Vail Wine Ink column: Wine education is a lifelong pursuit |

Vail Wine Ink column: Wine education is a lifelong pursuit

A look inside a Napa Valley wine seminar at the Taste of Vail.
Zach Mahone | Taste of Vail |


Graham’s 20-Year-Old Tawny Port — A tawny port is distinguished by the yellowish-brown color it picks up from being stored in large wooden casks for a decade or more. There are those who love these concoctions, which have been preserved with the addition of grape spirits into still wine. I love a good tawny port, and this offering from Graham’s is a perfect choice for after dinner with either a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a chunk of blue cheese.

If you go ...

What: Taste of Vail.

When: Wednesday, April 5, through Sunday, April 9.

Where: Various locations throughout Vail.

Cost: Individual seminar tickets start at $50.

More information: Visit for a complete list of seminars and other signature events.

“I don’t know anything about wine,” said the woman next to me as she looked into a glass of tawny port at a recent tasting. “But I do know one thing,” she continued as she took a big sip, “I know what I like.”

The fact is, that’s all she really needs to know — and she likely knows more than she thinks.

While wine is a sensation for the senses, it is one of those things that can produce even more pleasure if you take the time to dig deeper and learn more about it.


There is no better way to enhance your wine knowledge than by tasting and discussing the merits of wine with others tasting the same thing. Without a doubt, the clearest path are seminars, classes or tastings that let you interact with both wine professionals and other drinkers.

Start big. Events and festivals such as the Taste of Vail, the Keystone Wine and Jazz Festival, the Lake Tahoe Food Autumn Food and Wine Festival and the Aspen Food and Wine Classic are not only outrageously fun, but all bring in world-class wines and winemakers. The wine seminars at these mega-events can be revelatory.

Then there are more focused classes and tastings that can often be found in resort areas, at restaurants, cooking schools or community colleges. For example, the Cooking School of Aspen has a weekly wine-tasting event. Check out your local papers, ask the sommeliers at restaurants or the folks in your favorite wine shop for suggestions. They’re typically on the pulse.


But if you can’t get to a seminar, the next best alternative is to turn a page. Fortunately, the world of wine writing has a long history, dating to ancient Greece.

Begin with Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson’s “The World Atlas of Wine.” This is, as the title infers, a book that documents all the wine from all around the world. Open a bottle, pour a glass and turn to the page that details where your wine is from, and you will be enlightened.

Then there is Karen MacNeil’s “The Wine Bible,” which has 994 pages of insights and recommendations from one of wine’s grand apostles. Or try the best-selling wine book of all time, “Wine For Dummies.”

You need not only restrict yourself to guides and tomes of information. There are dozens of books that capture the romance of wine in all of its forms. One of my favorites is Jay McInerney’s collection of essays “Bacchus and Me,” which gives his take on his own wine education.


Perhaps the easiest way to quickly learn about a wine in your glass is to go to and enter the varietal. You’ll get the lowdown, as well as recommendations for similar wines and other grapes you might want to try.

For info with opinion, visit Alder Yarrow’s Vinography. Since 2004, Yarrow has been dishing out readable posts about wine, and if he recommends you try a wine, it is worth the effort to find it.

The bottom line is, there are lots of ways to learn more about the wines in your glass.

Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass. He can be reached at

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