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Jan 4, 2008 03:59 PM

Weekend Wine Workshop? Recommendations?

I would love the opportunity to attend a wine doesn't necessarily have to be over the weekend but certainly a short term vacation kind of set up. Does anyone know of any that are offered here in the States?

Thank you very much,'

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  1. Amile,

    So very much depends on where you are. In Denver, one wine shop, The Vineyard, offered a block of courses in wines. These were done about twice per year, and one could subscribe to any part (three part: Wine, US Wine and FR wine) that they wished. I have not seen the same, in AZ, but would assume that some retailers offer similar.

    Beyond that, one can often look to their community colleges for such courses, plus the International Sommelier's workshops, in certain metro-areas.

    On a simialr, but less structured, note, many wine shops & restaurants, offer tastings, that are usually not quite as academic, though rewarding.

    As a last note, in the US, there is a cruise line (name escapes me now), that offers cruises across SF Bay, and up the Napa R., into the wine country. Besides the usual winery tours, they offer tastings, and "chalk talks," with the wine makers, chefs and distributors each night. We did one in '98, and it was OK. We probably had more fun bringing our own wines on board, from the retailers in Napa/Sonoma, and doing our own "tastings," than the structured fare offered. Still, great fun, with the right group of folk.


    1. If you enjoyed Sideways and want to spend a few days studying Pinot Noir this event is at the end of July in Oregon just south of Portland in McMinnville.

      1 Reply
      1. re: duck833

        Thank you Bill and Duck for your reply.

        Sadly, I am in Arkansas where there is really not much offered in the way of anything (except serenity and nature, which is why I love it here...but culture...not so much).

        I go to Colorado several times a year and will check out the Denver fare.

        I did love the movie Sideways, but not much of a Pinot Noir fan. Still sounds fun though and I bet I could learn a lot in general, not just about PN. I may flirt with this idea a bit. Thanks for the tip.

      2. Both of these are quite a distance from Arkansas, but you did say you were thinking of making it a vacation:

        Rather expensive, but very good, is the wine program at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa. Except for the introductory course, it may be in greater depth than you're looking for, but it is one of the best programs available.

        In Los Angeles there's a company called Learn About Wine that does evenings and more extended programs on a regular basis:

        I'd also echo the idea of checking your local colleges and junior colleges. Not sure about your part of the country, but wine is now a very popular subject, especially in the community education programs.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Midlife

          Than you SO much Midlife. Those suggestions are great as I was thinking of doing a more serious type of intensive workshop. I will check into those.

          Regarding community colleges, I was SHOCKED when found some community colleges in OKLAHOMA offering wine courses. Who knew? They were about the viticulture as opposed to learning varietals and tasting and such but I was so happy to see that.

          I live very close to Altus, Arkansas where we have Wiederkehr and Post wineries. They are pretty quaint. Being right off I-40 it is a great stop for one traveling through. Wiederkehr's has a nice restaurant. I should do a more informed post about these wineries in another thread.

          1. re: Amelie

            Next tiime you stop by Wiederkehr, ask them their full history - going back to the very beginning, and I mean the very beginning, though there may be some gaps, when the land lay fallow and the vines died. Pass on the Catawba, but try their Cab Sauvignon, but let it open up in the glass. Have not done their restaurant.


          2. re: Midlife

            Thanks for the links. We've been to CIA/Napa, but not for any of the programs. Had not thought about it. The LAW group, is totally new to me, but sounds and looks interesting.

            To Amelie, depending on where, in AR you are located, I'd wager that some major city - could be St. Louis, Dallas or Memphis (or maybe Little Rock, or even Hot Springs) has something to offer you. Though the vitacultural aspects of AR are geared more towards tourists, who want to pick up a bottle of "Catawba," there are some vineyards, that have a serious program. My mother's family started one of the early wineries, outside Russelville, but it has been sold maybe a dozen times, since. Still, I'll bet there are some, who take their wines seriously (and maybe themselves, not at all), not too far away, who'd be so very happy to have you stop by and let them share the more serious side of winemaking with you. Wish I had some names, but it's been too many years.



            1. re: Bill Hunt

              Wow, Hunt, that is interesting! Small world, indeed. I am not familiar with any old wineries outside of Russellville. One of my husband's business associates is a Post. I will have to get some info from him. Thanks for the tip on what to get at Wiederkehr's. I heard the Altus wineries are buying a lot of their grapes from elsewhere (and this before the big freeze last season). Should that matter? I dunno.

