So Catavino and The Wine Academy of Spain are offering a scholarship for a three-day Spanish wine seminar in San Francisco plus a chance at a trip to Spain for those who post a blog entry that answers this question:
“Why do you want to learn about Spanish Wine?”
It reminds me of that Talking Heads song, Once In A Lifetime.
“And you may ask yourself-well…how did I get here?”
It’s a good question.
I ended up as the wine buyer for The Spanish Table in Berkeley almost by accident. Eight years ago I was a corporate manager with many ‘dot com’ clients. When the boom turned to bust I suddenly found myself on the street after 13 years with the same company. Broke, out of work and turning forty, it was time to examine my options and reevaluate my priorities.
At exactly the same point in time a little shop specializing in the food and wine of Spain opened up in my neighborhood. The Spanish Table, in business in Seattle WA since 1995, had just branched out to a new town. The owners chose Berkeley because of this city’s reputation for having open minds and hearty appetites.
After just a few trips to this new outpost of Iberian culture I was hooked. The ingredients were similar to the French and Italian cuisines that I knew and loved but the flavor combinations were distinctly different. A whole new world of great things to eat and drink had revealed itself to me.
One day, while on a visit to indulge in my newfound passion for aged Rioja wine I saw a sign of my future. This was not a figurative indication mind you but a real printed sign, in the window at The Spanish Table. “Help Wanted, part time.”
“And you may ask yourself – How do I work this?”
Learning about Spanish wine was like discovering a spare room in your house that you never knew existed. I grew up in a family that drank French wine, end of story. My few attempts at exploring Spanish wine were limited to a few unpleasant experiences with wire mesh wrapped bottles sporting heraldic crests on the labels and containing tired, dusty, brown juice inside. What a revelation it was to find grapes/regions/producers that were previously unknown to me. The broad range of styles encouraged exploration and experimentation. Every night I would take home a new bottle to taste and learn about. My passion for Spanish wine had taken hold.
“And you may ask yourself - Where does that highway go?”
The thing is, the Spanish wine world is in the middle of a dramatic transformation. What was accepted wisdom about ‘The Wines of Spain’ no longer holds true. Where once there was Rioja and Jerez with not much in between, now we have an explosion of new ideas and flavors. Regions that had fallen into obscurity are now revitalized and thriving. Old vines are once again producing fruit for new bodegas that seek to incorporate the past into the new modern era. The Spanish wine map is literally being redrawn every year. To keep up with all the changes requires diligence and focus. Even working here in the midst of so many Spanish wines (Portuguese, Argentine and Chilean wines too!) I know that I have a lot to learn.
The Wine Academy of Spain is touring the USA this summer sharing the story of Spanish wine with all who wish to partake. The work they and businesses like Catavino are doing helps propel Spanish wine beyond being just the latest trendy thing to drink. Educational efforts like this along with the as yet largely untapped use of the Internet (they’re working on that too) carry the excitement and diversity of all that is happening in the Spanish wine world to a broad public that is eager for information and inspiration. This is an effort I support wholeheartedly and I am excited to see that San Francisco is a stop on their itinerary.
“And you may ask yourself - Am I right? …am I wrong?
And you may tell yourself - My god!…what have I done?”