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Journeying into Wine Education

“Either give me more wine or leave me alone.”

- Rumi, a 13th-century poet

Got to Start Somewhere

When I turned 21 (too many years ago), I did not understand or appreciate wine. My parents had a glass once in a while, mostly at a nice restaurant, mainly for special occasions. At the end of the day, it was all the same to me; red, white, bubbly. I was in college and naturally drawn to Colorado's "local" beer, Coors Light. During my first two years of legal-age drinking, I had no refined taste for anything. I sure learned my lessons of what not to drink and when to stop, or that mixing various forms of alcohol can leave you feeling not at your best. I just didn't know what kind of beverages I liked and didn't like and how to appreciate them fully.

One eventful trip ended up changing everything...

A View from the 17-Mile Drive in Monterey, California
A View from the 17-Mile Drive in Monterey, California

Visiting a Friend

My wife and I had a good friend working in Sacramento, California. She had invited us for a visit for a few days. So, we took her offer and flew out to Cali. She was working full-time that week, so we explored Sacramento (which we learned has a super cool vintage downtown), drove out to Monterrey and saw the aquarium (saw the greater Pacific Moon Jellyfish up-close and personal), and did the incredibly beautiful 17-Mile drive through Pebble Beach and saw the golf courses and fun spots to stop on the beach.

Sidenote: My wife was in a walking boot cast during this trip, and she was incredible and powered through the trip with such a good attitude!

Back to the story... halfway through our trip, we had a day with zero plans, and our friend would be working a long shift a long day. So, we did what most people do when they don't plan ahead; we Googled something like "fun things to do in Sacramento."

So naturally, we picked the thing that was not in Sacramento...

View from El Dorado Hills AVA
El Dorado Hills AVA

El Dorado Hills

This random website that we trusted with our whole hearts for recommendations led us to a place called Apple Hill (El Dorado Hills is the official wine region or AVA - designated wine grape-growing region), as it's known for incredible growing conditions for Apples and... you guessed it... Grapes!

I wrote a post a while back about this hidden gem of a region (and as I'm writing this, I realize I have some catching up to do in the writing department - more to come).

Why did we choose this? I do not know to this day; it just sounded fun.

We turned on our GPS directions and drove out there. It was only about 1 hour or less east of Sacramento. When we arrived, we had no idea where the best places were to visit. We pulled up at the first winery we saw (shoutout to Bumgarner Winery - more to come here as well).

I'll dive further into this later on, but that drive through the beautiful countryside of Apple Hill opened a whole new world up to my spouse and me.

Wine Education

Ok, now to the point of this post!

I've spent the last few years enjoying wine, learning more about it, trying new varietals, etc. But, I realized I needed to learn the fundamentals to appreciate art, nuance, and complexity fully. What I've learned about wine in the past is so anecdotal and narrow-viewed that I felt I needed to learn more about it from a new lens, a new perspective. So, I knew there was very formal education and training and that a Master Sommelier was a top-notch wine expert (fun fact, there are only 273 people in the world with this distinction) that worked in restaurants, wineries, or other businesses that specialize in wine. But, I wasn't sure where to start from a basic level.

So, through yet again a random Google search, I found the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET). They provide globally recognized education and qualifications in wine, spirits, and sake for professionals and enthusiasts - for people like me.

Wine Education - Level 1

To make good on the promise I made myself to start with the basics with an open mind, I enrolled in a WSET Level 1 Course. This course offers an introduction to wine, and you get to learn about wine types, styles, how to smell and taste, and the ability to describe wine properly and make food and wine pairing recommendations.

I think the coolest thing will be getting better at describing and tasting wine. You use a system called the SAT - Systematic Approach to Tasting Wine. We got a good laugh because SATTW doesn't have as good of a ring.

What's Next

So, I've decided to share the learnings and further explore the concepts through writing and researching the learned topic more in-depth. I hope you'll join me on this journey and learn a thing or two along the way. Even if you don't like wine or it's not your favorite beverage, I hope these fundamentals can be brought to distilled spirits such as whiskey and tequila and other fermented drinks such as beer and sake and lead to further enjoyment and appreciation.




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