Friday, November 25, 2011


Thursday before Thanksgiving...most people in the wine world love to celebrate this special day--the release of that year's Beaujolais Nouveau.  I found myself in the Windy City and had scouted a place I was hoping to go to that day to toast the young, fun wine.  I found a spot online, and the establishment even had several good reviews, but I don't want to name the bar because this blog really isn't about them; it's about something much bigger.  I thought sure this would be my in-the-city, Nouveau experience, but it was evident I was wrong from the instant I sat down.  The waitress came over, and I excitedly asked if they had any Nouveaus on the menu for that night.  The young girl looked at me like I was a specimen stuck to the bottom of her shoe and said she would check, but I knew she wasn't going to check as she acted completely put out by my question.  I'm still not sure if she knew about the release date or didn't know and that's why she was so snotty to us.  But the snotty behavior continued when the two friends I was with (who do not drink, let alone drink wine) only ordered food items.  It overall was just not a good experience, and I didn't get any 2011 Beaujolais!  : (

 However, I digress.  This blog isn't to complain about any establishment.  I've worked in the service industry, maybe our waitress was just having a bad day.  What bothered me about this experience is the issue I see many times over again in the wine industry, and that is the need for some people to try to belittle others' knowledge or experience with wine.  One of the parts I love about being a sommelier and wine educator is taking that fear away from wine, especially for wine novices.  People in the wine industry need to spread their knowledge to others, not just try to prove to others how incredibly smart they are by making people feel dumb.  Wine is intimidating enough without servers and professionals making drinkers uncomfortable.  This was the first wine bar my two friends had ever been to.  I was hoping it was going to be such a positive experience, and they would want to learn more about wine or go to another wine bar some time.  However, instead of a positive experience, my friends took away even more intimidation from the wine industry.  The stereotype of snooty, unfriendly wine people was passed on to these wine beginners, who now have absolutely no desire to venture any further into the world of wine.  An opportunity to bring two more people over to the wine side was lost...and probably gone forever.

When I was telling some people about this experience, they, of course, wanted to know if I told our unfriendly waitress I was a sommelier or left her my card.  I didn't.  I decided to take the high road.  It would seem a bit hypocritical of me to complain about how snooty the server was and then turn around and treat her in the same manner.  The bottom line is I don't feel the need to prove that I have wine knowledge.  I know I'm confident with my ongoing education.  (The longer I am in the wine industry, I also know I want to learn more and more and more!)  Others may or may not know very much about wine, but I don't want to beat people over the head with my "expertise" and make them feel badly about themselves in the process.  It goes against what I feel is my goal:  to take the fear and intimidation out of wine, making it accessible for more people!  I hope you will all join me on this mission.  Oh, and I also hope you all enjoyed your 2011 Beaujolais Nouveau!  I've still yet to get mine.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I Often Cook With Wine...

Since I'm a sommelier, it goes without saying that I love pairing wine with food.  Often times, though, people only think they can pair wine with really complicated or unique foods.  To this I completely disagree.  I'm also a mother of picky children, so if I waited to have a glass of wine with my supper until I had complicated or unique foods, I would never get to enjoy wine!   Because of this, I have become simplistically creative when pairing wine with food.  For instance, last night I paired a 2005 Manzone Barolo with Pizza Hut supreme pizza...and it was an excellent pairing!  I have paired many reds--Merlots, Cabs, Noirs--with grilled steak because my son is a meat and potatoes guy.  I also have learned to marinade chicken and beef in simple sauces made with wine for a natural "marriage" pairing.  Ultimately, I have found that good wines go with so many different foods, not just foods that take hours of prep and hard-to-find ingredients.  So tonight, no matter what your meal, go to your wine fridge, cellar, or shelf and pull out a bottle.  Enjoy a glass of wine with your meal...I know I will! 

