From August 2011: Thoughts about working at a winery…
I volunteer at the James River Cellars winery. It’s almost laughable until you realize just how much I love working at this place. I work when it fits my schedule, I teach people about the wines we offer at our winery, and I get paid in “wine dollars” for the hours that I’m there. It’s the perfect job for me. I started visiting wineries with my best friend about 2 years ago when she gifted me with a wine tasting/tour and lunch at a nearby winery. This seemingly small event opened up an entirely new world to me.
Wine had always been something of a mystery to me. I’d have a great-tasting wine somewhere and then search in vain to find something similar in my price range at the grocery store. Visiting wineries started to take some of the mystery out of what I liked in the wines I enjoyed. I learned about tannins (I don’t like strong ones), dry/sweet/off-dry wines (I’m somewhere in the middle, depending on the season), and oak vs stainless steel casks (I typically like stainless but can enjoy light oak). The difference from one winery to another can be like traveling between different countries. They all make wine, but each wine maker puts his or her own spin on things to make them unique. Add to that the impact caused by the weather on individual vintages (the year a wine is made) and you have another reason to visit your favorite wineries at least once a year! It was a lot to absorb as I started learning about wines, but I’ve found out some wonderful tips that I’d like to share.
- You don’t have to be an expert in wine to know what wines are good. If a wine tastes good to YOU, that’s all that is really important.
- At a winery, as in life, the only truly “stupid” question is the one that you don’t ask. TALK with the person pouring the wines at your tasting and ask questions. If they don’t know the answer, or aren’t willing to find out the answer for you, then you don’t ever have to return.
- Wine is for EVERYONE (of legal age, of course). Red wine is not just an “adult wine” and Sweet wine is not just for “Kids or beginners”. Each person has their own unique taste buds and their own preferences. If your friend’s choice doesn’t coincide with yours, then buy your own bottles. You don’t HAVE to share.
- Do a little homework and visit wineries that offer tastings. The people pouring for you should be able to share their personal experiences with the wines being offered and give you suggestions on wines you will enjoy at their winery.
When I do a wine tasting at James River Cellars, you get MY opinion of the wines we offer. I will tell you how I’ve used our wines…. I’ll share recipes…. I’ll give you my nicknames for some of my personal favorites (Our Hanover Red wine is my “I have to call and talk with my mom for an hour” wine)…. and I’ll try and make your visit to our winery as memorable as I would want it to be if I were on the other side of the bar. Come visit James River Cellars winery (it’s on Rt 1 in Glen Allen, VA, just north of the Virginia Center Commons mall) and see for yourself. Hopefully I’ll be the one doing the pouring for you!
Alison Althouse of James River Cellars Winery