Skip to content

WSET L2 and Cinco de Derby

I am not sure what occurred over the last six weeks, but time has flown by so quickly.  Today our dear friends head north for the summer, and that just makes me sad. My liver is quite happy and looks forward to some recuperation. So in honor of their departure, I am sharing our hats and fascinator images from the Cinco de Derby brunch they hosted three weeks ago. Additionally, in this post, I share my venture back to school. Well, kind of, I took a class. Ok, fine, it was a wine class, but it was for the WSET Level 2 certification. (I know that means nothing to 99.7% of you, but I will explain later.) But before I go there, let’s start with fun hats as a see you next year to the boys.

The Hats and Fascinators of Cinco de Derby

I don’t know about you all, but finding quality time to hang out with friends sometimes takes serious planning. That is why, friends, Bryan and Craig, Shawn and Michael and Gary and I started a brunch club where each of the three couples hosts a rotating brunch once every four to six weeks. It was Bryan and Craig’s turn to host, and they did so on May 4th. They chose a Saturday versus a Sunday because the last brunch hosted by Shawn and Michael lasted 6-1/2 hours and made Monday a very interesting day.

The theme was Cinco de Derby, a blending of the Cinco de Mayo celebration and the running of the Kentucky Derby, thus Cinco de Derby. The beverage served frozen margaritas. The brunch was a Mexican Carnitas and Grilled Chicken with Mexican spices. To celebrate the Kentucky Derby we required Kentucky Derby Fascinators aka Hats. You know like what all the British ladies wear to a royal wedding, and American ladies wear to a horse race. So here for your viewing pleasure, our fascinators that we made for the party that bounced from head to head seeing who wore it best.

The inspiration for the event. Who remembers these beauties.
Let the party begin.
Cinco de Derby
The fascinator trading game began… Who wore it better?
Fascinators make a party flawless… more trading
Who wore it better? and even more trading
Shawn is wearing his hat as a choker. What style! What grace!
Even the margarita wore hats…
or horses!
Shawn and Michael departed. We tried to do another group shot on a timer.              #FlawlessOrFail?

No horses, hats, or people were harmed throughout the course of this brunch.


WSET Level 2 at The Capital Wine School in Washington DC

The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) provides globally recognized education and qualifications in wines, spirits, and sake, for beverage professionals and enthusiasts. WSET is not to be confused with the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS). Both organizations have several levels of study, but the CMS  has a substantial and critical service component (thus “sommelier” being in the name) whereas WSET does not and is more academic. As a wine writer, I chose the WSET for my credentialing and education. Fortunately, I was able to skip Level One and started at Level Two.

The class is not offered in Charleston, so I chose to go to the Capital Wine School in NW Washington, DC. It turned out to be a great choice. I loved the energy and style of our teacher, Kasia. She always kept it interesting and fun. The wine selections were great examples of place and style, which was critical to their identification.

The book and study guide arrived two weeks early so I could read before class started.

There are many reasons why one might enroll in the WSET program.

In our class, we had a corporate event planner who felt this would enhance her ability to produce her high-end corporate events and a food writer wishing to add wine expertise to her writings. There was a family of three who operate a yoga retreat in West Virginia who want to start offering Yoga and Wine classes as well as the son of a wine importer operating out of China who is thinking of joining his dad in the business. Lastly, there was a soon-to-be employee of Annheiser-Busch and a young woman from France working in the US just wanting to expand her wine knowledge.

This room is set up for a wine tasting class. Look at all those bottles along the wall that they will taste.

The class is a three-day intensive course.

There are two, three-hour sessions on day one and two. And one three hour session on day three followed by a two-hour self-study period and then the exam. There is a lot of information to cover, so it is done at a fast pace. I was surprised by how few read the book beforehand. Oh, I know, I would not have done as well as I did if I had not done that pre-class preparation.

I was also surprised at the narrow scope of some regional information, but I guess there has to be more detail for the level 3 exam. We were clearly being taught to pass the exam, so it was important to not over-think it.

Sample questions, flashcards, lists by grape varietal and my region, reading and re-reading the book.

WSET Level Two Sample Questions – Let’s test your knowledge

The following best matches a tasting note for a Muscadet?

a) Deep gold color, citrus, green and tropical notes, with high acidity
b) Pale lemon color, delicate floral and stone fruit aromas with high acidity and high alcohol
c) Pale lemon color, almost neutral fruit, medium to high acidity
d) Deep gold color, citrus and green fruit aromas, as well as vanilla and cream, with medium acidity

If you pair a high acid wine with a high acid food, the wine will seem:

a) less acidic
b) more acidic
c) less sweet
d) more tannic

Which of the following regions has a reputation for premium quality Riesling?

a) Burgundy
b) Alsace
c) Rioja
d) Vouvray

I think I am officially a wine nerd. And I wear that badge with honor.

I will not learn of my grade for two to four weeks. I feel confident that I passed but am hoping for a top score. Fingers crossed.

Answers are c, a, b

My reward after the first full day of class.

This is an excellent Southern Rhône-style white blend. If you like white wine with texture and a creamy mouthfeel, this is it. There are beautiful notes of honeysuckle and citrus and just enough acid to keep you begging for more. I love this style of wine. And it is distributed all over the country. Check your big box wine stores, and I think at some Total Wine stores. It sells for $25-28 per bottle depending on your location.

Katia and I celebrate the end of class with a Crémant de Loire Rosé.


That is all for now.






  1. Fingers crossed for good results! And welcome to the wine nerd club! 😉

    • Thank you so much! I do hate having to wait so long.

  2. wow! 2-4 weeks! I had to wait 2 months!! I really enjoyed the class also. I did not do the intensive. My class was 8 weeks long- 2 hrs per class. The test was on the ninth session. I really feel like I have learned so much! So much information- and a different view of wine knowledge than wine making. Not sure I’ll go to L3, but maybe when I no longer have the full time job. 400+ study cards for L2, can’t imagine what L3 would require! Love your party too! Looks like you guys all had a great time!

  3. I love the hats + the combo Derby/Cinco de Mayo theme. Definitely stealing that idea!

    • Hats make any party more festive! And they were fun to create.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.