Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Back to Basics

I love wine classes, and I’ll shell out big bucks to hear wine gurus like Kevin Zraly walk me through the basics. To me it’s money well spent. But when I can taste 10-12 wines a night for seven weeks for only $130—that’s the bargain of the wine education world. And that’s the deal I scored (for a second time) out here in Jersey at the Caldwell/West Caldwell Adult School.
Wine classes are great for learning, of course, but also for tasting. I don’t work in a wine shop, for a distributor, or the wine press—and there are only so many bottles I can drink personally. So when our teacher cracks open a chilled bottle of Lillet (this aromatized wine is still a little weird to me) or a 22 year old Leeuwin chardonnay from the Margaret River Valley (a beautiful wine that kept revealing more layers as it opened up), it’s a wake-up call to my palate.
As an introductory first class, we really ran the gamut last night: a Cava (look for 1+1=3—I don’t usually get into Cavas, but this reminded me of Champagne), Riondo Prosecco (always fun at parties: light, sweet, fizzy & inexpensive), and a Peter Lehmann Riesling (a poor example of the varietal from Australia). Reds were represented by a 2003 Chateau Bernadotte from the Haut Medoc (rich & super tannic—I’d save this for a few more years) and, from our teacher’s cellar, a 1999 Robert Mondavi PNX Carneros Pinot Noir (brick red and unfortunately lacking in fruit). We rounded out the evening with both Port and Sherry. Whew!


  1. Years ago, my husband and I were dining out at a restaurant in Saratoga Springs and he discovered a caterpillar in his salad. They took the salad away, and for compensation, gave us each a small glass of Lillet. Ah!

  2. So, do you remember if you liked Lillet? And was it white or red?

  3. White...truthfully, we would have kept the salad if they had just taken the caterpillar (a garden insect, not a dirty kitchen insect) away! I do remember thinking it was more of a dessert drink than an accompanyment to the meal.