Saturday, March 7, 2015

Boston Wine School

My mother gave me the best birthday present everrr (and I guess my husband benefitted from it too). 

Last night we went to the Boston Wine School in Allston. The "school" was started by Jonathan Alsop to teach people about the art of drinking wine in a far less snobby way. The classes originated in his cellar but have moved to an actual location next to a liquor store (convenient). The classes have 15 people max and sell out quickly. They have a calendar with multiple classes each week at different prices. My mother got me a gift certificate for any class that included a dinner (some do, some don't) for the two of us. We decided to go with Wine, Cheese, and the Pursuit of Happiness. I mean, how perfect is that? 

It took 45 minutes to get there thanks to Friday traffic but we were happy to see that despite all the snow, there was actually parking. I know that is hard to come by in Allston. 

The "classroom" is in this cool room with exposed brick and a chalkboard that ran along the brick wall. The chalkboard had all kinds of interesting information about wine. There were tables set up into a U shape facing the chalkboard.

It was an intimate setting but didn't feel pretentious at all. The instructor was very inviting. Upon arrival, they were serving Spanish Cava (a sparkling wine much like Prosecco and Champagne made with different grapes and a different process. Ok so maybe it isn't too much alike compared to those two except that it is bubbly). We also had an appetizer with two types of bruschetta and fresh ricotta cheese. One had a rose jam and the other had a balsamic glaze with thyme. There was also soppressata which is basically an Italian salami. But much better than American salami. 

Once we had that, we dove into the wine and cheese world. The instructor paired the wines to go with the cheeses. We would try the wines without the cheese and then with the cheese. It was amazing to see the taste of the wine change. If you don't know what cheese to pick to go with your wine, go for a cheese that is made in the same general area as the wine. For example, choose a French wine to pair with a brie.

We tried a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand with a Chevre (goat cheese) from France. The Sauvignon Blanc was more on the tart side but with the strong cheese pairing, the wine became almost sweet. Next was a Beaujolais from eastern France with a Brie. Beaujolais (which I don't think I've had before) is made with Gamay grapes. Did you know that Europeans tend to name their wines after the region and Americans tend to name their wines after the grape varietal? That's why it can be confusing walking into a wine shop. A kind of Beaujolais, the Beaujolais Nouveau, has been heavily marketed in the US as a Thanksgiving wine even though the French don't celebrate Thanksgiving. Interesting, right?

We then went to Italy with a Tuscan Blend with Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Italy and most of Europe has really strict rules on the names of wines and how they are made. For example, a Chianti must be made a very specific way with specific grapes. Any wines that don't go by the "Chianti rules" but are made in Tuscany are often called Super Tuscan wines. This wine was an example. We paired this with a Robiola Due Latti cheese which was made with both sheep's and cow's milks. 

Our next pairing was Spanish with a Tempranillo wine and a Manchego cheese. I love Manchego and also loved this wine. This was our favorite wine of the night and it only sells for $11!!  Spanish wines are gaining popularity but weren't as well known as Italian or French wines because the Spanish tended to not export their wines. They would just drink them. Smart move. The last set was a French wine made from the Muscat grape so it was definitely sweet. It was paired with a Fourme d'Ambert which is a French blue cheese. This wine was made sweeter due to the stopping of fermentation with brandy when it was made.

While drinking wine and eating cheese, we learned the 7 "S's" of wine tasting which are See, Sniff, Swirl, Smell, Sip, Swish, and Spit. It was interesting to go through the process and talk about what we smelled in the wine and if we tasted anything in particular. I did not spit. I drank. Obviously.

After that, it was onto our dinner. I know, dinner after all of that wine and cheese? We were ready! The dinner was a "Night in Italy" as you can see on the menu. It was paired white and red Italian wines

The dinner was really good and not huge which was welcomed. Dessert is cut off at the bottom but it was a Strawberry Gateau. 

Overall we learned a lot and it was a welcoming environment. We were told to make it interactive which it was and we also got to know the couple sitting next to us. I definitely recommend it for a new kind of night out (or a grown-up night out). It is on the pricier side at $115 per person but you are getting a lot of wine and food. It would probably cost the same as going out to dinner at a nice restaurant then going out for drinks after. It was fun! 

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