Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Volunteer to taste wine and travel the world


2010—Pinot Noir or Cabernet? Chardonnay or Reisling? Chinese Merlot or Argentine Malbec? For some, a wine’s only duty is to taste good; but for others, discovering the true joy of a glass or two of wine with their favorite dishes rests in appreciating the nuances between the varietals and observing the service traditions.

Happily, with a dizzying array of wine choices available today, aficionados are in a bold time for wine and the only conundrum is often a question of so many wines, so little time.

Helping to heighten the wine tasting experience for its guests, JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts has introduced its Wine Ambassador’s program at its 46 locations worldwide. The JW Wine Ambassadors are a volunteer cadre of wine experts from all areas of the hotel where wine is available and who represent the highest level of wine expertise at the property.

“Our Wine Ambassadors are passionate about wine. They love their jobs. They are eager to share their knowledge by telling stories that help personalize our guests’ wine tasting experience and deepen their understanding of the wine being savored,” said Mitzi Gaskins, Marriott’s senior director for brand management . “Ultimately, our goal is to be thought of as a wine destination where our guests can appreciate wines at all price levels through our Ambassadors’ obsession with quality and attention to the little details whether they’re in the lobby lounge, dining in one of our restaurants or at a catered event.”

“By combining live tastings, written materials, on-line educational resources and the timely sharing of tasting notes, this program allows us to permeate a high level of wine-service excellence throughout our JW Marriott portfolio,” said Lou Trope, Marriott’s vice president for restaurants & bars.

Mr. Trope said that a number of resources were specially developed for the Wine Ambassador program, including training articulates on how to appropriately prepare a wine tasting and tasting mats illustrated with cues from the deductive tasting process of the Court of Master Sommeliers. Personalized wine journals were given to all Ambassadors as a tool for them to reflect on and record their learnings.

Before being designated a JW Marriott Wine Ambassador, all those volunteering to serve in this capacity must complete two certification programs. The first is a comprehensive approach to beverage education including spirits and beer. Following completion of this program, the Ambassadors must then complete The Academy of Wine on-line curriculum that was custom developed for JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts by Constellation Wines, one of the world’s leading wine companies. This curriculum offers a series of 17 self-directed training modules on topics such as opening and serving wine, pairing food and wine, and in-depth overviews of varietal characteristics and wine growing regions.

To ensure that each Ambassador’s wine expertise remains current and relevant, all Certified Wine Ambassadors participate in monthly tastings across the globe—tasting wines of different brands but of the same varietal. Monthly tasting notes are then shared with their peers throughout the JW Marriott portfolio in 19 countries on a website developed especially for this purpose.

“Through this dynamic, cross-cultural approach, our Wine Ambassadors either personally experience or have access to the evaluations of upwards of 140 different wines each month, enabling them to confidently discuss different wines with our guests. They know what they are talking about,” Mr. Trope said.

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