“In the etiquette portion, did they cover drinking straight from the bottle?” Not the best of my husband Andrew’s jokes, but since he’s the resident wine expert in our house, I cut him some slack. After all, he never complains when I inevitably interrupt his reading of a restaurant’s wine list to remind him to remind me what it is that I like.
Not that I don’t trust my own palate. In fact, when I was invited to join the experts from Kcuvée at a recent offering of their Introductory Wine Course, I was thrilled when I correctly predicted that I’d enjoy the Tempranillo the most. In the first of the course’s many fun activities, all of which take place in the gorgeous Emeril Lagasse Foundation Kitchen House and Culinary Garden, attendees choose their name tags based on their favorite wine. When Sommelier Carolina Marin — who along with entrepreneur, world traveler and wine enthusiast Katie Bean makes up the dynamic Kcuvée duo — asked me about my choice, I shared my amateur theory: when a restaurant has a limited wine list that includes a Tempranillo, it’s typically decent. Maybe it was the lovely glass of bubbles she poured for me, but after Carolina agreed, I didn’t feel like such an amateur anymore.
The next bit of fun was right at my table, which was thoughtfully spaced to allow social distancing between all the couples and singles in attendance. In addition to the expected lineup of glasses, Katie and Carolina had added to my personal setup a lovely take-home booklet that outlined the day’s lessons; a set of nine scent jars to sniff alongside each pour; and corresponding stickers (oh, my heart!) that I could place in the booklet as we tasted.
Katie and Carolina tag-teamed presenting during the hourlong course, which covered the grape, the wine-making process, the five-senses model for tasting and (yes, Andrew) wine etiquette. If the etiquette section sounds stuffy, it isn’t, and neither are Katie and Carolina. For someone with as much expertise as Carolina — she got her MBA in Milan, was the valedictorian of her class at the Venezuelan Academy of Sommeliers, completed WSET Level 2 in Paris and Level 3 in London and is currently a Level 4 candidate — her teaching style is very accessible. More important, her love for the topic shines, and so does Katie’s. The two of them pass the proverbial baton with ease, dropping in amusing anecdotes from their many travels along with solid knowledge about wine that I drank in with every sip.
While Kcuvée’s other experiences take a deep dive into a specific style or region and showcase Carolina’s personal favorites, the intro course sticks to classic examples of a range of wines. This way, attendees will walk away knowing what a given grape “should” taste like. All of the wines for the course were sourced from nearby Digress Wine, where owner Rob Chase can easily point shoppers in the right direction based on their takeaways from the class.
The tagline on Kcuvée’s website is “Your Endless Journey to Wine Enjoyment,” but sadly this one stop on my journey did end. Not, however, before a perfect repast courtesy of Chef Kevin Fonzo. In order to keep our palates on point, we purposely did not eat during the class, so the lovely little cheese plate was like a reward for us star students. Ditto the hearty ribollita fortified with bread; a farm salad with herbs from the Culinary Garden and a perfect poached egg: pillowy gnocchi with eggplant; and a crispy, creamy cannoli.
All the talk of travel against the rustic and refined backdrop of the gardens was a bit bittersweet given the current state of the world. I can’t wait to get back out and create some new travel memories, wine glass in hand. In the meantime, this afternoon will be a sweet memory indeed.
The Kcuvée Introductory Wine Course is $125 per person and includes a welcoming glass of bubbles along with generous samples of five different wines. The optional add-on Italian feast following the class is $49 per person, and guests are invited to bring a bottle from home to enjoy with it at no additional charge.
For more inspiration on what to imbibe, visit our archives.