Category Archives: Wine Schools

Wine Wednesday: Petite Arvine from Ottin (Valle d’Aosta)

Ottin Petite Arvine

This week’s blizzard has really made me miss ife on the slopes, all of it. I always remember the panini with speck and asiago cheese that I would eat when skiing in Italy and the desire to drink Vin Brule but the knowledge that too much of it would make me a worse skier. Hopefully, a settimana bianca will again be part of my life as Niccolo’ learns to ski and wants to go. It’s a great tradition in Italy that I miss.

This week’s wine of the week for wine wednesday is about Petite Arvine from Ottin. It was very clear and crisp with nice minerality and acidity. A straight-forward wine, “franco” the Italians wood say.

This is a fresh and friendly white wine which is a perfect drink on the mountains after a tough day on the slopes or after a hike in that beautiful countryside. I’ve always had it with mountain cheese such as Fontina DOP, charcuterie such as Jambon de Bosses DOP, Lard d’Arnad or alone as an aperitif.

I wish I had great pictures from the Valle d’Aosta. It is such a marvelous and special place. I have been skiing there a number of times (Monte Cervino, Monte Bianco, La Thuile) in my years in Italy and each time came back with a renewed respect for the mountains, the land and the wines. I have not spent much time there during the summer but I am sure the hiking rivals the skiing.

Each year they have an exposition for their wines in September. The association is called the Associazione Viticulteurs Encaveurs. In Italian, the term “viticultura eroica” means that those harvesting the wines are basically “heros” because it is so difficult in terms of the slope of the terraces.

In terms of wine production, there are a number of cooperatives as well as many individual producers. I also learned that some 40% of the members of the cooperatives are women, a fact I found quite interesting.

I spent a long time with a sommelier from the Valle d’Aosta at VInitaly one year. He was so incredibly well prepared and knowledgeable that I felt I had taken a trip through the region and through the vineyards with him. In fact, I highly suggest going to the sommelier booths at Vinitaly in years to come. You learn a lot and can taste many wines. I went on the last day of the fair at 900 AM and was alone with him for about one hour. I realize not everyone has that luxury. I felt very lucky that I did. It was one of my favorite tastings at the fair and among the most instructive.

For now, just an invitation and a suggestion – visit the Valle d’Aosta on your next holiday, winter or summer and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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Filed under Indigeous varieties, Valle d'Aosta, Wine of the Week, Wine of the Week, Wine Schools, Wine Wednesday, wines

Women in Wine Fridays: An Interview with Harriet Lembeck from the Wine & Spirits Program

Harriet's Photo Color

Today’s interview is with Harriet Lembeck of the Wine & Spirits Program in New York City. The program was originated by the late Harold J. Grossman in 1940. Harriet Lembeck, CWE, CSS*, has continued this mission since 1975 and the course has been given continuously to this day. Harriet was also Wine Director of the New School for 15 years. She is the author of the 6th and 7th editions of “The Grossman Guide to Wines, Beers, and Spirits”, Chairman of the NY Wine Press, and is a frequent guest on radio and TV, as well as a frequent judge at wine competitions around the world.

I have known Harriet for a number of years and finally had the occasion to share a table with her at a tasting a couple of weeks ago. I am intrigued by her knowledge and dedication to the field. I also like her quick wit. Someone made a very sexist comment at the tasting and Harriet didn’t skip a beat to respond to the comment. I was doubly impressed.

1. How did you get into the wine business?

I took a wine class given by the late Harold G. Grossman, and at the end of the term, he asked me to work for him. The rest is history.

2. What has been the hardest part of the wine business for you in terms of gender issues, if any?

Getting passed over for speaking engagements or seminars, both by the trade or even consumer groups who hold tastings and need a speaker. The guy always gets the gig, even if you are convinced that you know more than he does.

3. What trends and changes have you seen since you started? What do you see happening in the next 5-10 years in your sector of the business?

More women are taking wine classes. They are serious about possible careers in the wine business, and they study very hard. Also, there are more and more wine classes available, and students have choices. Previously, there were only a few classes – most notably my class: the Wine & Spirits Program, Mary Ewing Mulligan MW’s classes at the International Wine Center, and Kevin Zraly’s the Windows on the World Wine School. Today students can also take classes on line, and compare their tasting notes with the notes of others.

