Map Happy

PortugalAs part of my “day” job as the Director of Education for the Society of Wine Educators, I just finished (with a lot of help) a HUGE project revising, renewing, and updating all of SWE’s wine maps.

Here’s a copy of a super-pretty one as a sample, and you can have access to a complete set of 43 different maps – both jpegs and pdf – over at the “map page” on SWE’s website.

Enjoy your studies!


The Majestic Cascades

Map of the Cascade range by Shannon, via Wikimedia Commons.

Map of the Cascade range by Shannon, via Wikimedia Commons.

CSW Students might know a bit about the Cascade Mountain Range. They know that the majority of Washington State’s vineyards are planted to the east of, and in the rain shadow of, the Cascades.

They also know that one of the main differences between the geography of Washington State’s wine industry and Oregon’s wine industry is that in contrast, the majority of Oregon’s vineyards are located to the west of the Cascades, sheltered from the effects of the Pacific Ocean by the much tamer mountains of the 200 mile-long Oregon Coast Range.  And they have probably heard of the Columbia Gorge, as it’s a tiny AVA that straddles the Oregon and Washington State lines.

And that’s a pretty good start, but there is so much more to know…

The Cascade Range is impressive, stretching for over 800 miles from Mount Lytton in British Columbia, through Cascades National Park in Washington State, past Mount Hood in Oregon, and ending just south of Mount Lassen in Northern California’s Shasta County. The highest peak in the Cascades is Washington State’s Mount Rainier, which rises to 14,411 feet above sea level and dominates the surroundings for miles around. Mount Saint Helens, whose 1980 eruption transformed a mountain with a 9,677 foot tall summit into an 8,365 foot high mountain with a 1 mile-wide horseshoe-shaped crater, is also part of the Cascade Range.

The range, particularly in the area north of Mount Rainier, is extremely rugged. Many of the smaller mountains in this area are steep and glaciated, looming over the low valleys below. The topography settles down a bit as the range winds southward, but even its southernmost peak, Mount Lassen, rises 5,229 feet above its surroundings to an elevation of 10,457 feet above sea level.

Mount Saint Helens, post her 1980 eruption

Mount Saint Helens, post her 1980 eruption

Due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and its westerly winds, the Cascades form a rain shadow for much of the inland Pacific Northwest. The areas to the west of the mountains are known for rainy conditions, and as the elevation climbs, for year-round snow and ice. The western slopes of the Northern Cascades can have annual snow accumulations of up to 500 inches, and with accumulation of over 1,000 inches in exceptional years.

In comparison, on the arid plateau located to the east of the mountains, annual rainfall averages 9 inches. This area, now known as the Columbia River Plateau, was formed over 16 million years ago as the lava flows from Cascade volcanoes coalesced, and covers a 200,000 square mile region in eastern Washington, Oregon, Northern California and Idaho. As all good wine students know, this is the area where almost all of Washington State’s commercial vineyards are planted.

The Columbia Gorge, located where the Columbia River forms the border between Oregon and Washington State, is the only major break in the American section of the Cascade Mountains. The Gorge was formed over the millennia as the Columbia River eroded its way through the burgeoning mountains on its way to the Pacific off of the Columbia Plateau. Lewis and Clark, in 1805, were able to reach the Pacific through the impressive Cascades via the Columbia Gorge, which for many years was considered the only practical passage through the surrounding mountains.

Vineyards in the Columbia River Gorge

Vineyards in the Columbia River Gorge

In Canada, the country’s second largest wine region, The Okanagan, is also located in the rain shadow of the Cascade Range. The region, which stretches for 100 miles north of the US border with Washington State, shares many of the same geographical/geological features that define viticulture in Washington State, such as a continental climate (somewhat moderated by Lake Okanagan), long daylight hours in the growing season (due to the northerly latitudes), an average of 9 inches of rain per year (requiring irrigation), and the risk of frost damage to the vines over the cold winters.

Other people may note that the majestic Cascades are known for ski resorts, hydro-electric power, strong westward rivers, Douglas Fir trees, important water reserves, Klamath Falls, alpine elk, glaciers, grizzly bears, blueberries, and some of the few remaining wild wolf packs in North America… but for some of us, it’s all about the wine!

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas:

This post was inspired by week ten of my Online CSW Prep Class! 


Wine Minis!

IWine Bottles on Sidef you have a half hour before you have to leave, a short break at work, or 30 minutes on the subway, the Bubbly Professor has a quick little study tool for you. Just click on one of the links below to access a series of 10-questions “Mini Quizzes.” These quiz mini’s are rather random in subject matter and meant to be “short and sweet” study sessions, doable in a half an hour to an hour.

If you want to really turn these quizzes into a learning tool, the trick is to look up the questions you missed, make a short note about the subject in your study notes, and review it again in a day or two. Trust me, you’ll never miss that question again.

