Where’s Jeff?

The final Stretch – WSET DIPLOMA

Julie here, Jeff’s wife. I don’t write much for Jeff’s blog, but Jeff is a bit tied up for the next few weeks. He’s preparing for the final of six tests for the WSET Diploma certification. And while I don’t know much about wine, I can give you a little feel of Jeff’s experience with this certification process.

What is Diploma?

Diploma is the fourth and final level of the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) certification process.  Students are tested on their knowledge of wine growing and production, different styles of wine (sparkling, fortified and still) and blind-tasting.  There are five proctored closed-book tests on theory and tastings and a detailed research paper on an industry topic. The largest and most challenging of these tests is “Still Wines of the World.”  The whole diploma process can take 2-3 years of studying and tasting many wines, often in study group sessions. When all six elements are completed successfully, you are certified as “DipWSET” (perhaps the worst abbreviation in the world).

WHAT are you doing, Jeff?
So remember my husband had a long career launching extremely small electronic devices that could kill you if they’re not accurate. You know, the MRI safe pacemaker, an unmanned airplane, and a few bombs. So why, in retirement, is he studying for one of the most difficult wine certificates in the world?

Well, because you and I both know Jeff. When he does something, he goes deep. Really deep. He says it’s fun. And usually there’s something in it for all of us… some sharing of knowledge, some laughter and some community gathering. This love of wine has brought so many friends to our life.

Where’s Jeff?

There’s a couple of answers to this question.

In the stages of testing, Jeff has passed five certification elements – a research paper and four tests with tastings over the past 18 months. Fun fact – last fall, he took two tests in Napa on the same day our son Peter took his WSET level 3 test in Paris. They both passed. Now Jeff is preparing for the sixth and final test – the killer, “Still Wines of the World” – that he’ll take on May 11th and 12th in Napa.  Day 1 is theory – 3 hours and 20 minutes, answer 5 of 7 questions, all long form text and analysis. Day 2 is blind tasting – 4 sets of 3 wines: common grape, common country, common region, wild card (anything goes).

In daily life, Jeff has been studying for the Still Wines test in his office since early November, just days after taking the two prior exams. You can find him there on most days from 9am – 5pm, with a break for lunch. He has tasting groups on 2-3 evenings a week with classmates (now friends) from all over the country. For most people, the pandemic had a major impact on their lives. For Jeff, life has pretty much been the same, with studying and tasting nonstop for the past 18 months.

Otto of the North

Jeff does come out of his office for two reasons. He takes our dog Otto to the park every morning to run off Otto’s extra energy. He also comes out of the office to accept wine deliveries 3-4 days/week. UPS loves us.

What it looks like

Diploma looks like being a graduate student. There are books and labs. Jeff prints off online classes, binds them and they are a key reference.  Maps are also key resources; they cover the walls in our basement. Finally, he reinforces his learning by capturing information on all the wine regions in a very thick, hand-written journal. That is one full and impressive journal…again, remember he goes deep.

Theory textbooks for his classes

Wine maps of the world fill his office

Jeff and his journal (of course Otto is nearby) 

He has also filled our basement with wines and vials. Tasting notes are everywhere, especially the 2-inch thick stack in his office.

The basement turned into a wine bar and storeroom

Is Jeff Happy?

Definitely YES. This hobby has captured his passion longer than any other. We’re talking astronomy, astro-photography, camping, windsurfing, biking, and fly-fishing. Secretly, I think he’s seeing how he can bring so many wonderful people into his life through wine. And of course, it’s been a big win for me…. I never would have known I love Sauvignon Blanc so much without his wonderful ‘hobby’ of wine. What gifts he shares with us all.

So for just a few more weeks, we won’t be seeing much of Jeff. Even after the test, he doesn’t get results until August. But believe you me, we will soon have a chance to see Jeff, saber some sparkling, and lift a glass to this huge labor of love.

12 Responses to “Where’s Jeff?”
  1. Good luck, Jeff! Hope you’ve picked out a great bottle to open once it’s over.

  2. Lynne Pelos says:

    Blows my mind, this latest labor of love that Jeff has taken on. I can honestly say his dedication struck me when he built and stayed in the backyard igloo on Bruce Avenue in preparation for Boy Scout outdoor winter camping?? Simply amazing, Julie! Thanks for the behind the scenes peek. Best of luck to Jeff. Can’t wait to share time together in the future over a glass of something special.

  3. sara S sampson says:

    Beautifully written and a great description of the process!

  4. Lynda P Seasly says:

    Thanks Jul for giving us a sense of the immensity of the work Jeff has done! His “going deep” is so true and so incredible! He can’t do it without your (and Otto’s) full support! Buona fortuna Jeff!

  5. Don Sandberg says:

    Wow! Good luck to Jeff!

  6. This is wonderful, Julie. Thanks for the update. I am know how hard Diploma is and I am certain Jeff will pass with flying colors. I am rooting for him. Great photo of the two of you!

  7. Wow, you two are amazing, Jeff with his love of flavor and learning and Julie for your support!

  8. Lorri Veidenheimer says:

    Jeff has long been amazing. I remember in the early ’80s, when Jeff was just getting into one of his first hobbies, he ended up with his picture on the front page of the Boston Globe windsurfing on the Charles in December. He masters every activity he takes up! Good luck on the test. See you at the other end. XO

  9. Congratulations on your progress and dedication! Good luck in your testing!

  10. A-Bob says:

    Of course! This is the Jeff we know and love. Wonderful all around.

  11. Thanks for giving us a sense for what’s happening behind the scenes Julie! I know it’s a ton of work and Jeff’s dedication and perseverance will prevail!

  12. Vino Travels says:

    I love this! Good luck Jeff and great job Julie!

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