Back to School

Tell me your wine and I’ll tell you if not WHO you are, then at least HOW you should learn more about this fermented grape elixir. I may get you wrong. I dunno. Maybe if Napa Cabs are your ride or die, it’s a sign that you are a true wine scholar. Actually, if your favorite Napa Cabs are from by Bond, maybe you ARE wise—that stuff is the s*#t. And right now I want to be sending all my love to Napa what with these fires. So let us move on. What I’m saying is, I can sometimes guess where someone is in their wine journey by what they are choosing to drink. This is also my attempt to humorously tell you some ways to educate your brains. No judgment here, you do you. She says as she pours just a smidge more…coffee. She (me) sometimes just needs that sort of fortification. I will be labeling the skill-level necessary by wine type preferred. It all begins with friendly, fruity, easy to digest intellectually (if not intestinally) wines. Then comes the moment you think only red will do and white is for wimps. There is likely a bubbly wine phase in there, but it could tie into the advanced level where the magic of white wine (your white Burgs, your Riesling beauties) is re-realized and adopted. Take all this with a grain of salt. Or a dash of your preferred wine. Either one. PS: I know I am missing some programs but wanted to only cite resources I had experience with! ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ LEVEL ONE: SANCERRE Oooh you discovered Sancerre. That is good! Sancerre is a beautiful thing, and I did (and do) value it as dependably tasty. But this discovery has made you want to level up. You’ve decided you’d like an actual education, or at least a better understanding of wine. Let these picks welcome you to the dark (blanc de noirs) side. The Online Wine Course Cristie Norman, a wise beyond her years and all-around solid hang (full disclosure, she’s a close friend but I only befriend the best) sommelier/wine educator created this course. This “drivers’ ed for wine” would be helpful and fun for all ages. I had the pleasure of test-driving this, and were I somm-ing in a restaurant, I’d proudly wear the charming grape pin you get when you take the final test and pass. It moves very quickly, but is easy to navigate if you want to go back and retake portions. Cristie is engaging, funny, warm, welcoming but also exacting and just detailed enough to really break wine down in an easy to follow and focused way. Get that pin! “Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine” by Mark Oldman I think I’ve mentioned this one before, but it truly is the first book I read that…I don’t know—made it all make sense? And I still consult the pronunciation guides. NOT A LEVEL, JUST A SIGN YOU STAY CURRENT: ORANGE WINE You may have some work to do to fill in your knowledge of wine history and winemaking, so also take a look at the Sancerre level. But you will also verily enjoy Alice Feiring if you haven’t already. BUT! For educational purposes I would say my favorite work of Feiring’s is “The Dirty Guide to Wine”. Seriously if you want to be a Soil Geek this is your book. It is the one that helped me get a reasonably improved grip on the confusing the way we speak of soil. Because sometimes it is categorized by texture (sand, clay, etc.), and sometimes it is categorized by how it was formed. To put it as simply as I can in this brief article, you’ve got igneous (whether from lava or the innards of the earth), sedimentary (includes all sorts of limestone, baby!) and metamorphic. I find the texture talk around metamorphic type even more slippery but…just read this book. Alice does it better justice than I can. Also she is a member of the legion of redhead wine women. She may not know I admitted her. Neither does Karen MacNeil. But I like to flatter myself that we are like kinda sorta colleague-ish to put it very maturely. LEVEL TWO: NAPA CAB OR ROSÉ BUT MAKE IT DRY! Now you know some wine things. And you know you know some wine things. Like that you like expensive Napa Cab. Although to be fair, who doesn’t? That juice can be delicious. You also know rosé isn’t always sweet and you maybe even have an idea of how to read the various styles of German wine label, or what a first growth is. You may even know a wine with big legs don’t equal high quality. Champagne MOOC You are now open to diving a bit deeper into specialized topics. And if you like Napa Cab, I am guessing you have a reasonable wine budget, so maybe you want to learn more about expensive treats like Champagne? Well, save your money for the bubbles and try the MOOC Champagne course for free. It offers a wealth of classes walking you through the topic. I found it a bit wonky to work with but the information is good—and if you want more there is a subscription level too! Matthew’s World of Wine and Drink Podcast A Brit giving you basic WSET facts basically, which is to say it is dry as hell but very, very, thorough. Some things you may need to fact-check on older episodes (things like, such-and-such grape is the most planted, this country exports the most, etc. things that change year to year. Wine Tasting: Sensory Techniques for Wine Analysis by UC Davis All about tasting! If you want to get into the hows, whys, and wherefores of wine tasting this is for you. It has a friendly course leader, includes flights he sets up in advance, and rather conveniently you can read the transcript and save notes. It is free to audit first module then, a modest fee to take exams and get a certificate—I have to be honest, I haven’t bought this yet but from what was outlined it seems quite comprehensive and from a trusted source, if a bit dry. LEVEL WHATEVER: YOU’RE LEARNING TO LOVE VOUVRAY This level is for courses with a variety of levels, much like Vouvray and its variety sweetness levels, there’s one out there for everyone. If you wanna get in and get a very basic idea about wine and get out and never drink Chenin Blanc again, you can. Or you can go down the wine rabbit hole. These are multi-level courses. Wine and Spirit Education Trust I’ll put it to you this way, level one is a one-day deal, and so basically I skipped it because I had read a few wine books (including ones I mentioned in LEVEL ONE: SANCERRE!). Level Two gets a bit more in-depth. By level three you will tear your hair out a bit, and start stressing on your ability to blind taste. Then comes Diploma, largely considered a precursor to applying for the Master of Wine degree. Diploma takes two years minimum if you pass everything on your first try. A lot of people need multiple stabs at the various tests/papers that treat on everything from viticulture and vinification, to fortified wines, to the nightmare Unit three, which might make you, want to reconsider wine degrees. I have but one unit, the sparkling one left to assay. Pray for me. The WSETs will teach you much, but be prepared to devote major time to them and question life itself if you go past level two. The Court of Master Sommeliers The Court of Master Sommeliers, for all its recent controversy, will teach you at whatever level you are ready to dive in albeit I believe you start at level one no matter your experience. Granted, I wouldn’t spend too much time with them if you don’t want to be a sommelier in a restaurant. After the Certified Sommelier level, I had zero desire to continue to practice service. I serve with wine words; you can open the bottle for yourself. But if you want to open the bottle for others continuing with the Court may be your bag. LEVEL THREEE-ISH: WHITE BURGUNDY Like all good winos you have returned to the magic and joy of white wine. Many (see Napa Cab) misguidedly think that white wine has less to offer, and oh how wrong they are. This level is for you if you are in too deep. There is no return from White Burg. Not all the information in the following resources is advanced but the nerdery is. Guildsomm Okay technically there is a lot of good, medium-level education stuff here. But if you are active on this site, you probably already work in wine, and you probably want access to gems like the Compendium when you desperately need to know what the max yield allowed is for DOC Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro. Also the message boards are full of MW and MS nerds geeking out together over all wine and beverage topics big and small. This is the site for me. They have a podcast too. Tune in. I love Guildsomm. “Wine Grapes” by Jancis Robinson This book is one even I haven’t even read cover to cover. But I use it as a reference when I want to know more than I possibly really want to know about a grape. Which I do want, when I have tests and such to pass. If you simply MUST have the Somm films, as well as a host of other nerdy food and wine movies, as well as extensive footage of somm-elebrities blind-tasting each other, as well as a constant stream of the nerdy and the beautiful wine people talking all things wine, go ahead now and get a subscription. I think it is around 60 bucks these days for a year? I’ve already renewed. Oh! And they also have a podcast should your eyeholes be tired but your lust for the voices of pretty somms doing their thing be unquenched…. So, these are just a few of my pet picks…let me know what you use to learn! And what your level of wine-love is! ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Want to read more from Ellen? Check out her recent articles: More Than Port It’s a Can-demic Ellen in Lalaland Pandemic-Style Pink Velvet, If You Please: Old World Old World vs. New World: Sauvignon Blanc Fast Food Slow Wine: Let’s Support Local Pizza! You can also listen to Ellen's podcast , The Wine Situation here . Check out her recent transcripts of the Final Five questions: Wine Situation Final Five! With Lydia Richards Wine Situation Final Five! With Kiersten Dolbec

Daheuiller (Domaine des Varinelles)

Crémant de Loire Brut Rosé Champagne Blend

100 percent Pinot Noir this wine neither whispers nor screams but it is not boring to listen to. Is it Ira Glass? I don’t know but it is a bit strawberry and freshness and a smidge of pleasant salinity. The toasty notes are downplayed. Good for fun and for more august wine thoughts. Especially august in August. — 3 years ago

Eric, Paul and 17 others liked this

Vignobles Lacheteau

Vouvray Chenin Blanc 2018

Totally delightful. An off-dry delight that quenched my thirst and stoked my thirst for Chenin for life. Grinnin’ for Chenin? Nice balance of apples n pears and lanolin. Not exceedingly expressive when really cold so make it dinner, caress it’s punt and wait for it to open up. — 4 years ago

Ellen, Paul and 20 others liked this
Ellen Clifford

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@Severn Goodwin uh-oh did I cross a line?
Ellen Clifford

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@Severn Goodwin @Paul T- Huntington Beach oh wait, realizing Severn was replying to Paul. Paul you have great fashion sense.
Severn Goodwin

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@Ellen Clifford I'm not sure there is a line...

Moulin Jamet

Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc 2018

Bougie Sancerre night. But also not because it is from Trader Joe’s. Not bad. Like much Sancerre these days I feel like it...doesn’t taste like what I think of when I drink Sancerre. Tasty enough though with an oddly bit not unpleasant mouth coating minerality. I’ll take it. — 4 years ago

Paulo, Neil and 16 others liked this

Zurab Kviriashvili Vineyards

Rkatsiteli 2018

All hail the skin contact tannins! It’s orange wine with grit in in the good way. This wine is mighty! — 4 years ago

Chris, Bob and 13 others liked this

Domaine Leflaive

Mâcon-Verzé Chardonnay 2016

What Chardonnay wants to be. It’s Chardonnay on a great hair day. — 5 years ago

Kristin, Bob and 30 others liked this
Tyler Martinelli

Tyler Martinelli

Un-oaked white burgundy is bae. ❤️🍷

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars

Artemis Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

The juice, the energy, the dammit I don’t want it to be so tasty but...Artemis got you. Because she’s a goddess and says so. I mean, there are other deities. Ones more powerful or whatevs but I’ll run through the woods with this for a night — 4 years ago

Greg, David and 29 others liked this


Terrassen Pinot Noir Rosé Blend 2018

This is rather fabulous. Minerals. Pink grapefruit. Very refreshing and zippy. It makes me feel like I shattered a geode in my mouth but like in a good way. Actually that sounds terrible just know this is all the dignified sparkle you could hope for. — 4 years ago

Greg, Severn and 17 others liked this


Yum! Cheers!🌹
Ellen Clifford

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@Trixie cheers!! 💕