Of Champagne and Chablis

I’m not a wine snob. In fact, it’s only been in the last 10 or so years that I’ve begun to note the subtle flavors from wine to wine. When the invitation to partake in local restaurant RN74’s ‘Saturdays with the Somms’ came up, I quickly accepted – knowing this might be a perfect opportunity for me to learn more. And boy, did I!

I’d never consider myself a white wine lover. In fact, I’ve always been drawn to the deep, earthy flavors of reds. Cabernets draw me in on every menu before whites, and I always like to keep my eye out for the bottle of the month so that I can think about getting it on my subscription service (if I was to have one that is). I find it enjoyable looking for different wines. But this was a day for chablis and champagne, so I quickly put aside my world of tannins and stains and opened myself up for fruity freshness!

Based on their name and background (‘RN 74’ refers to the “Route Nationale 74” which is the highway traveling through the major wine region of France) one could reasonably surmise that the staff and sommeliers at RN 74 are well-versed in wine. “Knowledgeable” doesn’t do them justice – led by Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen, our group was taken by the hand by sommelier Luke Wohler on a vintactular (that’s a combination of vintners & spectacular, in case you’re wondering) stroll through France’s Grand Cru wine region – where a tiny percentage of the best wine grapes in the world are grown. Surprisingly enough, I found a preference for the chablis fermented in steel tanks, rather than oak, suited my palate rather than that soaked in oak. Luke gave us all an appreciation for noticing the vivid fruity notes that come only from a long, warm growing season as found in the Grand Cru. My fondness of the steel came as a surprise to me – as did my ability to better focus on the subtle notes of the wine itself.

The second half of our class was spent tasting champagne. Again, not being an aficionado of wine, nor specifically of champagne, I wondered how much I could truly take away from this casual education. What a silly skeptic I am! Within an hour’s time I was able to distinctly taste the differences of the blanc de blanc sour apple and lime, the smooth mix of the blend and thesubtle summer berry notes of the blanc de noir. Luke’s casual and unassuming persona made me comfortable – thus helping me to not feel intimidated (and opened me up to a wealth of knowledge of champagne that may last my lifetime).

A little tipsy, but sporting a barrelful of knowledge, I walked out the door of RN 74 – sad that two hours had passed so quickly. Classes are the third Saturday of each month from 2-4pm. Cost: $45 for a single class or $105 for a series of three. http://michaelmina.net/pdfs/saturday-with-the-somms.jpg

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