Friday, May 2, 2008

Open Lots of Books and Lots of Bottles

How did Elizabeth Schweitzer get to be one of only 8 women master wine sommeliers in the world? "I open a lot of books and a lot of bottles."
The Diamond Bar Friends of the Library holds an annual charity wine tasting for the local branch of the Los Angeles County Library. If you don’t know Diamond Bar, this is a small city in Los Angeles County where the citizens take on the political process with gusto. Things can get so heated around here, that in a former life as a planning commissioner, a bystander asked if I wore a flak jacket to the legislative meetings. What is wonderful about this annual wine tasting is that by breaking bread and discovering new wines together, wounds are healed and friendships forged.
Right before the event, the volunteers are treated to a class (with lots of delicious samples courtesy of the major sponsor of the event The New World International Wine Competition) at Dacor, the high end kitchen appliance manufacturer whose impressive showroom is just around the corner from City Hall.
Dacor is one of the fine companies rewarded for actualizing its company value statement.

Elizabeth Schweitzer led this year’s class. Her enthusiasm for wine spills over. With joie de vivre, the former chanteuse recommended we should all slow down to really enjoy wine. See it. Smell it. Taste it.
Hold the glass up to the light. See the color. There are as many colors of white wine as there are shades of blond. Notice the clarity.
To appreciate the full character of the wine, she recommended taking "little puppy breaths" to catch the initial scent before the first taste. