I drink, therefore I am…learning

I drink, therefore I am…learning

When the opportunity arose to take a class in “pest management,” I was mightily tempted to make jokes about how I could at last learn to deal with teenagers or—perhaps, more useful—the phone solicitors from the NYU Alumni Association. But the truth is, I’m trying to learn more about wine. Wine is not a bother by any means (to the contrary! It must be 5 o’clock somewhere, so let’s break out the rosé), but pests can obstruct its creation. So, to better understand the grape and its sensitivities, I soon will be taking a vineyard class taught by the godfather of Virginia wine himself, Gabriele Rausse.

One great thing about living here is that if you are a learner, like me, if you appreciate what a structured class can do for your love of something new, then you’ll never run short of opportunities on the subject of wine.

And here, let’s raise a glass of Monticello AVA Meritage to Piedmont Virginia Community College.

That’s where the pest instruction will take place—and a whole bunch of other courses this summer and fall (wine analysis, custom crush, canopy management, etc.). In fact, as has been reported in this column more than once, PVCC offers a series of classes that can even lead to a certificate in enology—and one in viticulture, too. I had a rollicking time a couple of months ago learning more about the art and science of wine tasting at an all-day PVCC affair led by Matthieu Finot, the enthusiastic French winemaker at King Family Vineyards. (I also learned anew the highly important value of spitting when you’re working your way through eight hours of wine tasting!) Through its Workforce Services division, PVCC is equipping a new crop of people for employment in Albemarle County’s (and Virginia’s) expanding wine industry. Yay them!

Not that your options for getting better educated on wine are restricted to formal-sounding instruction. Every wine shop in town has in its best interests to get you schooled on varietals and vintages. To them, it’s called building a customer base. To you, it’s called free wine served with a side of information. Tastings, Beer Run, Greenwood Gourmet, Market Street Wineshop, Rio Hill Gourmet, Wine Warehouse and sometimes even Whole Foods—they all offer tastings on the weekends (I’ve probably missed a few and hereby offer advance apologies if so). Be cautioned that if you plan to make the complete circuit, you should use the spit bucket or bring a DD.

While we’re at it, don’t forget the area wineries themselves. You aren’t likely to get a full explanation of irrigation practices or the tiny sap-suckers known as Phylloxera, but for $5 or so (the price of a tasting glass) you’ll get a full flight of whites and reds and a chance to get the story of the wines from some of the people closest to it. Bonus: Your “lessons” take place out in the gorgeous Central Virginia countryside.

Wine is meant to be consumed with food, of course, and cuisine-obsessed as we are around here, it’s no surprise that so many restaurants (ranging from Clifton Inn to X Lounge and Brick Oven) pair up with wineries and retailers to present wine dinners. Expect leisurely but caring explanations of the wines—and of the food. Go hungry to these long and rich affairs and then call a cab, for sure. That’s one setting where you might not want to spit in the face of education.