Lee Romano Sequeira, the driving force behind LocalWineEvents.com’s promotion and social media outreach, is currently taking classes at The Wine School of Philadelphia www.vinology.com). In today’s article she chats with the founder/owner of the school, Keith Wallace.
Hope you enjoy Part 1. Part 2 will include some notes about the class & more Q & A with her instructor, Zack Morris.
Cheers! EVO www.LocalWineEvents.com
LRS: I have to say I really find myself looking forward to Sunday evenings at the school (of course, the homework is also pretty enjoyable). Also, thanks for taking the time for this interview.
KW: You’re welcome. Happy to hear you’re enjoying the classes.
LRS: Your course offerings range from classes for the wine novice all the way up to professional certifications, as well as brewing beer, cocktail mixing and culinary classes, so it looks like you have all bases covered. Anything else you’d be looking to add to the roster?
KW: We are starting to build up our distillation programming, too. We are building out a barrel program for aging whiskeys and bourbon right now. It’s really exciting. We just put our first batch of rye whiskey into new oak barrels this week. Our programs are very detailed and we spend about a year developing them, so the Bourbon Distillery class probably won’t start until January 2014.
LRS: Mmmm..I do love a good bourbon from time to time. What would readers be surprised to learn about The Wine School?
KW: There is an expectation that a Wine School is going to have a veneer of elitism. Most folks are pleasantly surprised at the total lack of snobbery here, although a tiny minority of people really resent it. I think that is part of the DNA of the school. Sure, our instructors have advanced degrees and even publish occasionally, but in the end we teach about food and booze. That is a damn fine place to be, and that joy reflects in the tenor of our classes.
LRS: Agreed. Leave snobbery to the snobs. So, spill the beans — any funny stories from the classroom to share?
KW: There are always odd and interesting stories. There is a woman who comes to a one single class every year for the last eleven years. It’s always a champagne class in December, and every year she complains that the bubbles disappear from wine as soon as it touches her lips. It’s kinda freaky.
There was the time that a high-class escort –at least that was what she implied when she first enrolled– took our academic programs. She came to every class dressed like a stripper, and always sporting a plunging neckline. She was actually a sweet girl, and she really loved food and wine. But pretty much every guy just drooled, and all the women were pissed off about it. After a few weeks of this, I had to say something to her. It was distracting everyone. How exactly do you ask a twenty-something to cover up in class? That was an awkward conversation. She did, though, and took our classes for the next two years.
There was the time I thought Craig LeBan was in class. I’ve only met Craig twice, but I was 100% sure it was him. He was taking our Foundation Wine Program, and that made sense. Restaurant critics from Philly Mag and both weekly newspapers have taken that program. I didn’t out him in class, but I would talk with him at length after class about food and wine and such. This went on for two semesters before I got the courage up to call him Craig. When I did, I just got a puzzled look. It wasn’t him after all, just a dude who kinda looked like him. Awkward.
LRS: Great stories. My class was pretty subdued. I’ll have to see if the next class I take has any ‘characters”. Let’s talk about wine myths: which really make you cringe?
KW: Ah crap, there are so many. There are so many assumptions and so much misinformation out there, it is like wading throw a cork-filled sewer. We have about two generations of silly wine myths out there now, and they keep on growing. Three of our most popular classes are simply devoted to nothing but dispelling these myths. My personal pet peeve is probably the granddaddy of them all: that sulfates are a common allergen in wine.
LRS: I have heard that, good to know it’s BS. What have you enjoyed in your glass lately –any favorite varietals?
KW: I don’t have any specific varietals that I most enjoy. Well, what I am interested in changes on a weekly basis. Right now, I am on a Vacqueyras kick. That will probably last a few days, and then on to another wine region. Last week it was Pinot Noir from Bio Bio Valley in Chile. The week after that it was White Dog whiskey. It’s part of my job to keep ahead of the curve.
LRS: Any tips about pairings or varietals with food?
KW: I go about pairing in a different way. What matters most to the meal: the wine or the food? Sometimes I will have a awesome bottle of wine that I absolutely want to drink with dinner. Sometimes, I am eating at a place that the food is going to be the star of the show. If the wine is going to be the centerpiece, then I am going to want a more simple and basic dish. If the food is going to be the star, then the reverse is true. My top suggestion is to either splurge on dinner or wine, not both.
The actual pairing, though, that comes down to chemistry. As for varietals, though, the quick and easy suggestion I have is that Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc are two wines that are the most food friendly in almost all situations.
LRS: Ok, now I am officially hungry! Your book, “Corked & Forked: Four Seasons of Eats and Drinks” has received rave reviews by Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, The Daily Beast, as well as other leading industry publications. Please tell us a bit about the book and the audience it’s geared to.
KW: The book is really geared to people who don’t cook often, but like to cook a full meal rather than just one dish. While I was writing the book, I really wanted to give folks the chance to create a three course meal with beverage pairings. The trick was to make sure it was fast and easy enough so that anyone could do it.
The response to the book has been awesome. I recently had a guy in one of my cooking classes at the Wine School. He had come to Philly from San Francisco in part because he loved the book, and he wanted to take the class. That was really cool.
(Grab your own copy of Keith’s book at Amazon.com here: www.amazon.com/Corked-Forked-Four-Seasons-Drinks/dp/0762439823)
LRS: Let’s end with your favorite wine quote — have any?
KW: “One should always be drunk. That’s all that matters…But with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you chose. But get drunk.” ― Charles Baudelaire
LRS: That’s a very good quote — I think it’s time to enjoy a nice glass (or two)!
about the interviewer: Besides running a boutique PR biz, Lee & her husband own the webtique, www.GoodtoBeYou.com & the Philly-based custom rhinestone apparel business www.Sparkle-Plenty.com. She’s currently working on a humorous memoir — see snippets at www.MadnessMomandMe.com