Upcoming Wine & Spirits Seminars

For those of you who don’t know, not only do I spend time working on my personal beverage blog, but I also have the glitzy position of Director of Marketing & Education at the Divine Wine Emporium here in the shoreline village of Niantic, CT. With fall coming up, it means we start rounding up guest speakers from different wine and spirits companies to tell good stories and of course, pour samples for us to try.

So let me be a shill and give some press to Divine Wine today. Our calendar is filling up fast, and we are getting the festivities started tomorrow night. The guest speaker programs are typically free, while our in-house educational sessions require a fee of some kind. Here’s a rundown of what we have coming up, and if you are in town give a call to Divine Wine at (860) 691-1053 to RSVP for any of the programs below.


Thursday, September 20th, 7:00pm (Cost: $0): Single Cask Nation & More. Josh Hatton, founder of Single Cask Nation and Northeast Regional Manager for ImpEx Beverage, will be talking whisk(e)y with us. He has seven whiskies in total to share, two of which come from Single Cask Nation. Other products include Kilchoman and Isle of Skye from Scotland and Ohishi from Japan. Josh is a great guy, who I got to know back in March at a trade tasting with Skurnik Wines & Spirits.


Wednesday, September 26th, 7:00pm (Cost: $0): Piazzo Winery. We welcome this outstanding producer of Piedmont wines to the classroom. We already carry the Piazzo Barolo, and we will be tasting a range of other wines from the region (expect this to be a red wine-leaning seminar). Marco, the grandson of Armando Piazzo who is heavily involved at the winery, will be our presenter for the evening.


Wednesday October 10th/17th/24th, 7:00pm (Cost: $100 for the three sessions): Wine 101. The Boss himself, Ken Turcotte, Certified Specialist of Wine and WSET Advanced Level III is running his tremendous foundation wine course that he has taught to nearly 1,000 students over the last 16 years. He covers everything from field to bottle in a fun, casual setting over three Wednesdays in October. The tuition covers all study materials and wines that will be tasted.


Thursday, October 25th, 7:00pm (Cost TBD): Gin Lane 1751. Geoff Curley, founder of Gin Lane 1751, is extremely passionate about gin and works to not only build his brand, but to promote the gin category. He will be offering a full seminar on gin, complete with sampling four products, and providing practical know-how in the form of cocktails, classic and modern.

New In Town: Wine, Food, Music & More

After a little time off, I'm back with lots to share. With each passing day, I learn more and more about how vibrant my shore town is in the winter time. I am also fortunate to have landed at a great shop that isn't all about itself, but rather cultivates partnerships throughout the community to put on some fantastic events. 

This is a loaded week, and the Nor'easter will be out of here by the time we get started. If you are in the area, come by and see me or any of our great people in town!

Photo of the Douro Valley from the IVDP web site

Photo of the Douro Valley from the IVDP web site

Wednesday, January 25th, 7:00pm: I'm teaching a Port 101 course at the Divine Wine Emporium classroom! Port wine's fruity and fiery character makes it a great way to end a meal or enjoy as a nightcap. You will learn everything to do with Port from vineyard to bottle, and we are tasting six different styles (including a Vintage Port). All of this for just $20 per student. You can call us at the store, 860-691-1053, to register and make payment.

Thursday, January 26th, 6:30pm: Flanders Fish Market & Restaurant Food & Wine Series - Spanish Edition. Last week's Italian session welcomed 62 guests! Can we top that number this week? Ken Turcotte, Owner of Divine Wine Emporium, and Olivia Formica, Head Chef of Flanders Fish, will present four small plates and five wines for just $35 per person. Call Divine Wine to make your reservation. We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback about these evenings, and we can't wait to bring it to you again on Thursday. Can't make it? No problem...next week's final session will be a French theme.

Friday, January 27th, 7:00pm: Chris Leigh, Director of the Mystic Blues Festival and Owner of the String Theory School of East Lyme, joins us for a concert in the classroom! He will be joined by another unbelievable local musician, Josi Davis, who has performed for us several times in the past. $10 payable at the door, all proceeds will go toward this summer's Mystic Blues Festival! Call the store to make your reservation!

Friday, January 27th-Sunday January 29th: Mohegan Sun Wine Fest. It's a huge show; I have never been, but possibly going on Sunday. Details are included right here for you!

Play Along At Home: Northwestern Wine

On Monday, you learned of the debut of a food and wine series happening at the Flanders Fish Market & Restaurant. This week, The Boss and I worked hard (as you can see in the picture) to find the right wines from Oregon and Washington for the theme of "Clean Eating," and our 31 guests were very pleased!

