Tag Archives: education

Never Too Old To Learn Something New

No matter how old I am, or the fact my children are long past the days of report cards, September will always be back to school time for me. A couple of years ago, I decided to further my wine education. I had been to a couple of wineries in Italy and California. I certainly had sampled many wines. And I watched Sideways and Bottleshock – I figured I knew a fair bit –  so I convinced my partner in wine Tina to take a course at George Brown College.

HOLY GRAPES!!!

Soooo many study notes

The first thing I learned was I know absolutely nothing! My first six weeks of notes upon notes upon notes – confirmed it. I admit, I am a bit of a control freak. And facing week after week of “What do you smell?”

Deep breath. Pause. Second Deep Breath……um…red wine?  No, I did not smell “Smores”.

I would break into a sweat when called upon to analyze a wine. I envied those who knew all the answers.  Why exactly did I put myself through this classroom torture?

Because ever so slowly, it started to make sense. I became a study fiend. I traded in my novels for the textbook. I memorized the wine regions out loud before going to sleep. I studied my index cards on the treadmill to the entertainment of others at the gym.

I survived and even passed Wines One. The next semester signed up for Wines Two – which is similar but goes into more depth and like anything, helped to find a semi-permanent spot on the rapidly-running-out-of-space-on-the-hard-drive that is my brain.

The other reason the torture is worth it – you get to try an incredible number of wines – between 8-12 wines  each class.  It is such great exposure to the world of wine with classmates who are either enrolled because they work in the industry, or like me, they simply loved to drink wine.

Our teacher Serge Jancic, took it one step further in Wines Two….the term paper. I had not tackled one of those for 30 years. Before Google. OMG, another reason to love Google. While I stressed about the assignment, I ended up loving it. I made so many discoveries  – from amazing wines, regions, writers, columnists etc.

At the end of the day, it is a lot of fun. And it worked a completely different part of the brain than my day job. I met great people who love wine as much as I do. And while my wine knowledge is still ever so limited, it has sparked my curiosity to learn more  –  and isn’t that the real gift  of education?

So it being September and all, I am heading back to class again – this time to study New World Wines – but this time, (being that occasional Control Freak) – I am starting to read up now so this time I might be one of the smart asses with the odd right answer!

Stay tuned.

Now This Is Class

Our never-ending wine education sent us back to the classroom last week to learn about Chardonnay.  The event: the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Conference. The seminar: Extreme Winemaking 101.  Winemakers  from Niagara, BC, the Sonoma Coast, Australia, Burgundy, Argentina gathered to talk about the challenges of producing Chardonnay in often difficult conditions.

“We play Chardonnay the way a musician plays a Stradivarius to express the terroir,” said Jean Lupatelli of Decelle-Villa in Burgundy. But that symphony is often complicated.

“You’ve got to be cruel to be kind,” said Australian-born Craig McDonald who leads the wine-making team at Hillebrand Winery. He said over the past nine years there has been only one season with landmark conditions.

Cool Chardonnay

Still, there’s a reason Chardonnay is one of the most widely planted grapes in the world. And we got the chance to taste six of them.  Many of these wines  are not even available on the market yet.   While I have never been a card carrying member of the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) club,  I must admit it is not my go-to varietal. But I believe in keeping an open mind, and what an opportunity for a pair of novices like us to be exposed to the vast differences based on terroir and technique.  Both our favorites was the 2010 Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Chardonnay , from the Sonoma  Coast. Its flawless finish is the product  of a big fault, the San Andreas fault line that created incredible  soil diversity.

The Chardonnay sampling didn’t stop there.  After class there was a luncheon where they set three bottles on each table, all different. Once you finished sampling yours, you could bottle-switch with other tables. Chardonnays from Jura, Burgundy, Prince Edward County, Oregon and many other regions were represented. I am happy to say my luncheon favourite was local. Vineland Estates Reserve 2009 was terrific. Citrusy and bright, crisp and well-balanced, it is a  perfect match for my summer playlist. It’s only available online and on site – so that means there’s another road trip in the near future!

Miso Glazed Pork Belly, Pineapple, Cilantro & Cucumber

The conference officially kicked off in the evening with the spectacular “Explore Your Senses Dinner” hosted at Jackson Triggs.  We met some of the 56 winemakers at various sampling stations and the evening’s menu consisted of Chardonnay-inspired dishes like Miso Glazed Pork Belly with Pineapple, Cilantro and Cucumber, Oysters with Peach Chardonnay Mignonette and other delicious dishes.   The end to a perfect evening came when  Canadian rockers,  The Arkells took the stage at the outdoor amphitheatre.  Going back to class has never been sweeter.