Competition – Mike Woeste


Mike Woeste is a communications professional in the Boston area, and is currently studying for WSET certification. His unedited entry in our seminal wine competition is this: 

If you were to ask the great winemakers, sommeliers, or wine educators of the world where they fell in love with wine, Ohio would be quite the strange response. I may not be any of the aforementioned professionals in the industry, but Ohio is ground zero for where and why I am an oenophile.

Miami University of Ohio (this is not a beach story) is nestled on the border of Ohio and Indiana, and one of the most unlikely of places one would think to find a passion for wine.

Like almost any college student you would find on its campus, if they were to be drinking wine, it was likely from a box, bag, or oversized supermarket bottle.

The Miami University course catalog listed Botany 244 as “Viticulture and Enology”, but to the students it was the “wine tasting” class. A three-hour course that met once a week, and was likely the most coveted course on campus. Why? The course’s alias explains it all.

Led by a Certified Wine Educator—not to mention one of the nicest people on the planet—the course was two hours of learning region-by-region characteristics of wine and winemaking, and one hour of tasting. The course was a serious exploration into wine and winemaking and like almost every enrollee, I signed up because of the tasting element. I wrongfully assumed that the theory portion was going to only serve me at future cocktail parties, and happy hours where wine was on the drink menu.

What I did not know was that this course with a strange listing, in a strange state, would turn me light my passion to pursue a wine education for life.

I soon discovered that an education in wine is the closest study one can have to a truly holistic education. An education in wine is a Renaissance pursuit that requires its pupil to embrace every major discipline of academia, and apply it to a liquid that is served in a 750 ml bottle.

No other pursuit requires a knowledge of history, chemistry, geography, botany, meteorology, geology, literature, divinity, accounting, marketing, supply-chain management, microbiology, anthology, entomology, and the law in order to understand only a fraction of what goes into the study of viticulture and enology. I quickly came to the realization that understanding and appreciating wine would be a lifelong educational endeavor. The same way I had heard people say how the game of golf is a lifelong sport.

Unfortunately, wine did not have a place in my career path aside from receptions and dinners that I would attend while working on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. I had to put my passions for wine elsewhere for a time, but thankfully was able to pick them back up after leaving Washington, and changing careers.

Thankfully, I have not lost my passion for wine, have rediscovered my previous passions for wine, and currently preparing for WSET certification.

While Boston may not be one of the great chateaus of Bordeaux or the vineyards of Napa, a passion and love of wine can be found anywhere on Earth.

Hemingway wrote, “Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.” The same can be true of a good education, and a passion to pursue an appreciation for a wine education, specifically.

I hope there are those out there in the strange places who are discovering or re-discovering the lifelong benefits of wine and wine education. If the same passions are kindled for them as they were for me, wine has a great future and can be appreciated even in the strangest of places.