To help with your simple wine pairing, here are my two go-to, oh-so-easy wine marinade recipes:

White Wine Chicken Breast Marinade

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 white wine (your choice)
1/4 cup water
1 package Italian dressing seasoning
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Combine oil, wine, and water with the Italian seasoning packet in a bowl.  Add the chicken breasts.  Let marinade for up two two hours.  Grills until juices run clear.  Serve with the wine used in marinade and seasoned fries.  Enjoy!

Red Wine Beef Tips Marinade

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine (your choice)
1/4 cup water
1 package Montreal Steak seasoning
1 pound beef tips

Combine oil, wine, water, and Montreal seasoning packet in a bowl.  Add the beef tip chunks.  Let marinade for up to four hours.  Grill steak to medium rare.  Serve with wine used in the marinade.  Serve with baked sweet potatoes.  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

You Can Take the Teacher Out of the Classroom...But She Will Just Keep On Teaching!

Yes, I'm a teacher by day, moonlighting as a sommelier at night.  Sometimes people give me a funny look, and I know they are wondering if educating students and enjoying wine may actually be a conflict of interests.  However, for several reasons, I say no!  The biggest reason it isn't a conflict is because I don't necessarily think of myself as a sommelier that is a wine expert.  (In fact, the more I learn about wine, the more I know I don't know, and the more I want to learn about wine.)  Instead, I consider myself a wine educator.  My favorite job as a sommelier is to teach other people about wine.  For years, many in my generation have been intimidated or scared of wine.  We grew up drinking beer, and though there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, it's left many people nervous about looking silly when consuming wine.  I love to take this "mystery" out of wine for drinkers by teaching them what the terms mean, how fermentation works, and why labels say what they say.  This knowledge of wine takes the unknown element out of wine, making it more likely that these now-educated people will drink more wine!  It's a win-win situation for everyone involved.  Consumers know more about wine and will enjoy wine more, and I get to keep teaching about one of my favorite subjects!  So, Tuesday, when I am teaching a section of my Wine 101 class, there is no conflict to be found, just more wine lovers waiting to learn!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Boom! Not Bust!

I live in a small town in Wyoming on the edge of the Black Hills.  Yes, you all heard me correctly...a trained sommelier in Wyoming!  (Believe me, stranger things have happened.)  I live in a magnificently beautiful state, filled with multiple natural resources, resources that have often caused our local economies to boom during the good times only to bust during bad times.  But today, I'm thinking about a different type of boom here in Wyoming and South Dakota, different than a natural resource boom.  I'm talking about the booming wine industry!  Wyoming and the Black Hills have always been a bit behind the times, and that is probably true of the wine business.  However, we are quickly catching up!  Interest in wine is growing to new heights in this area, and I love it!  Three new wine bars recently opened in Spearfish, SD.  One even opened in Sturgis, SD, better known for its biker babes in August than its grape varietals.  The Black Hills has its own wine trail, including several wineries and tasting rooms.  Wyoming grows grapes and makes wine in several different locations.  Liquor stores all throughout the Black Hills are expanding their wine sections as consumers want more selections to choose from and a higher quality of the selections already available.  Some friends of mine just purchased a small liquor store and have plans to continue the wine boom.  I'm leaving town to travel through beautiful Spearfish Canyon after work to enjoy my Friday evening at the Spearfish Creek Wine Bar.  Oh, there may be liquid gold in these there hills, and I hope to see the boom keep going!  All boom, no bust...I'll drink to that!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Summer Summer Summer Time!

Summer has finally shown itself in the Black Hills...thankfully!  It was a cold snowy winter followed by a cold snowy/rainy spring!  But this weekend, the sun is out, the school year is over, and the summer feels as if it has begun.  I love summer and summer wines!  Wine on the patio on a summer evening.  Wine paired with grilled meat off the barbecue.  Wine paired with friends in the hot tub.  Wine made into sangria and mimosas.  The smell of the season makes me happy.  Time to relax and be rejuvenated makes me even happier!  So cheers to summer and summer wines!  And cheers to all of you!