4. What do you see happening in wine education?

As noted, it is becoming less structured, with more use of the Internet, both for doing research and for attending webinars.

5. What is happening in terms of varietals? International varietals?

Interest in varietals is exploding. Those who only knew the important grapes of Burgundy and Bordeaux can now recite uncommon varieties from all corners of the wine world. Those who never knew what grapes were in the glass in their hands now have to know the grapes in every glass before they can begin to taste the wine. Books like Wine Grapes, by Jancis Robinson’, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz have greatly simplified the entire field, and made live easier for other researchers.

6. What tops or sectors are people most interested in learning about?

People want to know how to get into the ‘wine business’ –as if it were a single entity. They like the glamour, and are not interested in all of the laborious paperwork that comes along with it, or the heavy lifting of all those cases.

7. What do you think about the level of wine education in the US today?

The level of Wine Education is very high – poor teachers find few repeat students. The field is very competitive. If you aren’t a good teacher, and students don’t feel that they are learning anything, the word gets out quickly. The teachers who prepare thoroughly have the best reputation.

8. Do you think we are still focused on France, Italy and California?

We are focused on wines from all over the world, and even when France, Italy and California are mentioned, it is the more obscure corners of those countries that command attention.

9. Who is the average wine drinker today?

There is no ‘average’ – it’s a game anyone can play. People get wine advice all the way from Robert Parker to their best friends, but the younger wine drinkers, over 21 of course, are more adventurous.

10. Where are women going to be in the industry in the next 10 years?

There will probably be more women working in big companies, many will be making wine, and many will be advising restaurants on food and wine combinations and creative pairings.

* Certified Wine Educator, Certified Specialist of Spirits


Filed under Wine Educators, Wine Schools, wines, Women in Wine

Wine Wednesday: Hanzell Vineyards Chardonnay 2010

Laguna Seca

California has been on my mind since a recent trip there in late September. While there I tasted a number of interesting Chardonnays but I must say my new favorite, I came late to the party, is the Hanzell Vineyards Chardonnay that I tasted at the Frederick Wildman tasting last month. This winery from Sonoma was first on my radar while working at Maslow 6 wine shop in 2010. The owners seemed partial to this wine and I never knew why. Now I do.

It had beautiful aromas and flavors that you would expect of Chardonnay, apples and pears, creamy, buttery notes but it also had minerality and the toasty, nutty, yeasty flavors that I so enjoy. I found the use of oak to be quite balanced as well. It was long and harmonious in the mouth with a beautiful finish. I was also very happy to meet one of the most courtly fellows in the wine industry that day, Tony Didio.

Speaking of California, while out there at Laguna Seca, I had the chance to catch up with David Glancy of the San Francisco Wine School.

I know David from the Society of Wine Educators conferences. David, a Master Sommelier (MS) has launched an online wine school which awards a California Wine Appellation Specialist certificate. I am considering enrolling next year but first I must finish my French Wine Scholar program. Having taken numerous classes with David through the years, I am sure his online class with be both informative and fun. I highly recommend it.

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Filed under California, Society of Wine Educators Conference, Sommeliers, USA Wineries, Wine Educators, Wine of the Week, Wine Schools, wine wednesday, wines

Wine Schools Around Country, Globe – Tuscan Wine School

I decided to start a new column on my blog about wine educators and wine schools. The idea came to me after having attended the Society of Wine Educators conference in Orlando. So many talented people are teaching and we don’t hear enough about them or their schools/venues/classes. My first installment though is about a wine school I discovered when I was in Florence in July called the Tuscan Wine School.

Tuscan Wine School

I didn’t get to speak with anyone there because it was closed the day I went, a Sunday, but it looked like an interesting school with WSET classes as well as other programs. It is located on one of my favorite streets, Via dei Bardi in the Oltrarno where I used to live. If you are in Florence, look them up, it looks like an interesting place to spend an evening.

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Filed under Italian regions, Italian wineries, Tuscany, Wine Educators, Wine Schools