A shot of the tasting lab. We worked very hard for you this week.

A shot of the tasting lab. We worked very hard for you this week.

It's funny...we tend to lump Oregon and Washington together as if they were the same state with the same geographical features, particularly because we tie the city of Seattle's identity to Washington state. However from a wine perspective, these parts of the country couldn't be more different.

The bulk of the wine production in Oregon comes from the Willamette Valley, where Pinot Noir is king and Pinot Gris is the top white grape variety. The climate is milder with more yearly rainfall than Washington's major regions (dominated by the Columbia Valley), so the conditions favor those grapes, plus the aromatic varieties like Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, and Riesling. Killer sparkling wine is made here, too. Only when you head to the far south (like Rogue Valley) or northeastern corner of Oregon (Columbia Gorge) do you find drier, warmer conditions that suit other (mostly red) grape varieties like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and even regional varieties like Grenache and Tempranillo.

Oregon Wine Region map courtesy of  Oregon Wine . Most of the wine produced in Oregon comes from the Willamette Valley, which is in close proximity to Portland (in the yellow area).

Oregon Wine Region map courtesy of Oregon Wine. Most of the wine produced in Oregon comes from the Willamette Valley, which is in close proximity to Portland (in the yellow area).

Most of Washington's wine regions are semi-arid with long sunny days during the growing season with very little rainfall. With more uniform soils and higher elevations, there are major day-night temperature swings that allow grapes to ripen during the day and rest at night. Washington has the whole palette at its disposal with Bordeaux varieties (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc) and Syrah tend to rule, but wines made from Riesling, Chenin Blanc, and Chardonnay come through bright and fruity. You even find wines made from Semillon, Nebbiolo, and Blaufrankisch (an Austrian red variety) which also carries the not-so-marketable synonym "Lemberger." It's too wet and cool in the Willamette Valley for many of these grapes to ripen successfully.

Washington Wine Region map courtesy of  Washington State Wine . 98% of wine made in Washington is made east of the Cascade Mountains, several hours drive from Seattle (the red dot in the light green area)

Washington Wine Region map courtesy of Washington State Wine. 98% of wine made in Washington is made east of the Cascade Mountains, several hours drive from Seattle (the red dot in the light green area)

Yet with these differences, Oregon and Washington are outstanding New World wines that pair well with both the fresh and roasted foods that were featured at Flanders Fish last night, thanks to the acidity retained in the grapes during ripening.

So as promised, I am providing you with the "home game" that you can play. Now, we don't have the recipes for the food, but you can work off of the menu provided by the restaurant and test the pairings for yourself. Or you can just drink five different wines (all of which range from $15-$17 with friends and be happy. After all...it's Friday! Celebrate the end of the first full week of 2017.


Waterbrook Melange Founder's White Blend, Columbia Valley, $14.99

First course:

Cajun roasted corn and cauliflower salad with arugula, dried cranberries, pine nuts, lime vinaigrette

Adelsheim Vineyards Rose of Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $16.99

Second course:

Seared tuna with marinated sliced cucumbers

Pappas Wine Co. Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley, $15.99

Third course:

Black shrimp jicama taco, cilantro, pico de gallo, avocado puree

Steele Wines Shooting Star "Blue Franc" (Blaufranksich), Washington, $15.99

Fourth course:

Peppered roasted chicken with greek yogurt dipping sauce

Pacific Pinot Cellars Pinot Noir, Oregon, $14.99

Local News: Food & Wine Series Debuts This Week

Has everyone dug out of their snowy caves yet? Good; it means that if you live in (or will be in) Southeastern Connecticut, you can come visit a terrific local restaurant who is partnering up with my store to do a food and wine series!

The owner of Divine Wine himself, Certified Specialist of Wine Ken Turcotte, is teaming up with Chef Olivia Formica of Flanders Fish Market & Restaurant to present five wines and four small plates. This is happening on four consecutive Thursday nights, beginning January 12th, 6:30-8:00pm. The theme for this week is "Eating Clean," and the featured wines will come from Oregon and Washington...a great way to keep the momentum going with your resolution to eat healthy this year. Successive events will include wines from Italy on January 19th, and wines of Spain and France on January 26th and February 2nd.

Whether you choose to come to one event or all four, you can make your reservations by calling the Divine Wine Emporium: (860) 691-1053. It's a fantastic and easy way to explore wines of the world and potentially introduce your palate to something you haven't discovered before. If you aren't going to be around, I will recap the wine for you on Friday's post and you can play along at home.