Tag Archives: El Centro College

“So simple, so cheap:” Home-made apple wine

Home-made apple wine: “A perfectly passable table wine.”

There are any number of reasons to love this video from BrewTube — the narrator’s English accent, the addition of oak chips to the fermenting apple juice, and his conclusion: “A perfectly passable table wine.” The bravest among you might want to try this and let me know about the passable part.

I post this for a couple of reasons. First, my El Centro class ended this week, and one of the highlights this year — as it is every year — is the anecdote about making wine from orange juice. I always start the first lecture with the orange juice story: If you want to make wine, take a bottle of orange juice, put it in the back of the refrigerator, and you’ll get wine in a couple of weeks.

The wine may not be very good, but it is wine since the sugar has been converted to alcohol. More importantly, it demonstrates that winemaking is more than just the technical stuff. Not a lot of terroir in fermented orange juice. There’s also the bit about the student who had been in prison, and had done this in his cell, but that’s a story for another day.

Second, because I once tried making wine at home, using grape juice and the method in this video. The less said, the better, other than to note I had to dump 64 ounces of moldy grape juice down the sink.

Want to get young people interested in wine? Try wine education

wine educationWine education is the key to help Millennials enjoy wine; otherwise, they assume it’s expensive, snobby, and geeky

The news is everywhere for anyone who wants to pay attention: Younger people, and especially the Millennials who should be the future of wine, aren’t much interested in it.

I see this every time I teach at Dallas’ El Centro College. Beer and spirits, yes, those they want to know about. But wine? As one student said, midway though this semester’s first wine tasting: “I’m never going to understand this. It’s too complicated.”

Never fear, though. Wine education to the rescue.

This has happened every time I’ve taught a class. The idea of wine perplexes the students, most of whom have never had any and don’t know anyone who has. About the only thing they do know is that wine is expensive, snobby, and geeky, which are hardly qualities to recommend it.

This is disheartening enough, but consider that these are culinary students in El Centro’s top-notch Food and Hospitality Institute. They need to learn wine in order to have a career. And if they’re overwhelmed, how must the rest of their age group feel? They don’t need to learn about wine to make a living.

Which is where wine education – something the wine business considers as unnecessary as ingredient labels and tasting notes written in English – comes in. This also happens every time I’ve taught a class. Get the students past the idea of expensive, snobby, and geeky. Show them that wine can be simple and fun. That’s when the light bulb goes off and they aren’t intimidated anymore.

In other words, wine education.

Give potential wine drinkers something other than toasty and oaky to work with. Show them wine doesn’t have to cost as much as a car payment to be enjoyable. Let them figure out what they like instead of telling them what they should drink.

And it works every time. This semester, the same student who was ready to give up after tasting two red wines was confident and assured during the sparkling wine tasting. She was able to explain why she liked the California sparkling better than the French Champagne, and her reasons were considered and well thought out. (The fruitiness, mostly.)

The other key here? I didn’t pass judgment on the student or tell her she was stupid for daring to prefer the “inferior” wine. Sadly, when’s the last time you saw someone in wine be that open minded?

El Centro wine class 2017

el centro wine class

No, I don’t get to wear a white uniform. Which is probably a good thing.

One more El Centro wine class figures out wine can be fun, and not just another boring subject

This semester’s El Centro wine class taught me several valuable lessons about teaching. First, no class is the same, no matter how much we want it to be. Second, just because it isn’t the same as the others doesn’t mean the students don’t want to learn. That’s where the teaching comes in, right?

Third, that the moment when the students figure it out – and it happened again for this class, if later and not as easily as I had wished – makes all the other aggravation worthwhile.

This is the fifth semester I’ve taught at El Centro, part of the Dallas County Community College system. My students are enrolled in the school’s Food and Hospitality Institute, regarded as one of the best two-year culinary programs in the country. This semester’s group, by its own admission, took pride in being different, and it took me a while to understand that.

But, in the end, the wine won out. Or, as one of the students asked me after we sampled some particularly difficult Australian reds, harsh and overwhelming, in our final tasting session of the semester: “Did you save these wines for the last class because you knew we wouldn’t appreciate them or understand them if we had done them at the beginning of the semester?”

Bingo.

The point, as it always is when I teach wine, is not to judge each wine by whether you like it or not. Good and bad don’t matter as much as what the wine tastes like. And why does it taste that way? And is it a well-made wine? And is there a difference between this wine and a similar wine made elsewhere in the world? And, because they’re culinary students, what can we pair it with? And why does that pairing work?

In this, there are not necessarily right or wrong answers, but only well-reasoned explanations. I explain terroir and demonstrate how it works, but it’s up to them to decide if terroir matters in wine. As long as their explanation makes sense, I’m happy. Education is about teaching students how to make their own decisions, not browbeating the crap out of them.

No wine class in the fall, but it will return in spring 2018. If you aren’t a student, you will be able to take it as part of the college’s continuing education program. I’ll post details on the blog when registration for next spring begins.

No El Centro class this semester

The perils of academia: My El Centro College beverage management class didn’t make, as we say in the trade, and won’t be held this semester.

In other words, not enough students, and for a couple of reasons. The most important was probably this summer’s police killings in Dallas, which took place in the building where I teach and not far from the classroom. That would be enough to give almost anyone second thoughts.

