hope to convey. It had been FOUR years since I had seriously studied, and in my personal life, I was handling an incredibly difficult situation that truly was all consuming; financially, intellectually and emotionally. At the beginning of my study path for the MS exam I don’t think I could have passed the Introductory exam, or at least that is how I felt.
As I began the educational journey, it was a huge hike. The lessons learned about how much I had missed were glaringly obvious. It was overwhelming at times. But, never did I doubt my path, and no matter what happened I was going to keep moving forward.
In all things, there were lessons to be learned. For me, in my personal experience, there were many. Failure would have been not to take the exam – to have said, “I need one more year” – and another year would slip by. I would decline. At some point the band-aid must come off and just go for it. I have only one life to live, and I do not want to look back at the end and wonder “what if?”
Instead of looking at this experience as a failure, I viewed it as a complete win. In preparation for the exam, I took a position that involved understanding, selling, and educating clients about wine. Because of these changes, I have seen my wine knowledge expand to a higher level, and I have reconnected with many colleagues and friends – many that I hadn’t seen in years – whom have been very important in this journey. I felt good! Although I did not pass the exam, there were many things I did right. These are the successes of my experience.
Don’t get me wrong, I cried from the moment I received my results, throughout my flight back home to San Diego, and into the arms of my loving family. From my husband to my kids – they know the Lisa who is always striving to the next CMS level – walked this journey with me. My oldest, who now towers above me at thirteen, gave me a huge hug and whispered, “We are so proud of you mom, I am blessed you are my Mom.” That was a moment I will never forget, and spurs me on every day to continue my journey towards the Master Sommelier Certification.
Failure is not following your passion. When life temporarily gets in the way of that passion, it will always be there, waiting on your return. In my experience, not passing does not mean failing. I am so blessed to know incredibly smart, amazing, and inspiring wine people. If you are contemplating a wine exam, embrace the risk! The returns are truly incredible.