I went all in. There isn’t another way but “all in”, if you want to pass and become a CAFA certified sommelier. It became a personal challenge. The level of discomfort I felt from performing tasks that were alien to me motivated me to improve my performance. I had to proof to myself that I was up to the challenge. It was a chance for me to learn something new and inspire my creative juices. Getting out of my routine and comfort zone really activated my brain and enhanced my memory capabilities. Not everybody enjoys being constantly challenged and feeling uncomfortable. The trick is to get passed the initial feeling of dread and terror and keep pushing. Be confident and trust yourself. Once you pass the first test, you will realize how much you have grown and benefited from the experience. My first hurdles to pass were the monthly quizzes. They were a good measure of progress. I figured if I did well on the quizzes, I will have a good advantage because the theory portion of the course was 50% of the grade. To be an excellent sommelier you need a good memory and a good nose. The rest is practice.
The month of June finally came and with it all the hurdles that we had to face and that we had been preparing for, for the last 4 months, 5 in total. First the written 200 question test in the morning. It was a killer but we had to stay focused because in the afternoon came the 25 wine & spirit blind tasting test. The blind tasting was incredibly interesting and stressful. I had to practice smelling the aromas because if it is done wrong, the nose gets overwhelmed and the aromas become neutral. Also you cannot keep going back to smelling the older glasses so it has to be done right from the beginning. Two down, three more to go!
The second round of tests started the following week. First came the service test. I had to serve two wines in a restaurant setting, decant one and oxygenate the other, all this in 15 minutes. It had to be a service for a 1 star Michelin restaurant. I felt like I was in a movie and had a blast! After that I had to relax and keep focused to start the food pairing test. This test consisted of choosing a menu at random and with a limited budget. Using my own 50 wine list, which I had to develop as part of the grade, I had to choose which wines would go best with the menu and defend my choices in front of a panel of judges which were from the best Puerto Rico restaurants. Again, focus and confidence are key. No room for nerves here. As if this was not enough already, then I had to go to another salon and present a wine tasting activity I had done in the past few weeks to another panel of judges, this time for marketing and advertising skills. I did my best. Now came the time to wait for the results. When I learned that I passed, I was so happy and proud of myself. I accomplished what seemed impossible. My confidence grew and I also felt strangely calm. 3 of my colleagues also passed. We were all exhausted and proud. I had not noticed how much this challenge helped me in my everyday life. I was calmer and sharper at my job and at home. This is probably what runners feel when finishing a marathon. It is a nice, personal high, accomplished when trying and enjoying a new experience. This was my own runner’s high, my marathon, and I made it to the finish line and won a medal. What ever new experience you want to try my recommendation is be brave and GO FOR IT. There is much to learn and nothing to loose.