Liz Ray has Mad Throttle

Getting rear-ended and other misadventures...

In Vino Veritas

wine-101_fw_1Intellectual curiosity is important.  Alcohol is important.  Ergo, intellectual curiosity about alcohol is doubly important.  So, I signed up for a series of classes on wine, beer, and bourbon at The Philadelphia Wine School.  Yesterday, I rode the 170i over to Rittenhouse Square for the first class: Wine 101.  (Yes, I rode to a class that involved two hours of drinking wine on an empty stomach.  Then I had to figure out how to get home…)

The journey, as they say, is half the battle — particularly when trying to ride a scooter to Rittenhouse Square on a Saturday afternoon.  I will summarize the highlight of my trip this way: There are many things I’d like to become one with, e.g., myself, The Universe.   Note that “Nissan Murano with Jersey Tags” did not make the list, which is why I am glad that I was able to narrowly avoid getting side-swiped by a guy in a bronze Nissan Murano with Jersey Tags on 18th Street, as he cut in front of me and slammed on his brakes.  (He was dropping his daughter off, and it was very important that she not have to walk the extra ten feet.)

Never a dull moment while trying to scoot around Philly… But “intellectual curiosity” beckoned…

Here is The Wine School.  Behind this humble front door lies lots and lots of alcohol:

wine school front doorAlthough hard to see, the inscription above the front door proudly proclaims: Vinum scire est vitam intelligere.  It’s been a while since I took Latin (yeah, I took three years of Latin in high school — for a good time, ask me to decline puer or conjugate duco/ducere), but I’m pretty sure the sign says: To know wine is to understand life (i.e., Smart people know alcohol is important).

Inside, the Wine School is tiny, but that is OK because bottles of wine, beer, and/or bourbon do not take up a lot of space.  wine school inside



The Wine 101 class involved several flights with various wine pairs, so that students could compare and contrast the acidity, tannins, and body of the various bottles.  This process translated into roughly two hours of wine-drinking on an empty stomach (i.e., of all the college, graduate, and post-graduate courses that I have ever taken, this one was obviously the best…)  Because I am a tremendous nerd, I took notes:

Wine School List

(You may notice that the number of cross-outs increased as the class progressed.  I am sure that is merely a coincidence…)

Here are some tips that I learned:

  1. In the U.S., the terms “Reserve” and “Select” are unregulated (i.e., they are just marketing lingo) and they do not necessarily reflect anything special about the wine.
  2. Italians still add sulfur to their wine the old-fashioned way: They expose the interior of the barrels to a lit candle (as opposed to using a pill or spray).  (Reason No. 4,328 why Italians are awesome.)
  3. “Full body” is wine-speak for”high alcohol content” (typically at least 14%).
  4. The higher a wine’s acidity, the better it will pair with food.
  5. A “Super Tuscan” is a wine that is made in Italy by combining a French grape with Italy’s San Giovese grape.  (Not to be confused with a “Super Calabrese” — which is someone like me, whose ancestors hail from the Calabria region of Italy.)
  6. French Chardonnays are “buttery” because they have a higher lactose (or lactic acid — I forget — c’mon people, I was drinking) content than other wines, due to the fact that French Chardonnays are double fermented.
  7. Higher tannin wines go well with steak and cheese (mmm…steak and cheese…)
  8. The second-highest-priced wine on a restaurant menu is the worst value.  The highest priced wine is the “best value” because it has the lowest mark-up.  The cheapest wines on a restaurant menu have the highest mark-up.
  9. Milbrandt Vineyards 2010 Grenache is the best wine ever.  I will dedicate my life to finding as many bottles of this stuff as possible.
  10. Scooting home right after a wine class is pretty much impossible.

When the class wrapped up, I walked outside and discovered it was raining.  So, now I was double-screwed: two hours of wine AND wet roads.   I began to walk around and wandered by a little hole-in-the-wall sushi joint on Sansom (Vic’s).  I had the following thought:

Sushi . .  Sushi has rice in it.  Rice is absorbent.  Maybe sushi will absorb the alcohol so I can ride home.

OK, I admit, in hindsight, this probably doesn’t reflect Kurt-Gödel, Vienna-Circle, logical-positivist-level reasoning.  But it made sense at the time.  And I can say that Vic’s does have AMAZING sushi at reasonable prices.  It’s somewhere near the Wine School…within stumbling distance.  (Google it, people.)

The alcohol-absorbing properties of sushi rice were not what I had hoped, so I wandered around Rittenhouse Square for a while.  (In the rain, without an umbrella — but I had had wine for two-hours, so I didn’t care until I eventually got home and I was freezing cold and all wet.)  I believe that I wandered into some stores on Chestnut.

Once sobriety set in, I walked back over to my bike and rode home.  Safe and sound.

(This morning I found a porcelain fortune cookie wrapped in tissue paper in my purse. . . I’m sure that’s a great story (if I could remember it)).

Hopefully the upcoming classes on beer and bourbon will go just as well.  I will probably walk to the class that involves two-hours of straight bourbon. . .





  1. Nice post. Glad you made it home safe and sound.

  2. I had to laugh when you brought up the mark up on wines. I’m always amused how I can buy a bottle of wine for $10 in a store yet the restaurant wants me to pay $6 for a glass of the same vintage. Just one of the many reasons I’ve a wine fridge at the house.

    • One of the many reasons I just had a commercial-grade beer and wine fridge installed in my kitchen…may never leave my home again.

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