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Wine 101 @ SML Fine Wines

Last Tuesday I sat in on one of the classes held at SML Fine Wines taught by owner and Sommelier Ryan McFeely. It was the third in a four-part series that, though titled “Wine 101”, is actually a pretty deep dive into many of the facets of wine production and appreciation. In the prior two classes they had already covered a lot of information - from identifying major characteristics in wine, to how and where vines are grown and tended (and the difference that makes in the final product). After a quick recap, class three's focus was dedicated to the winemaking process, techniques, and styles.


I loved the quote found on the front page of the handout that perfectly summed up the evening:

“Winemaking starts with grapes and ends with wine. There are hundreds of moments where human intervention is required and those moments are when a winemaker can showcase their skill level.”


As a loud and proud wine lover, I soaked everything up like a sponge! Sure, there was some heady chemistry-adjacent information, but mostly, it was all about the who-what-when-where-whys of how your favorite wines ultimately come to present the way they do. 


It was fascinating to learn about the pros and cons of aerobic/anaerobic handling, whole bunch fermentation, the many, many steps of processing that the grapes go through, and then the many, many more adjustments winemakers can choose to make (or not!) to help each vintage arrive at their end goal, stylistically.


We heard about wines made with and without sulphur dioxide and tasted examples of both. Ryan had already started me down the rabbit trail of traditional style (methode champenoise) sparkling wine via an in-store conversation one day, and seeing all of the intricate, almost ritualistic care that goes into its production in contrast to bubble-injected wine like Prosecco only furthered my admiration (adoration?) for both winemaker and product.


All of these talking points were reinforced with slides, a handout, and examples to taste. I loved how robust and sensory-filled the whole evening was! Thanks to the small class size, asking questions and interacting with other participants is highly encouraged throughout.


Week four focuses on learning how to refine your palate to zero-in on acid and alcohol levels, recognize tannins and weight, and start to expand a vocabulary with which to express the notes/flavors you identify. Sounds amazing, doesn't it?!!!


So, what's next on the SML Fine Wines offerings list this year? Besides their regular “Try Before You Buy” Friday evenings, there is a special event happening on February 23rd from 4-6pm. You'll want to drop in for this wine tasting education with CEO and 5th generation producer of the Bodegas Valdemar family: Jesus Martinez Buganda Mora. Don't miss this opportunity to interact directly with a grower who is held in the highest regard by wine professionals all around the world.


And if you'd like to snag a seat for the next round of Wine 101 with Ryan, you still can! The class cycle starts again on February 24th and runs for 4 consecutive Saturdays at 3:00pm. Don't delay, because there are a limited number of slots left! Follow the button below to register.


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