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Last month, Tessa and Barbara concluded the first in their series of wine classes. This month, the second begins! Barbara and I had a conversation about how the first block went, and what she’s looking forward to in the next. My questions are marked AV and Barbara’s responses are marked BP.

AV: Block 1 of the wine classes focused on New World wines. Were there a few moments that really stood out during the series?

BP: Absolutely! At least once in each class, there was a beautiful pause around the table after tasting one of the wines. The faces of the attendees lit up as an “ah-ha” moment dawned. They suddenly got that although they perhaps did not recognize all of the nose and palate qualities being batted about, they DID recognize some and along with that they recognized quality, well-crafted wines.

For me, to see that play across their faces was the peak moment in each class. In the first class, one of the students sounded a bit embarrassed as she raised her voice to say she tasted artichokes in a wine—but the minute she claimed it, lots of heads started nodding around the room. As strange as that taste might sound, other class members too could detect some artichoke. That was the lasting impression of the class; they were beginning to trust their own palates and at home enough in the group to say what they thought and tasted.

Another such moment occurred during the second class, which was fun because everyone was more relaxed from the start. The favorite moment that week was when one lady tasted a wine, wrinkled her nose and said, “I don’t know what this wine is, but it has everything I dislike about Carmenere in it!” We all laughed because she was right! However, on tasting a Gran Reserva from Chile, she thought there might be hope for Carmenere wines after all.

AV: Tell us a bit about the guest speaker who came in for one of the classes. What was he able to bring to the table?

BC: Actually, there were two guest speakers—and we’ll be bringing in even more for the Old World block starting this month.

For the third class, Jason Sagness from Vinocopia led our discussion of wines from Australia and New Zealand. It was obvious from the start of the class how much he knows and enjoys these wines. He also showed us a new flight configuration:  arranging wines by region rather than varietal. It was a GREAT evening.

Our last class was a challenge; everyone is enchanted with the idea of brandy, port, Sauternes, and Cognac, but dessert wines are also a daunting subject, as the levels of subtlety and complexity can be pretty high. So for our “stickies” night, we brought in an expert to guide the class, local guru Mark Weimer of the beloved Chardonnay restaurant and the Wine Company. Wow! He deftly led the class as we tasted Sauternes (famous for the classic pairing with fois gras), sherries, ports, Madeira, and more. Mark was a huge hit, and we look forward to his return for the French Wines class on September 19th!

AV: Were there any wines that really knocked your socks off?

BP: I don’t think it’s over the top to say that all of the wines we tasted were great, and they each had their own strengths, but there were some definite favorites from each class. People really enjoyed the Starmont Cabernet (CA) and the Adelsheim Pinot Gris (OR) from the first class. At the second class, attendees fell in love with the Trivento Torrontes from Argentina. Some of the highlights from the third class were the Torbrek Semillon and the Black Betty Shiraz-Cab, both from Australia. At the last class, there was no way to choose a favorite between the Warre’s Otima, Domaine Cauhape, or the Dr. Loosen Riesling Ice Wine.

AV: For the first block, you had some people come for just a class or two, and some people who stayed for the entire block, correct?

BP: Yes, that’s true! And I think they all took away something unique from the classes they were able to attend.

There was a small core group who took the entire series, and we look forward to each of them joining us for the next series. We had a fun family of three who joined us for three of the classes, and though the parents live in the Twin Cities, we sure hope they will return for the Old World series. Then we had about four folks who dropped in for a class or two—and while two of these ladies will be traveling to Chile during the Old World series, we really hope they’ll join us for the Worldly series starting in mid-October and share some of their adventure with us.

In short, each week we were about a dozen folks attend, which was a good size group: small enough to answer everyone’s questions, and large enough that we were able to learn from a diverse set of perspectives on the wine. Tessa and I look forward to growing the class a little, but the maximum class size is 20 to ensure ease of discussion.

I had a great time getting to know everyone who took the class, and I’m thrilled that there are more classes ahead. We’re really starting to form a wine community! I would definitely encourage anyone to attend, even if he or she is only able to drop in for one or two classes. We all just have a lot of fun!

AV: What are you most looking forward to covering in the next block of classes, Old World Wines?

BP: There are so many, I don’t think I could possibly list them all! The next series is so, so, so important to appreciating wines. We’ll cover Spain, which has the largest number of indigenous grapes of any wine producing country. Then we’ll move on to France—and of course, who better understands the soul (terroir) of where the grape is grown than the French? French wines are a true example of the importance of place over varietal and ageability over “juice bombs” to mastering the art of a finely crafted wine.

And WHERE did the Europeans get their winemaking craft? From the Romans and Italian monks. (Okay, to be honest, the Spanish wines also had some influence from the Moors, but they did not love and understand wine like the Romans.) In all truth, NO Old World wine class would be complete without studying Italian wines, which we’ll cover in the third class. You’ll learn that they’re delicious as well as the historical heart of viniculture and vinification.

Can you imagine a world without Rioja, Priorat, Cava, Sherry or Bordeaux, Champagne, Loire, Burgundy, Rhone, or Barolo, Chianti, Prosecco, or Brunello? Well, neither can we! But we have these rock stars and many more to share with you in the Old World series starting on September 12. Do join us!

Tickets are $55 per class and are available by calling 507.292.1628 – or purchase them securely online here. A 15% discount applies if tickets to the entire block are purchased at once.

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