Tag Archives: wine class

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?”


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.

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?