The Intro to Wine series is one of our most popular classes, and after attending Level II for the past 4 weeks, I can see why. Level I is an 8 week diploma course designed to provide a firm foundation for both wine newbies and serious enthusiasts. It’s also a fun introduction to the Systematic Tasting Method that is used by wine professionals for detecting and describing wine’s aromas and flavors. Level II takes elevates learning with a more detailed look at terroir, cellaring wine and my personal favorite, food and wine pairings. Best of all, the educational journey culminates in an incredible six-course wine dinner that brings together learning and expected flavors combinations all paired to perfection with unforgettable wines.
We’ve all heard of classic wine pairings like Cabernet Sauvignon with Steak, Chardonnay with Lobster and Port with Stilton Cheese, but to push the limit on conventional pairings in a systematic manner takes learning and enjoyment to a whole new level. Did you ever stop to think about why these classic pairings work so well? Intro to Wine delves deep into the five elements of taste (bitter, sour, sweet, savory and salt) and how these elements relate to wine pairings. Specifically, there are two wine-friendly elements in food, salt and acidity (sour), that make wine taste softer, smoother and less tannic. Likewise, there are two components, sweet and savory (umami), that have the opposite effect, and make wines taste harsher and more tannic. A perfect pairing, to me, means that the elements of taste, in food and wine, achieve balance, drawing out the best qualities and flavors of each.
In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m dedicating this week’s blog to a select group of women, particularly mothers, who have stepped up to leadership roles in what has traditionally been a male-dominated industry. As women, we constantly strive to find that elusive balance between family, personal life and business. Women in the wine industry have had to face those challenges usually without the support of other female mentors and role models. And let’s face it, like motherhood, winemaking isn’t a 9 to 5 job that ends when you walk out the door. Similar to child rearing, knowledge and wisdom provide fundamental basics for making wine, but it’s passion, love and nurturing that make a phenomenal wine. I admire these women who have not only found balance in their pursuit of ambition, winemaking and family, but have also led the way for other women in the industry and even instilled their passion for wine and life in their children, essentially passing along the family torch. Cheers to them and all the other hard-working mothers out there!
Trials and Trailblazers
A look at women in the wine industry would be incomplete without first paying tribute to Susana Balbo. Argentina’s first woman to hold an enology degree, their first female winemaker, first female president of Wines of Argentina, first Argentine winemaker to be hired as a consultant to make wine outside of the country and founder of Dominio del Plata in Mendoza and its many labels, Susana is undoubtedly a trailblazer of the industry. She has not only made exceptional wine for decades paving the way other women and serving as an inspiration, but her two children are also now following in her footsteps.
Janie Brooks Heuck, who hosted a sold out tasting of her wines at VV last week, is a different kind of trailblazer. Born in Portland, Oregon, Janie never had any intention of being in the wine industry other than proudly supporting her brother, Jimi Brooks, founder of Brooks Winery. However, when Jimi unexpectedly passed away in 2004, Janie found herself faced with a difficult decision and basically dropped everything to take responsibility for the business operations of the winery. Surrounded by the guidance of some of the most respected winemakers in Oregon and the outpouring of generosity and support from the wine community, Janie quickly realized that she had to keep Jimi’s vision alive. Janie not only stepped up to maintain the reputation that Jimi had worked so hard to establish, volunteering to run the business and continuing with his biodynamic farming and other winemaking practices, but she also successfully increased production while helping to realize Jimi’s vision of creating a family legacy for his son, Pascal. Jenna Sagraves, our Director of Education, had the privilege of working at Brooks Winery during their harvest in October of 2014 and had in hand in making the delicious Pinot Noir rosé that we tasted last week and that was included this month’s wine club selection.