Hopefully, we’ll be back for the spring semester. If you’re in the Dallas area and need information about the class, drop me an email.

El Centro wine class evolves into beverage management

el centro wine classMy El Centro wine class has evolved into beverage management this semester, but that doesn’t mean we don’t do wine any more. Rather, it speaks to the school’s commitment to upgrading its curriculum (and there may be big news about that later this spring), and I’m flattered that I get to help.

Beverage management covers most of what students need to know to understand how the wine, beer, and spirits programs at a restaurant work. In one respect, it’s not much different than what we did in the wine class, since I spent class time talking about putting together wine lists, how to deal with distributors and sales people, and the rest of restaurant wine.

What’s different is that the class is more rigorous in what students learn, and that ?s not necessarily a bad thing. The wine class was wine appreciation taught through my perspective; beverage management offers my perspective, but it’s more than that. Par stock may seem boring, but it’s crucial if you’re going run a successful operation. Why do restaurants always not have the wine I order when they never run out of chicken breasts ? That’s one of the secrets of par stock.

Plus, we get to taste beer and spirits as well as wine.

The only drawback is that the class is less consumer friendly than the wine class was. Having said that, it should still be worthwhile for anyone who wants to take it as continuing education, something El Centro emphasizes. Where else can you listen to me rant about three-tier or offer my insights into high alcohol wine?

Finally, a word about my students this semester. I’ve never had a bad class, either here or at the Cordon Bleu in Dallas, and rarely any bad students. This is one reason why I don’t sound like an old white guy when I talk about younger people. But this class, so far, has done most of them one better. They pay attention, they ask good questions (though I wish they would ask more) and they’re a whiz at cleanup after class. What more could a teacher ask for?

El Centro wine class: A new semester

el centro wine class“I’m being more adventurous in my wine drinking, Mr. Siegel,” a former El Centro student told me a couple of weeks ago. I was practically giddy; she had started the class convinced she preferred sweet wine, but has taken to heart the only advice about wine that really matters, despite the volumes of foolishness we must endure: Drink what you like, but be willing to try different kinds of wine. Which, I must confess, I repeated a time or two during the semester.

So far, this semester’s class looks like it might be more of the same. This is not necessarily because the Wine Curmudgeon is a brilliant teacher, but because my students are eager, inquisitive, and ready to throw off their wine business-imposed chains. One student, when we were discussing terroir, understood the controversy perfectly. “If you’re a Big Wine company,” I asked them, “and you have a choice between making distinctive, terroir-driven wines and making wines that taste the same regardless of where they’re from, but which you think will sell better, what would you do?” “Make wines that taste the same,” she said. “Isn’t it about making money?”

Take that, Winestream Media. They can see through your pretense. The other impressive thing? That these students are willing to taste wine when we don’t do it in class. This has traditionally been a problem when I teach a wine class. When 20-somethings go out, they don’t want to do homework, even if it involves drinking wine. But after three weeks, this class is drinking when they go out and when they’re at home. And then we’re talking about whether the wines they buy are a value, something else that practically makes me giddy.

I’ll write more about the class later in the semester, but I want to add this now: The difference between talking about wine with young people who don’t know everything, but aren’t bothered by it, and talking about wine with people my age, including the infamous old white guys, is the difference between a $10 Hall of Fame wine and grocery store plonk. And everyone knows which I prefer.

The Wine Curmudgeon’s fall 2015 wine education extravaganza

wine education

Have Curmudgeon-mobile, will travel.

Take your pick. All provide wine education as only the Wine Curmudgeon can — which means that if you’re stuffy, hung up on scores, or think wine is not supposed to be fun, you should probably look elsewhere:

? My wine class, also open to non-credit students, at Dallas’ El Centro College. We’ll cover the basics, including how to spit, the three-tier system, restaurant wine, and how wine is made, plus at least 10 tastings focusing on the world’s wine regions. Cost is $177, which is a great deal if only for the tastings. But you also get my incisive commentary and occasional rant, which means the school is practically giving the class away. We’ll meet 7-8:50 p.m. on Thursday between Sept. 3 and Dec. 17. Click the link for registration information.

? The annual Texas wine panel at the Kerrville fall food and wine festival, 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 5. This is always one of my favorite events, not just because I hear some terrific folk music, but because the audience appreciates Texas wine and wants it to be better.

? The southwest chapter meeting of the American Wine Society in Arizona, on the last weekend of October, where I’ll talk about U.S. regional wine.

?The American Wine Society’s national meeting Nov. 5-7 in suburban Washington, D.C., where I’ll give two seminars. Not coincidentally, conference registration begins this week. I’m doing “The Texas Revolution: How the Lone Star state learned to love grapes that weren ?t chardonnay, cabernet, and merlot” at 4:45 p.m. on Nov. 6, and “Five U.S. wine regions you probably don ?t know, but should,” at 11 a.m. Nov. 7. The latter will look at wine regions, including one in California, that deserve more attention than they get.

And, perhaps the most fun part of all — the Wine Curmudgeon’s latest marketing effort, which will allow me to spread the gospel of cheap wine anywhere I drive. Yes, a personalized Texas license plate that says 10 WINE.