Managing her passion for wine has become a balancing act for Fort Lee lawyer Christine Bae.
The mom of two included a customized 1,500-bottle wine cellar while renovating her new Norwood home in 2017. But her collection has nearly doubled, and some hundred of Bae's 3,000 bottles are piled on top of one another in her cellar.
She admits: "It's somewhat of a madness."
Although Bae passed both the New York and New Jersey bar exams with ease, the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) certification exams proved far more challenging for Bae.
She failed the Level III WSET twice, but passed on the third try -- and is now studying for the Level IV exam.
"It hit me the other day," said Bae, formerly a five-year wine columnist for a Korean newspaper. "I asked myself, 'What am I doing here again?'
"They don’t talk about wine at this level anymore. About how torrential weather problems in Bordeaux made production go down by half, and how will it affect prices. It's a whole new level."
More than a determination to finish what she started, it seems to be an unrelenting passion that's driving Bae.
Bae's world consisted of simply reds and whites and she began drinking in her 20s.
"I enjoyed wine, she said, "but never knew the intricacies."
Nine years ago was when Bae met her wine mentor. She took her and a group of others to a New York City restaurant and ordered a $4,000 bottle of wine.
"It blew my mind," she said. "I wanted to learn more."
And that she has.
"A little bit of hail for the people growing the grapes can mean a total devastation," Bae said. "People who are making barrels -- a forest fire can be a wipeout.
"We are the end consumer, and learning about what it takes to get a bottle of wine in your hand makes you appreciate the glass a lot more."
Last month marked a milestone for Bae, who finally brought the last bottle of her collection from her old house to the new one. She made hundreds of trips carrying between 30 and 50 bottles at a time. She didn't want the movers doing that job -- too risky.
"Collecting wine is oxymoronic," said Bae, who was featured in a 2018 article by "Wine Spectator."
"I used to collect art -- it's on your wall, you look at it.
"Wine is more like collecting memories."
Each bottle is a different occasion.
A pair of Bae's friends recently got married. Before the wedding, they all went out to celebrate and drank wines from the year they met.
"I thought that was very special," Bae said. "It’s those moments that you back."
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