Some of these quizzes might seem difficult; and if you are just starting out (or re-starting) your Wine or Spirits Studies, you might feel defeated. But the point is not just to assess your learning. The mini’s are designed to expand your horizons, and perhaps open your study path up to topics you may have glossed over before or not yet reached. Be sure and read the “explanation” box that is part of the answer screen. There’s lots of good information there as well.

These Mini Wine Quizzes are all based on the CSW study guide published by the Society of Wine Educators, but useful for any wine certification test (or just for fun).

Red Bottle NecksHere are the links to the quizzes. Have fun!

Click here for: Mini Wine Quiz #1

Click here for: Mini Wine Quiz #2

Click here for: Mini Wine Quiz #3

Click here for: Mini Wine Quiz #4

Click here for: Mini Wine Quiz #5

Click here for: Mini Wine Quiz #6

Click here for: Mini Wine Quiz #7

If you like some wine minis at a more advanced level, try these:

Click here to take: Advanced Wine Mini #1

Click here to take: Advanced Wine Mini #2

Click here to take: Advanced Wine Mini #3

Click here to take: Advanced Wine Mini #4

Click here to take: Advanced Wine Mini #5

Click here to take: Advanced Wine Mini#6

Click here to take: Advanced Wine Mini #7

If you are looking for some longer (perhaps more serious???) wine quizzes, click here

Bubbly Disclaimer: These quizzes are my own creation and are not in any way an “official publication” of any school or organization. I hope they help you out with your wine studies!

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas:


The Dirt on Spain

PrioratThis Saturday – July 26th – 10:00 am central time, I’ll be offering a free-to-the-public, live-on-line webinar all about “The Dirt on Spain.” Sub-titled “A terroir-tinged trip through the tierra of Spain,” this session will look at five of Spain’s wine regions that have a particular link to the unique physical geography, climate, or soil of the region.

Here is a taste of what we’ll be covering!

Priorat: Priorat is a dynamic wine region in Catalonia – and one of the smallest wine regions in Spain. If you look at a map you’ll see that Priorat is close to the Mediterranean Sea. The sea’s influence on the hot, dusty climate, however is minimal, due to the position of the Catalan Coastal Range. Rainfall here is so low that it is equal to dry, dusty Montilla-Moriles down in Andalucía.

The famous llicorella soils, the steep, terraced vineyards, and legendary low yields lend rich, deep, concentration to the Garnacha-based wines of Priorat.

rias baixasRías Baxias: The name Rías Baixas means “’low rías” and was chosen because of the coastal inlets that characterize the landscape. Rías are a type of estuary, and if you don’t remember what an estuary is, it is a place where a river runs into the sea. The river running into the sea forms an area of “brackish” water, which means a mix of salt and fresh water.

The drowning of river valleys along a stretch of coast and formation of rías results in an extremely irregular and indented coastline. San Francisco Bay, Charleston Harbor, and Chesapeake Bay are all examples of this type of “drowned river valley” estuary. Other types of estuaries include lagoons and fjords.

Rías Baixas, known for its crisp, fruity, floral-scented white wines based on the Albariño grape variety, is perhaps the best-known wine region in Galicia. The maritime climate in Galicia has led to its nickname as “Green Spain. It rains quite a bit here – as high as 71 inches per year.

Rioja MapRioja: The Rioja DOCa is located to the south of the Sierra Cantabrian Mountain. The Rioja Alavesa sub-region is tucked into the foothills of these mountains, and benefits from the altitude (1,300–3,930ft/400–1,200m), and the chalky clay and limestone soils on the slopes and terraces.

The Sierra de la Demanda, part of the western section of the larger Sistema Ibérico, runs through along the southern edge of the Rioja Alta. The Rioja Baja region sits at at lower elevations, and as a result is drier, and flatter than its neighbors to the west. The soils also differ significantly; the chalk content is minimal, with larger proportions of silt and alluvial components as well as ferrous-clay. Drought is also a real threat.

We’ll also be covering Jerez and Ribera del Duero. For more information, including the link and login information for the session, click here.

The Bubbly Professor is…”Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas



Start the Weekend with a Saturday Webinar!

Swebinar in the grassIt’s a rare sighting of a Saturday SWEbinar!!

This Saturday – June 7, 2104 – at 10:00 am central time – the Society of Wine Educators is offerring a Saturday morning SWEbinar all about the grapes and places of Italian Wine! This is a special weekend version in response to many requests for evening and weekend SWEbinars, and while we’re not sure what kind of a turn out we’ll receive, we are giving it a go!

This session, called “The Italian Grape Game” will be led by our little ol’ me – The Bubbly Professor, aka  “Miss Jane” Nickles. This session will be a lively way for you to test your knowledge of Italy’s wines and wine regions. You are advised to read and study chapter 10 of the CSW Study Guide in advance – this is glass-to-glass competition!

And don’t forget to ask about “Vice President Lenny,” who you’ll be meeting at the session. Vice President Lenny is here to help you learn the Italian wine regions – trust us on this one!

Login instructions and a link to the online classroom are located below. If you’d like to be sent a reminder about the session on Saturday morning, or have any other questions about our SWEbinar series, please contact jane at

See you Saturday!

