We began the workshop with champagne, and it was immediately my favourite Renaissance Women gathering. Everyone oohed and ahhed at the table set for 14, almost covered in shiny wine glasses and 14 place settings.
“Wine appreciation” made it onto our list of skills to learn sort of as a joke, but it easily topped “kill a chicken” in the voting round and Sheila wasted no time in organizing the event. She brought us to the home of Alfons Obererlacher, the Vancouver Island Sales Representative for Free House Wine & Spirits Ltd. Alfons’s friend and neighbour Mike Gelling, a sales representative for International Cellars Inc., was our co-instructor.
With 14 giddy women seated, we began our “lesson” with five different white wines: a grigio (Italy’s gris), a New Zealand sauvignon blanc, a riesling, an ehrenfelser (I’d never heard of this before: it’s a cross between silvaner and riesling grapes) and an oaked chardonnay.
Step 1: smell with your nose
(I’m not being a smart ass: apparently you can also smell through the back of your mouth, when air hits your sinuses. That came later.)
I’ve consumed a lot of wine in my decade of drinking, but I’ve never taken the time to smell five individual glasses of wine. The grigio smelled of freshly-cut grass or hay. The riesling brought back memories of cheap wine downed for the buzz as my girlfriends and I primped for the bar in our twenties. Maeve smelled the ehrenfelser and exclaimed “cheese!” It smelled like brie. Mike and Alfons explained that chardonnays are flavourless, bland wines until the winemaker struts his/her stuff: a chardonnay is a blank canvas that can be manipulated, like this one had been, with its oak barrel. Strangely, it smelled of cigarettes.
Step 2: sip
This is when our workshop instructors blew my mind. I’d learned about the different tastes back in high school, but I wasn’t drinking wine in high school. Alfons and Mike reintroduced us to the five tastes: sweet, bitter, savory (also called umami), salty and sour. They challenged us to move the wine around in our mouths to see what we tasted, and also to “smell” the wine by breathing air on it while tasting.
Wowee. The grigio was the most explosive when tasted this way: it was like fireworks in my mouth. Patti described it as sucking on one of those sour fizzy candies. Some wines were consistent (e.g. the sauvignon blanc, the riesling). The chardonnay was a crowd pleaser.
Step 3: eat and drink
Alfons served us chantrelles and onions, and a romaine-beet-feta salad. Tasting a bite of something, then drinking one of the wines, was an illuminating experience. I’d never understood the concept of wine pairings, but some of the wines definitely tasted gawdawful with the food, while others were excellent.
At this point we drank or dumped any leftover wine into a pitcher. I can’t talk about this because it makes me sad.
Step 4: repeat with the reds
Our glasses were refilled with five reds. By this point, we were all very happy.
We huffed an oaked pinot noir with its black cherry, ripe raspberry smell. We tilted our glasses and held them up against a white background: an orange tinge means the wine has been aged, or aged in a barrel. When we eventually drank the pinot noir everyone made puckery noises: it dried out our mouths. I love grenache (or “garnacha” as I pronounced it to a liquor store clerk once: I was drinking Spanish bottles then), but the grenache-shiraz smelled “punky” and dried my tongue.
The zinfandel from Cline Winery in California was a favourite, with its clean fruity smell and taste. It’s my new default wine to bring to a party or serve with dinner: it was lovely with the pork and chicken Alfons served us.
The malbec smelled like cotton candy (Patti’s description), while the syrah reminded me of campfires. The latter tasted heavy and dense, coating my tongue and teeth with fur. We all felt warmer after drinking it: it would be an excellent wine after a day outside in the winter. I gave it two smiley faces in my notebook, but I was a little drunk and possible reckless with my grading scale.
In Vino Veritas
Seriously, wine appreciation? Is that justifiable as a re-skilling workshop? We joked that, in the event of an apocalypse, we’d learned exactly which sections of the liquor store to loot first. Invaluable life skills.
This workshop was really about slowing down. It took us 2.5 hours to drink two glasses of wine and a glass of champagne. A glass of wine can be an experience (and an adventure) in itself, if we take the time to smell and taste it. Re-skilling is about re-learning how to do basic things – and what’s more basic than eating and drinking?
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Here are some how-tos I’ve picked up sporadically throughout my 31 years:
How to clean a ceramic teapot
Rinse the teapot with water. Dump in a bunch of baking soda. Wait 5 seconds, then wipe the teapot with a wet cloth, smooshing around the baking soda. It’ll be spotless, and without using any gross chemicals. This works for tea-stained and coffee-stained mugs/dishes too.
How to get your kids to read
Learned from my parents:
- read to them
- read in front of them
- take them to the library at least once a week so they can check out lots and lots of books
- don’t make them feel guilty about library late fees
- optional: give gifts of books at Christmas time (especially on Christmas Eve to help calm excited nerves and get everyone to sleep)
How to get a job
Don’t wait for job postings. Think of what you might want to do, then:
- Google local people who do that job, then email them and ask if you can take them for lunch/coffee and ask some questions. If they don’t think you’re creepy, you will be top-of-mind when an opportunity arises. NOTE: this doesn’t work for freelance or entrepreneurial jobs. You are their future competition.
- Tell your friends and family you want to work in a specific area. Inevitably someone knows someone. Then: see #1 above.
- In the meantime, stalk job postings (all of them, not just the classifieds, and not just one website) and apply for anything you’re somewhat qualified for. One of my favourite jobs came from applying for an entry-level job — they saw my resume and skills, and hired me for the (better) job they hadn’t yet posted.
How to find your love partner
- Do what you like to do, whether it’s a dance class, political activism, a book club, a sports team, etc. You already have something in common with everyone you meet, so you’re halfway there. If there aren’t any date-able options in your activities, see #2 below.
- Tell your friends that you want to date new people. Tell them what you’re looking for. At the very least, you’ll have lots of dates as a result. In our 20s, my girlfriends and I hosted “New People Happy Hours” at a local bar. We handed out invitations to interesting single people we met in the weeks beforehand, and challenged friends and coworkers to bring their single friends. It was awesome.
- Have fun by yourself. I met Brock when I went to a gay friend’s birthday party. I did not expect any straight men to be there. And I was sick too. But I went because I knew it would be a fun party, and once I got there I found out the birthday boy had a present for me: a tall, straight, single man.
How to emergency-iron wrinkled clothes
Use a hot-air hair dryer. You can even do this while still wearing the item of clothing. Be careful not to stretch the fabric with your hand while drying, though, because the fabric will stay stretched-out until you wash it.
How to shave your legs
A friend told me this before she trained as an esthetician … perhaps she’s learned a better method since: use body lotion instead of shaving cream. You moisturize your skin while shaving.
Not much for 31 years! Post your own below so I can learn more, please.Continue Reading »