Creating Community, One Sip at a Time

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When we came up with the schedule for our One Sip at a Time series, we were a bit worried when the second installment happened to fall on Valentine’s Day.  Surely everyone will be having a romantic meal out (or in!) that day, or celebrating in some way.

Well, we were wrong!  The response to all of our classes for this year has been wonderful, but for this class, Tasting and Talking about Reds, it was overwhelming.  We were thrilled that so many of you signed up, and sorry that not everyone who was interested could attend.  If only our classroom were bigger!

It was a great class, as usual, made even better by the festive day, and the fact that so many people dressed in red and pink, which brightened up our rather plain classroom.

This time Doug tested out a new tasting grid, and it seemed to be a big success.  Tasting notes that focus on specific aromas and flavors often leave tasters scratching their heads, especially when obscure fruits and flowers are used (whiff of elderflower, anyone?).  Most Americans have never had a gooseberry, rendering the note most often used in the British wine press to describe Sauvignon Blanc basically useless.  They might as well be talking about snozzberries from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory!

Using this new tasting format allows tasters to focus on intensity of fruit and fruit character, and on big-picture structural elements of a wine like acidity and tannin.  Tasters can focus on the elements of wine that will most influence whether they like or dislike a wine.  The format also lets tasters move through the process of tasting and absorbing a wine more quickly, because no one is becoming stymied in the ‘aroma’ section of the traditional grid, trying to figure out whether the apple aroma they’re smelling is Honeycrisp or Granny Smith (some of us nerds could do this all day, but that’s why we’re in the wine business!).  It also makes it easier to pick out patterns in your likes and dislikes to figure out what kinds of wine you enjoy.

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What has really struck us, though, is that these classes serve a bigger need than the need to feel less awkward when talking to a sommelier in a restaurant.  This is a great thing to know how to do, and is still the goal of these classes, but they’re creating community as well.

In a place like McLean, there aren’t a lot of fun, casual ways to ‘hang out’ that aren’t a bar or a restaurant, where it can be all too easy to overspend.  There’s Starbucks, but with all of the plugged-in laptops, most coffee shops these days feel like an office space than a place to connect.

We’re desperate here in the suburbs for a ‘third place,’ to meet new people, to learn, to connect, in a low-pressure environment.  Our classes seem to be doing this for many of you.  Participants are becoming ‘regulars’ at our classes, are bringing friends and family members, and lingering after the class is over to chat with us and each other.

We couldn’t be happier to see this happening.  Most of us get into the wine business not just because we love wine, but because we love how wine makes people happy and brings them together.  Watching this happen right here in our little basement classroom is more thrilling than any expensive bottle, grand tasting, or exciting trip.

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So, what can we do to keep this going beyond our monthly One Sip at a Time classes? Let us know!


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