Vice President just have to tune it to find out what he's all about! (No, he is NOT supposed to look Italian.)

Vice President Lenny…you just have to tune it to find out what he’s all about! (No, he is NOT supposed to look Italian.)

Login Instructions: At the appointed time, just click on the link. (Links will be attached to the date and time announcement of each session in the list below and will go “live” a few days before the scheduled date.) When the SWE Adobe Connect homepage appears, click on “enter as a guest,” type in your name, and click “enter room.” Remember that each session is limited to 100 attendees, and that several of our past sessions have reached capacity. We are hoping to avoid this issue in the future by offering more SWEbinars, but it is still a good idea to log on early!

If you have never attended an Adobe Connect event before, it is also a good idea to test your connection ahead of time.

To join the session, just click on the link: Saturday, June 7 – 1o:oo am Central Time – The Italian Grape Game, based on Chapter 10 in the CSW Study Guide, hosted by Jane A. Nickles, CSS, CWE

Click here to see the SWEbinar schedule for the rest of 2014!

Long Time Gonna Study This!

LTGSTLong time gonna study this!

No…this is not the Bubbly Professor slipping up and using poor grammar…rather, it is a mnemonic device for the method I’ve been using for the past several decades to introduce and teach the incredibly huge subject of all the regional wines of the world!

Long Time Gonna Study This is my of remembering the 5 most important things you need to know about any wine region in order to really understand (and not just “memorize”) the facts and figures, grapes and places, and other details concerning a specific region of the wine world.  The letters stand for: Location, Terroir, Grapes, Styles, and Terminology.

This is not the “easy way out” for studying. This is, however, a very effective study technique as it gives meaning and context to what you are studying, and as I’ve said so many times before…your brain just does not like (and is not good at) fixing random words and numbers into long-term memory. What your brain is really good at remembering are things that are personal, contextual, spatial, funny, surprising, physical, humorous, and (surprise!) sexual in nature.

So…how do we use this knowledge to make our wine studies more effective? We make our studies more contextual (the background story), spatial (how this location relates to other locations), physical (taste the wine, look at the label, pick up the bottle even if you can’t afford to buy it), personal (draw a map, say the words out loud, visit the region).

As for sexual, well, having a love affair with a brooding winemaker from New Zealand – or just thinking about it  – that can’t hurt either… Alas, if a trip to Central Otago is not in your near future, there are other ways…never forget the very fine line between wine and romance!

Here is a more detailed explanation of the use of the LTGST study method:

LTGST terroir 2Location:

  • We need to know – where is this area located?
  • Get specific – latitude, proximity to well-known cities and landmarks, and location in relation to other wine regions.
  • Research the topography – rivers, lakes, oceans, mountain ranges.
  • The best way to do this is trace a map, get to googling and draw in the cities, mountains, and rivers. By doing so you are making your studies more physical, which as we know will greatly improve your memory of the topic.


  • What is the local climate, soil, topography, etc and how does it affect the wine?
  • Knowing the details on the location (mountains, rivers, oceans) will translate into a better understanding of the terroir (see how that works)?


  • What grapes are grown there?
  • Are they blends, or single varietals?
  • Understanding the location, which leads to a better contextualization of the terroir, will lead to better understanding of what grapes grown in a certain location and why. There’s a darn good reason Alsace grows mainly white grapes and Bordeaux can grow botrytis-affected Semillon so well, and they have everything to do with location and terroir!

LTGST terminologyStyles:

  • After we know the overall climate and the grape varieties that are grown in a certain region, we’re ready to study the types of wines made in a region.
  • What styles of wine do they produce? Dry, sweet, still, sparkling?
  • What unique production techniques create these wines?


  • What terms do you need to understand the wines and their labels?
  • Some regions, such as Bordeaux and Burgundy, have a vocabulary all of their own and this list can get very long indeed, others are much simpler.

So there you have it…the LTGST method of studying the wines of the world. Like I said earlier in this post, it is certainly not quick or easy, but I guarantee you it’s effective.

Good luck with your studies, and please let me know if you have any questions, comments, or success with this method!

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas

Miss Jane’s Online CSW Review Class

SWEbinar MayMiss Jane (aka the Bubbly Professor), as part of her “day job” as the Director of Education for the Society of Wine Educators, will be offering a second session of SWE’s guided, 12-week, online review course for CSW Candidates, starting on June 16th.

The course will include weekly “live online” course sessions (tentatively scheduled for Wednesday evenings at 7:00 central), reading assignments, workbook assignments, and “check-out quizzes.” Required textbooks include the 2014 CSW Study Guide and Workbook. The course is free for Professional Members of SWE who have a current CSW Exam Credit.

Participants will be limited to the first 100 qualified applicants, so if you are interested in this opportunity please send an email to Miss Jane at:

Please note that the class will take a short “hiatus” the week of August 10 -16, when we will all be at the SWE Conference!

To find out more about the Certified Specialist of Wine Program, click here to access the  SWE Website.


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