Archive for January, 2009

Do You Need a Wine Professional for a Private Wine Tasting?

January 20th, 2009 • No Comments
Belly Dancer with Sword at Moroccan Cooking Class

Belly Dancer with Sword at Moroccan Cooking Class

OK, OK, this photo has nothing to do with the topic – but a Belly Dancer performed at a TasteDC Introduction to Moroccan Cooking Class yesterday and well, we were drinking Moroccan wine, so it’s kind of related – no?
Since I started TasteDC (http://www.tastedc.com) almost 12 years ago, I’ve probably received over 500 requests for private wine tastings.  I’ve gotten requests to do private wine tastings for wedding showers, birthday celebrations, corporate events, you name it, every event organizer at some point has considered a wine tasting as a great form of entertainment for a group – and it is!  Of course, I have to charge for my services (or I can’t “drink on the the job”!) and this is one of the dilemmas: can a small group of say 15 or less people afford the services of a wine Professional?  Second question, do you really need a wine professional for a private wine tasting?  Geeze, looks like I just put myself out of a job – or have I?  Let’s look a bit more at why someone organizes a wine tasting event.
Most people planning an event like a wine tasting are really thinking of a way to both draw alot of people and entertain them at an event.  Although many people drink wine in the U.S., they don’t much about it, but most wine drinkers are very curious about learning more.  Most event organizers are looking for a bit of education on wine, but more an opportunity for friends, fellow business workers or clients to mingle and frankly have a good time socializing.  I always ask a few questions when people first contact me:
-Do you have a location and date in mind? 
-Do you have an estimated head count?
-What is your budget – this is usually about the third question in because I like to check to see how serious the event organizer is – or if they’re just “shopping”, which is very acceptable, but actually a bit tricky to do when you hire a wine Professional – not one size fits all, we are all very different and have different specialties
Once I get an idea of the event planners interest, then I usually throw one or two ideas out at them: would they prefer a seated tasting with me as a speaker, or do they want something more casual where I speak for maybe 10 minutes about the basics of wine, and then their attendees can learn about the wine both from me mingling and from the wine tables set up, usually with food morsels nearby?  Often, I do something very unexpected–I tell them that it makes no sense to hire me or a wine professional at their event, that frankly, they’d be much better off just purchasing some wine and doing the event themselves.  I’m very passionate about setting up wine classes and I really enjoy getting in front of a group and talking about wine (I’m a bit of a ham!), but often for small groups they neither can afford me, or really need to use my services.  I often tell them to contact a local retailer, get some information on the wines from the internet, and pour away at their event.
So when should a wine tasting for a group have a wine Professional?  The answer is when they really want to create a positive impression for their group or organization.  Not only do I assist the planner with the venue, the food, the wine and the layout of the event, but I also have a very special connection with new wine drinkers.  I’ve been attending and teaching TasteDC’s Wine Basics 101 class since the very beginning of my affiliation and approximatley 16,000 people have attended this class.  My knowledge base comes from teaching first-time Newbie wine drinkers the basics of wine – it’s actually quite tricky, because I have to speak the new wine consumer’s language.  I’ve found the secret to communicating to Newbie wine consumers is to speak in plain English and talk about things they already understand–not everyone knows what a Sauvignon Blanc tastes like, but almost everyone has had grapefruit juice and had a dish with chives or thyme in it, and often these can be detected in the wine.  Not everyone knows how to pair wine and food, but getting them to understand that Italian wine often goes with Italian food, and light dishes with a crisp wine make alot of sense, these are things they can readily understand and identify.  As they say, you have to speak the person’s language and since wine language is hard to get at first, I use words in everyday usage.  Sure, I occasionally throw out words like retronasal cavity or cat pee (yes, and actual aroma that wine professionals express when they taste Sauvignon Blancs!) but mostly I talk about how wine is made, how to taste it, and some simple quick ways to catch on quickly.
Yes, you could organize your private wine tasting without a wine Professional like me, but we add alot of value to an event, and if you’re trying to entertain or create an impression, then I believe it’s a necessity.  Many of my private wine classes are for law firms and consulting firms where there are alot of “A” types, so I actually create a team building blind wine tasting for the second half of the event that is sort of like a game show – so they get to drink, learn and compete all at the same time, very popular with some groups!  My fee for speaking at events ranges on the size of the group and the day of the week, but it usually ranges from $25 to $50 per person, depending on the amount of time and organization involved. 
I’ll post another article on how to choose a wine professional for your event – the questions you may want to ask about them.
Charlie “I Drink On the Job” Adler

Top 20 Questions of Wine Newbies

January 3rd, 2009 • 3 Comments

Napa Tasting Room

Napa Tasting Room

It’s been a great time for me to work on my upcoming book “I Drink On the Job” – nothing is happening right now at www.tastedc.com, my full-time wine tasting gig, so I’ve put alot of thought and energy into the book.  Of course, my computer ate about 30 pages of material, go figure, but I’m coming on strong with plenty of verve, a bit less wine and Scotch in my system, but you gotta make choices!

So my most recent foray is to figure out what are the top 20 or so questions that newbie wine drinkers always ask about wine.  These questions are mostly derived from my Wine Basics 101 class which I’ve held or taught for the last 12 years and approximately 16,000 people have attended – if you feel there are other important questions for me to answer or resolve in the book, email me at [email protected], thanks:

Top 20 Questions/Comments That New Wine Drinkers Always Make:
1) Are more expensive wines better than cheaper ones?
2) What am I tasting?
3) The legs of wine in a glass tell you if the wine is good or not?
4) How does vintage make a difference?
5) What am I tasting?
6) Why can’t I taste all the things I’m supposed to in a wine or describe them?  What are the nuances of wine?
7) I need to purchase many different kinds of glassware to accentuate the nuances of wine?
8) Rieslings are sweet, so I keep away from sweet wines like that.
9) I prefer wines with cork closures, anyway wines with screwtops are cheap and crappy.
10) You’re supposed to sniff the cork when it’s given to you in a restaurant?
11) White wine with fish and red wine with meat?
12) I need to understand all the great and bad pairings before I can enjoy wine with food?
13) Wine ratings by critics are very objective, so I can just rely on them?
14) Organic wines are better for you and don’t contain sulfites?
15) When I sneeze when I drink wine, it’s because of the added sulfites?
16) Only France(or name a region) makes great wine because of their better location?
17) I can never figure out wine because it’s so confusing with so many labels, regions and confusing information, I’ll never be able to figure it out?

I didn’t quite reach 20, but I’m still working on this – gimme a holler if you think you can add some good ones – cheers!

Charlie “I Drink On the Job” Adler