Back to (wine) school

You may have noticed, I’ve been writing more about wine lately. Or should I say, my blog has featured more stories about wine. Whilst I enjoy drinking wine (I mean, who doesn’t?), I am not very well educated in the art of wine tasting and wine/ food pairings, but I am really trying to learn. Neil, on the other hand, would breathe wine if he could – as he works his way though his “baby sommelier” certificate at George Brown College, we all benefit from his increased knowledge when he writes up his wine notes for me to include with a wine/ food pairing.

If I didn’t have an in-house sommelier, I needn’t panic though – here in Toronto, the iYellow Wine School is here to help.  The iYellow Wine Club was launched in 2006 with a goal of making wine knowledge more accessible to everyone. Four years later, the “club” (there is no cost to become a member) has around 5000 members and  is gaining new members each and everyday. The iYellow Wine Club offers members ways to learn about wine in a down to earth, fun, friendly and approachable way via social wine events, experiential wine tours, a regular e-newsletter and an online local wine store.

After noticing a demand for a more formal way to learn about wine iYellow Wine School launched their first Term in Fall 2009 with Sommelier Taylor Thompson. Classes sold out and it was a huge success –  members loved the idea and iYellow Wine School was born.   The interactive classes aim to be affordable and approachable, even for the most novice wine amateur.  In 2010 iYellow launched 3 Wine School Terms (Winter, Spring & Fall).  If you love wine, or just want/need to learn more about it, join the iYellow Wine Club to be in the know.

Earlier in the summer, I attended the two of iYellow Wine School’s Spring Term classes entitled “Cool & Original” and “Full Figured and Graceful”.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  I am a fairly novice wine taster who believes that the best wine is the wine you like to drink (though I am game to try pretty much everything!) so I was looking forward to learning how to talk more knowledgeably about wine.  In particular I was excited to try some of the cooler climate grape varietals since I am more familiar with wines from countries other than Canada.  The 90 minute classes take place in restaurants and the $35 fee includes a generous plate of foods paired with the wines you taste.

You are also provided with a tasting sheet for notes that included the proper way to taste wines.

Sight: Look at the wine, note its colour
Swirl: This helps to open up the wine and prepares it for you to smell
Smell: What do you smell in the glass
Sip: For the second sip, try to inhale some air to aerate the wine in your mouth. It will change what you taste
Savour: As you are drinking, ask yourself if you like the wine, what would you eat with the wine, would you buy it again, for example

Sommelier Taylor Thompson leads you through the wines at a fairly quick pace – the idea is not to go into great depth with the wines, just give people an overview of how to taste and the flavours to look for.  You are also provided with an “iYellow Dictionary” and some sample descriptor words to use when tasting and discussing the wine.  Thompson offers proper tasting notes but encourages people to “shout out” their thoughts, which can be very amusing (but also reassuring when you hear someone saying that a wine reminds them of something completely the opposite to what Thompson is suggesting!).
During one class, I had the fortune to be sitting at a table full of people with much greater wine knowledge than me (iYellow often invite winery representatives to these classes) which was not only informative but I find it impressive that these reps are genuinely interested in hearing what the average wine drinker (i.e. me!) thinks about their product.

Neil and I were also fortunate to be guests of iYellow at their recent Global Wine Experience where representatives from several internationally known vineyards were in attendance.

During VIP hour, we had one on one time with the winemakers and producers.  Many of these wineries have been passed down through several generations and are committed to their places of origin and the belief that making wine takes time and passion.  There were over 40 wines to taste (from Australia, Italy, Argentina, New Zealand, BC, Ontario, Portugal, Chile, Spain, Washington State and France), and iYellow organised a “speed tasting” during the VIP hour where we had three minutes per tasting table.

The winemakers were encouraged to choose one of their wines to showcase and the tasters were asked to think of one question for each winemaker.   Whilst this was fun for a couple of rounds, I found it a little frustrating as having one on one time with the winemakers was a real treat and they all obviously had more than 3 minutes’ worth of knowledge to impart.  It’s a great idea but for the serious wine buff (i.e. Neil), not enough time to really fully appreciate all that’s  on offer.   Since their goal is to provide people with ways to learn about wine in a down to earth, fun, friendly and approachable way,  iYellow certainly hit the nail on the head with this event.  The VIP hour was great for those more serious about their approach to wine tasting, whilst the party afterwards was perfect for those who simply enjoy sampling wines on a more social level.

For my part, I was thrilled to discover two new-to-me wines from my home state (South Australia) from Tait and Kaesler. And no, I didn’t just like them because they had great names 😉

iYellow really do stand by their promise and offer an informal, non-intimidating atmosphere in which to learn about wine.  If you live in Toronto and are looking for a fun way to increase your wine knowledge or simply taste some different wines in a relaxed setting, you should definitely check out the iYellow Wine School. iYellow Wine Club also has some fun upcoming events such as the wine and cigars evening on November 2oth, a Winter Wine Tour in Niagara on December 4th and a Wine and Art event on December 9th. For more details on all upcoming events, click here.

* Did you see my World on a Plate, Destination: Umbria video? I would love your vote to move on to Round 8 of Project Food Blog where we have to bake with pumpkin.  I have some pretty fun ideas…  Voting open 6AM Pacific Time on Monday, November 15th until 6PM Pacific Time on Thursday November 18th.  Simply click here (note: link no longer live) to read the post and vote.   Many thanks for your continued support.

** Did you know? Jamie Oliver is speaking in Toronto on November 18th.  Thanks to The Art of Cooking, I am able to offer a discount to you, my readers, of $10 per ticket (more if you purchase more than 5 tickets).  Click here for the special promotion code to be applied to your ticket price.  Don’t miss this event – I saw Jamie speak last year and it was inspirational to say the least. It inspired me to start Les Petits Chefs, for one…

32 thoughts on “Back to (wine) school”

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Back to (wine) school --
  2. you have so many great opportunities living in a city like toronto – thanks for sharing so much of what you’re learning!

  3. I think Mardi was especially pleased when I told her I had a couple bottles of Tait’s basket-pressed Shiraz from 2006 sitting in the cellar…

  4. I am like you were, *if you like the taste…* Think it is great that you have the opportunity to attend these sessions and even more wonderful that you share them with your readers.

  5. This is a wonderful way to learn about wine – I am so glad that you posted this – I am definitely going to start looking around my area for something similar – it would make a great date night activity!!

  6. this class looks fantastic, what a great way to learn about the different kinds of wine, and ways to use them. I might check out the club on the net

  7. I so need to sign up for this club, love having something to help make wine tasting more accessible to the uneducated about wine tasting, but love it nonetheless. Love having something like this in TO too!

  8. Those classes look fabulous! I learned a little just reading your post. I’m below novice when it comes to pairing things.


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