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Written by Nikitas Magel   

Fun as it was to conduct my vinous research, equally entertaining was to hear what some of my other classmates thought of their own blending experiments, ranging from the tragic to the sublime.  And though none of it was really methodical, the point of the exercise was simply to get an idea of the effect that different varietals in varying proportions has on a wine's overall flavor profile.  I think it's safe to say that most everyone there accomplished exactly that, each in their own way, and had a great time doing it.

By the end of the evening I settled on a blend I really liked, only to realize I'd tasted so many permutations before it, that even in spite of the generous portions of fresh bread and cheeses I'd eaten, it had all gone to my head.  But while I left the event feeling a bit fuzzier than when I'd arrived, one thing that remained clear was the lasting impact of Dave Chambers' interactive teaching style on my understanding of wine blends.


Following up on his recent wine class, I asked Dave a few questions, in an effort to get a more complete picture on the man, his background and current perspective on wine retail and education, and what he sees for the future of his own endeavors as well as the wine industry as a whole.

dave_chambersNM: What's your background in wine?  How long have you been in the industry?   And what led you to where you are today

DC: In 1979, I graduated from college hating wine.  I had reached this conclusion scientifically, through repeated tastings of the unpleasant combination of Cribari jug wine and 7-Up served at numerous fraternity parties.  Each sampling resulted in the same conclusion: "Yuck!"

I was finally introduced to good wine in 1981 during an alumni event at Callaway Vineyards, an emerging producer of white wines in Temecula.   I was shocked to learn that I enjoyed them!   It was a real epiphany, or half of one anyway, and I became convinced that I must have disliked only red wines, such as the wine of Cribari I loathed so well.

That epiphany launched a period of experimentation.  My roommates and I bought whatever white wine we could afford, and learned to cook at home to see what paired best with each wine.  We held wine and cheese parties as an excuse to meet women.  It was a fun period of exploration and discovery.  On many levels.

But it took me another year to come to red wines.  It happened at a steak restaurant while visiting friends in San Jose.  "Shall we have wine with dinner?" they asked.

"As long as it's white!" I replied.

"You can't drink white wine with steak!" they said.  "Let us order a bottle of red and if you don't like it, you can order a glass of white wine."  I agreed, and when I tasted that wine — it was a Cabernet from Heitz Cellars — I was stunned. Literally stopped in my tracks. I had no idea a wine could be so pleasurable and thought-provoking.

That launched a frenzied decade of wine classes and wine events.  I was single at the time, so my evenings and weekends were largely my own, and I filled them with whatever wine event was occurring.

I began teaching classes in the early 90's after moving to a small town in Michigan.  I quickly realized that any wine culture to be found was going to begin with me.   I know of at least one major wine fan who can be traced back to those classes, as he and his family are still customers of mine.

My classes have come a long way since then, and I enjoy few aspects of the business more than sharing my love and enthusiasm for food and wine.



 

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