Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Vino-Versity Majors in Fun
Vino-Versity—I came to this wine “class” expecting an education. But the only resemblance to my own undergraduate years was at the campus parties where you’d stand on tip toes behind a wall of imbibers trying to get a drink. In fact, if this was supposed to be college, it had more of the 20th reunion feel: a bunch of 30 and 40 somethings mingling, drinking, and catching up with friends.
It all happens smack dab in the middle of midtown at the spacious Divine Bar on West 54th Street between 8th and Broadway. The two hour wine event (I won’t call it a class) has a lot going for it. Starting with the venue: classy and atmospheric with low lighting, four wine stations, two areas where snacks are served on tiered serving platters, and a few low couches to relax with your drink. I have to commend the friendly staff who do a remarkable job of simultaneously pouring drinks for a half dozen thirsty folks and carrying on substantive discussions about wine with more inquisitive drinkers. And speaking of the wine: it was terrific. This was Northern Italian night, and there were 26 wines poured! Beautifully layered whites from Friuli, richly tannic Barbarescos, huge Barolos, plus varieties I had not heard of before such as the violet-scented Lagrein from the Alto Adige region of Italy near the Austrian border. At station D, Divine Bar owner Shari took the time to explain every wine she poured: “This wine is a Ripasso” she would begin and then discuss the method in which wine is re-passed over crushed grapes, intensifying the flavor. After her explanation, I had a better appreciation for the Amarone, which was densely concentrated and smelled and tasted of raisins.
There is a small attempt at educating participants, mainly on handouts of grape varieties and regions represented. We also had lists of the wines poured on which to make notes. However, this was the type of crowd that was more concerned with tasting and talking than writing.
I found the Vino-Versity crowd both upscale and friendly. I met the dynamic duo of lovely Xan and hilarious Jonathan, corporate attorneys who know how to let loose after billable hours. I also reconnected with fun-loving teacher Miriam (I knew her at a former job), who is a big fan of the wine series here.
Friendly crowd and good wine aside, Vino-Versity is most notable for its price--only $38! As my pal Miriam (do not call her Mimi) emphasized, “This series is a real bargain.” I heartily agree. Vino-Versity continues with events on Australian and Spanish wines coming up soon. I may need to return for extra credit.