IT was the wine class that began with coffee and a generous buffet of sweet and savory bites. Replace that coffee with wine, I thought, and it would be a cocktail party. But it was 9 in the morning and breakfast was the first order of the day to start off the 2018 Californian Wine Academy. And rightly so, because breakfast would ensure that stomachs would be primed for the wine tastings that are integral to the class.
The 2018 Californian Wine Academy was held in March at the Shangri-La at The Fort. The course coverage was impressive: Overview of California and Napa (topography, climate, history of California winemaking); Wine In-Depth (the winemaking process, key regional grape varieties); Wine—The Practicalities (storage, service, food and wine matching); Tasting and Group Activity. A quiz and a Q&A session would finish off the full-day class.
But I was corrected: dinner, not the quiz, would end the session, said Isay Miranda, Chateau and Estates Wines manager at Premier Wine and Spirits. Most of the close to a hundred attendees, she explained, all work in the food and beverage industry as restaurant managers, or as wine and beverage key staff. And then she introduced me to Kate Rowe, Treasury Wine Estates brand ambassador, who would be conducting the class.
We would be tasting wines from Beringer, Sterling Vineyards, Stags’ Leap Winery, Beaulieu Vineyard from Treasury Wine Estates’s immense portfolio of more than 70 of the fastest-growing and highly regarded brands, like the iconic Penfolds, Wolf Blass, and Chateau St. Jean. Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) is one of the world’s biggest wine companies that makes, markets and sells wine; a global winemaking and distribution business with access to more than 13,000 hectares of owned or leased vineyards. In the company’s 2017 financial year, a staggering 36 million cases of wine were sold. In California Treasury Wine Estates owns and operates 10 wineries with 47 vineyards and is the top supplier of luxury Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
It is in this context that the 2018 Californian Wine Academy is to be appreciated. While it is a platform for increasing brand awareness, it is likewise a legitimate educational tool designed for those who work in the food and beverage industry. Understanding the brand style was the imperative, but the learning about winemaking in California was just as crucial.
Winemaking is a statewide industry in California as wine grapes are grown in 49 of its 58 counties.
The Napa Valley accounts for 4 percent of Californian wine production.
Since wine critic Robert Parker started rating wines in 1978, 534 wines in the world have gotten the perfect 100-point score. Of that 534, 177 are from the United States. Of the 177, 166 are in California. And of that 166, 121 are from the Napa Valley.
Beringer, established in 1876, is California’s longest continuously operating winery with over 140 consecutive vintages. It has had consistent top scores and more listings in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 than any other winery in history. Stags’ Leap Winery, established in 1893, is one of California’s earliest wine estates and one of the oldest within the renowned Stags Leap District. Famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon, it is also acclaimed for its Petite Sirah. The wines of Beaulieu Vineyard, founded in 1900, have the distinction of being served to heads of state by nearly every US President at Whitehouse state dinners for over 60 years. Sterling Vineyards has been making wine for 48 years and is the official wine of the Emmys.
Kate Rowe deftly blended brand history and style with all the elements of a wine course. The class flowed seamlessly from California climate and topography, and on through the intricacies of winemaking, wine tasting and wine pairing. I thought the session had taken on the trappings of a California Wine Masterclass, more than a California Wine 101. At the dinner to close the session, each attendee was called up onstage to receive a certificate. It’s like a graduation ceremony, I heard someone say. I had no doubt that everyone came away from the class with something more to take back to work, whether it’s the new understanding of a brand’s style, a new insight into how to serve and sell wine, or a renewed commitment to learning more about wine.
The 2018 Californian Wine Academy was one class act.
In Photo: 1 The 2018 Californian Wine Academy highlighted wines from Beringer (clockwise), Beaulieu Vineyard, Stags’ Leap Winery and Sterling Vineyards. 2 Kate Rowe (left), Treasury Wine estates brand Ambassador, with Isay Miranda, Manager, Chateau and Estates Wines, Premier Wine and Spirits.