If you've never had wine that smelled like what some might describe as "garbage" or tobacco, but tasted nothing like it and pairs perfectly with sharp foods like blue cheese, chances are you've never experimented with wine.
As a novice wine drinker, I know nothing about wine. That is until I recently took a wine tasting class at which made me appreciate it on a whole new level, along with a group of about a dozen other self-proclaimed novice wine drinkers.
Tom DeChiaro, owner of The Winery, loves wine. It's his passion. Some people have a passion for shoes, he said, but his...is wine. He is also Italian and Italians love their wine.
While most people might never get to have his knowledge, expertise or appreciation, he is as equally passionate to share them. His class is designed for people who want to become more knowledgeable about wine.
"We open up this door and your wine appreciation skyrockets," DeChiaro said.
He starts off his class by asking people how they would describe their wine expertise, he then explains why when you go to a restaurant the server shows you the bottle (i.e. look for the year the wine was made, the region of the grapes that were used, the alcohol content). You also want to watch out for the integrity of the cork when taken out.
And as much as wine is about tasting, it's also about smell. There are so many different aromas in wine and if you can strengthen your scent of smell, you can become a more sophisticated wine drinker. We often use more than one sense and unless you see what you're smelling, it's harder to distinguish that aroma.
"In wine tasting you have to break that bond of using your two senses (scent and vision)," DeChiaro said. "You have to train your senses."
DeChiaro passed around a little jar to every student, asking them to guess what each smell was. A difficult task at first, at which some got better throughout the class. Of course it was fun trying to get guess what was quite obvious when you were told what the scent was.
Green bell pepper, honey, black pepper, butter and chocolate were some of the scents in the jars that you could also taste in the individual wines. DeChiaro explains the initial impact of the wine is called an "attack" and the "finish" is the aftertaste. There is also a long list of how you could describe a particular wine -- buttery, toasty, oaky, fruity and robust, and so on.
DeChiaro's advice to wine drinkers is not to be afraid to take a risk and try a different kinds of wine. He recommends one or two glasses with dinner every day.
"In addition to being fun and enjoyable, it's healthy," he said referring to studies that have shown the health benefits.
Sylvia Rivera and Robert Knapp, who took the class, said they enjoy coming to the Winery, which almost makes them forget they're in Mohegan Lake because of the atmosphere that makes you think you're in Manhattan. Others agreed the class was a fun way to learn more about wine, especially the different aromas and flavors one doesn't realize existed before.
"I never had wine knowledge," said Don Williams, of Yorktown, who came to the class with his wife. "This is incredible. It will give me an edge when I walk into a restaurant. Tom is an expert and I learned a lot and I appreciated it. It was a fun class."
Julie Maner, of Putnam Valley, said she has been to a few other wine tasting classes, but this was different because DeChiaro articulates how each wine was different and how it tasted, so one could appreciate every single sip.
"He describes what you're feeling and he puts words to it," she said.
"Wine is more than just a drink," Maner said. "It's a lifestyle and [DeChiaro] has created the perfect ambiance of that lifestyle [at the Winery]. It's more than just a glass of wine, it's a lifestyle and culture that is respected here."
The Winery at St. George is located at 1715 E. Main St. in Mohegan Lake. For more information, call 914-455-4272.