As Hurricane Hanna loomed on Friday night, I ignored the weather warnings along with about 40 other people to check out my first wine tasting class at Wine Authorities.
Wine Authorities has been open for a year in Durham and is now famous for the “Enomatic” wine dispenser and “wine on a stick” (by Locopops). Proprietors Craig and Seth buy only “honest wine” grown and bottled on small farms—no corporate brands—and allow forgetful customers like me to keep track of my favorite wines on the store website. Seth and Craig transformed the store for the event, rolling giant display cases of wine to the sides and dressing 10 long tables in red and yellow paper tablecloths. Seth’s mom Rhoda, visiting from Florida, helped.
The occasion? To celebrate wines from regions of Spain that complement works of art in “El Greco to Velázquez: Art during the Reign of Philip III,” now on view at the Nasher Museum.
Craig’s video slideshow taught us the history of Spanish wine, which dates from 1100 B.C. We learned about the climate—yes, rain on the plains of Spain. My favorite part was images of the gnarly old grape vines in Spain that are up to 100 years old and yield fewer but higher-quality grapes.
We swirled. We sniffed. We sipped. No spitting!
We tasted samples of white, rose and red wine, most of them made from tempranillo grapes gown in vineyards near the Spanish cities of Toledo, Lerma, Valladolid and Madrid. We nibbled anchovies, cheese, bread, chorizo and almonds. In between tastes, the Nasher Museum’s curator of education, Juline Chevalier, stood at the front of the class and told us about paintings and sculptures in the exhibition. Juline told this incredible story about how the Duke of Lerma lost his family fortunes more than 400 years ago because his relatives had to dress up like courtiers and babysit a crazy would-be queen in a fake castle.
The only wine I found a bit too strong, the Vina Solorca Ribera del Duero Crianza 2004, happened to be the favorite pick of Tim Wipperman, a classmate to my left at the table.
“I like big reds,” said Tim, who lives in Durham with his wife Jean. “I like earthy reds. I like leather.”
My pick from the evening is the decidedly milder Bodegas Arrocal Ribera del Duero 2006, which Craig describes as “smokey, berry.” Don’t know if I taste smoke or berries, but it’s delicious.
Museum friend and Nasher blogger Jonathan Blackwell also attended the class. I can’t wait to read about his impressions, which I hope he’ll post here soon.
The next “El Greco to Velázquez” wine tasting class at Wine Authorities is on Sept. 26 at 7:30 p.m. Cost for the class is $48 per person and includes wine, art and lots of entertainment. Call the Wine Authorities El Greco Hotline to reserve your spot: 919-489-2884.
To find out what other restaurants are offering to celebrate “El Greco to Velázquez,” check out this month’s issue of Metro Magazine.
Wendy Hower Livingston is manager of marketing and communications at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.