              Regarding the wine workshop is what I am specifically wanting to learn:

              I cannot taste all the micro flavors in wine. I LOVE wine, drink it, read about it, collect it, etc...BUT, I still cannot really dissect the flavors.

              Secondly, I am ready to start working on pairings instead of the fly by the seat of my pants luck of the draw wine/food choices I make.

              Regarding learning the flavors, do you think there is benefit to those kits you can buy with the little vials of different flavors and aromas?

              Thanks SO much for the help. How fun that you have ties to the Arkansas River Valley!

              1. re: Amelie

                I do not know Altus. Often, smaller, local (outside of the main US vitacultural areas, like CA, WA, OR, NY, etc.) wineries will buy grapes, or juice, from elsewhere. Some do it all of the time, and others, when they need to.

                For learning to dissect the various flavors, I'd recommend getting some like-minded friends around (6-8 works nicely, to finish off a bottle), and just taste. You do not need an "expert," to tell you what you taste. It'd be best, if all of the group really wants to explore, and learn about wine.

                Get a set of "proper" glasses and basically go about discussing what YOU find in the wine. What does it remind you of? Any aromas, or flavors that are familiar? In a group, you'll probably get some differences. Some will find things, that others cannot. Some will taste blackberry, while another might think of raspberry.

                Get a UC Davis (Ann C Noble's production) flavor wheel. Some wine shops (and wineries) sell them. I buy them in bulk and hand them out at our events as favors, or prizes. I don't have their URL handy, but the bookstore at UC Davis sells them individually. Use this for a reference. It also gives info on the types of aromas and flavors, that one is likely to encounter.

                Start broad with the basic elements: sweet, acid, etc., then see if you can refine the elements a bit - spice, is it cinnamon, or nutmeg, etc.?

                There will be no right, or wrong answers. As I said, some will find elements, that others cannot. No one is wrong. The more you dissect the wines, the better you will become. At some point, you might find yourself sniffing and swirling Aunt Marge's elderberry wine at a family event, or the very inexpensive Chardonnay served at a wedding, or other event. I try to get as much as I can, from every glass, that I consume. Sometimes, there is just not much. Other times, the flavors evolve and develop and just do not want to quit. Those are the moments (and wines), to savor and to remember. I still pour my cheap, everyday wines, into good glassware, and swirl n' sniff, until it is gone. Some complain that this is a waste of time, however, if I'm going to drink it, I want 100% of whatever it has to offer - and hope for the best.


                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  Oh thank you so much, Bill, for taking the time and effort for such an informative post. I will do exactly as you advise, and put some good practice may have just saved me a lot of money in travel and tuition fees!

                  I really enjoyed learning your perspective on wine and respect your mindful approach to it.

                  Happy Sniffing and Swirling,


          3. Amelie, I'd suggest another alternative. Get the Windows on the World Complete Wine Course (it's a book) by Kevin Zraly, 2008 edition and teach yourself. IMO, the best way to learn is to drink a lot of different wine and learn what you like. I also learn alot from people around me who know alot about wine. Gourmet Magazine did an evening wine course through The New School in NYC. It was pretty good. We tasted and discussed. As already suggested by another hound, if you can find a good wine shop in Arkansas go to their tastings and/or get a group of friends interested in wine and learn together. Many shops have complimentary tastings. They can be fun and another good way to learn about wine. I've learned alot but have so much more to learn.

            1 Reply
            1. re: financialdistrictresident

              edit: it might not have been the New School, maybe it was the Learning Annex?

            2. My partner and I just returned from a sojourn to the Finger Lakes, NY area and discovered the NY Wine and Culinary Centre, which offers a wide range of cooking and wine tasting courses at very reasonable prices. You can find yourself a nice lakeside B&B, attend the courses in the day, hit up some of the wineries the next day, maybe even try your hand at skiing at Lake Placid (about a 3 or 4 hour drive depending on where in the Finger Lakes area you are) or make the two hour drive to Niagara Falls.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Juniper

                wow, Juniper! You just planned my next vacation!

                And FDR, thanks for the at home tips as well! I htink I will do all of the above!