This is a story of one woman's quest to become more educated about fine wine. Having spent my entire adult life free of alcohol, I found myself turning down fine wine in Europe, and wondering why. How exactly does someone get to be my age and know not one thing about wine? Well, I had the typical American experience with alcohol, the college experience of overindulging in the cheapest and easiest to obtain alcohol. Those experiences put me off alcohol for a very long time.
In mid-life, post divorce, I realized I had no relationship to alcohol one-way or the other. I was part of the 33% of American consumers that did not drink. What I discovered while traveling in Europe is another perspective. Drinks are part of the experience of living. Be it cocktails, an aperitif, or wine with dinner, alcohol is enjoyed and an essential part of being a foodie. The invitation to enjoy wine in Venice, Italy, and Basil, Switzerland opened my eyes to the joy a glass of wine can add to a meal.
One memorable evening involved a glass of red wine that moved me to tears. My paramour and I were visiting friends in Switzerland, celebrating an American style Thanksgiving, substituting duck for turkey. We had been together all day, cooking in the kitchen. The men had enjoyed some home brewed beer from the cellar, and I had stuck with water. But when the meal was served, the aromas of Duck à L'Orange and roasted vegetable swirling off the table, I was offered a glass of deep, glorious red wine. I have no idea what it was, probably something French. I accepted it willingly, thought I'd just try it and see. I didn’t know anything could taste so amazing and I knew then I had to pursue this magical drink. I caught the wine bug, as they say.
Since then, I have taken baby steps toward understanding this magical drink and it's relationship to the human world by formalizing my education at my local State University's Extension Office. Beginning with the Exploring Wine course at San Diego State University with Lisa Redwine, Advance Sommolier, followed by The Character of Wine with Gus Vizgirda, Winemaker at Wilson Creek.
Recognizing the vast information to master, and with no time to waste, I jumped in with both feet and attended the two week OIV Wine Marketing Course at UC Davis. There I met industry leaders, and current international students of the OIV Master's Degree program from France. This course covered every facet of the marketing and sales side of the wine industry in the United States. Everything that comes after production, including financing, labels, meeting state and federal regulations, online marketing, branding, public relations, tasting room management. The days were rich with guest speakers, and the evenings were ripe with enjoying great wines and befriending future global leaders in the wine business world. The best wines are those shared with friends.
What I've learned so far is to taste wine, all kinds of wine, in order to know what features and flavors I like, as well as to learn about what each grape varietal has to offer. Every bottle of wine produced is unique, and can be heavily influenced by the producer or wine maker. Price is not an indicator of quality. And what pleases one person may not please another. It's OK to like what you like, and to leave room for discovery. It's also more than OK to not know what you are doing. The world of wine is vast, so vast that no one in the world can master all of it. Be your self, have fun, and share.
In September I completed the Wine Making Behind the Scenes Course taught by Gus at Wilson Creek Winery in Temecula, California. I had the opportunity to finally see, feel, taste, and smell the wine making process up close. I held a Refractometer, which measures sugar levels in grape juice by reflecting light across a scale, and a Hydrometer, which measures the amount of sucrose in fermenting wine. I tasted winemaker's candy, and ripe berries right off the vine. I listened to and tasted aging Chardonnay held in large white oak barrels. At the same time, crush came on big and fast at the vineyards across California, when a massive heat wave descended upon us. The vineyard and production teams at work were going at it, harvesting and processing tons and tons of berries. I had the good fortune to observe my first crush and to ask a lot of questions. I watched the hopper, and the crusher-destemmer, saw the use of a manual punch-down, smelled fermenting crush in an open bin. I saw barrels moved, emptied, cleaned and filled with newly fermented wine. It's an exciting time during crush, plenty of new sounds and smells. There is a rush to it, as the team has to hustle to process grapes and quickly as possible to preserve freshness and flavor.
In October I took taking Dynamic Wine and Food Pairing, California Wines Intensive, and Sensory Evaluation. My next class will be in August, 2018, Austrian/German Wine Intensive.
Unless otherwise noted, all photography on this site was taken by Malinda Romine, all copyrights reserved. Do not copy, download, or reproduce without written consent by owner. I'm happy to share, provided I know where and when and for what purpose it will be used. Contact me email@example.com. All views and opinions expressed are solely those of an individual (me) and do not reflect nor represent any producer or vineyard. It is my intention for this to serve as general inspiration for the public to visit the wineries within the South Coast AVA Region and more specifically those inside San Diego County including Escondido, Valley Center, Ramona Valley, and San Pasqual Valley. Contact me if you are a winery in the region and would like to be featured. Blogs are only useful if they have a following, so please do share this page with friennds.