Thank you to the Culinary Institute of America at Copia for generously providing complimentary passes for my husband and I to attend this class. However, the review and opinions are all my own.
Those of us living in the San Francisco Bay Area are so lucky to be only a short drive away from the beautiful Napa Valley. A premier viticulture region with over 400 wineries and world-class restaurants. There is so much to see, taste and experience in this gorgeous area.
I like wine and enjoy cooking with it. There is a multitude of health benefits linked with moderate wine consumption due to it’s high antioxidant content: reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and improved cognitive function to name a few. While I’ve done my fair share of wine tasting, I am by no means a wine expert. It can be a little intimidating when everyone in a tasting room is commenting on the various subtle sensory notes of a wine as they swirl their glasses around….”I detect a dry, medium acidity, citrus notes, hints of vanilla and stone fruits, with new world origins”. Huh?! So, when The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Copia offered a class on “How to taste wine in 90 seconds”, I knew this was right up my alley!
We arrived at the expansive Copia facility, located conveniently in downtown Napa.
After admiring their wine hall of fame wall and learning some interesting facts about famous winemakers in the region, we took our seats in the classroom.
With stadium style tiered seating, everyone had a good view. Our instructor was an expert in the field and told stories about the many wine competitions she has judged. She had a sense of humor so we all had fun while learning at the same time. We were told that the founders of CIA believed wine was an important part of the culinary process and “the more you taste the better you get”. Now there’s a subject I wouldn’t mind studying for!
The class began with a short video of a student taking the certified sommelier examination. In mere seconds he was able to expertly decipher the exact region, acidity, year, and soil type of the wine he was tasting. It was intense and showed just how complex wine is. There were five different wines concealed in brown bags in the front of the class. These were the wines we would be blind taste testing, later to be revealed at the end of class.
Large screens allowed everyone to easily follow along in class. We also had helpful handouts to take notes on and bring home for future reference.
Even though wines can be incredibly complex, our instructor simplified the process by having us break down each tasting into 4 distinct categories with specific time frames for each category, totaling 90 seconds:
- SIGHT (20 seconds): Clarity: is the wine clear, hazy or opaque? Brightness: dull, bright, brilliant. What is the core color? What is the viscosity (how does it bead on the side of the glass when you swirl it around?)
- NOSE (30 seconds): Are there fruit scents? Common fruits are apple, lemon, peach, tropical, melon. Non fruit scents? Examples are flowers, herbs, nuts, butter, peppers, spices, bread. Do you taste any mineral (stone, chalk, granite, shells) or oak (baking spices, vanilla, dill, coconut) components?
- PALATE (30 seconds): What is the sweetness level: sweet, off dry or dry? Body: does it taste light, medium or full? Alcohol and acid content: low, medium or high?
- CONCLUSION (10 seconds): Putting it all together, what kind of wine do you think it is? More importantly, do you like it?!
We were swirling, sniffing, sipping and taking notes.
We were all having the best time. It was informative and enjoyable.
My husband who is more of a “beer guy”definitely enjoyed the class. We both learned a lot and appreciated having a creative date day together.
After we tasted all the wines and had lively conversations about each one, the bottles were finally revealed. There were some surprises and we learned that excellent wine doesn’t necessarily have to cost a lot. We left happy and more educated about wine. Off we went with our detailed handouts on tasting grids and sensory spectrums to further study at home.
On our way out, we passed through their neat gift shop.
We picked up some new items for our kids who love to cook.
So much cool stuff to browse: glassware, cookbooks, kitchen utensils.
Tasting all that wine worked up an appetite so we then stopped by their restaurant.
With seasonally-inspired menus expertly paired with their curated selection of wines, beers and cocktails, The Restaurant at CIA was a highlight of our visit.
Next time you’re in Napa, be sure to stop by the CIA. You can take a tour, visit the gift shop, dine at the restaurant and I highly recommend taking one of their classes! There are so many to choose from, there is something for everyone. Their kids baking classes are especially fun.
Your next trip to Napa isn’t complete without at stop at the Culinary Institute of America. Cheers!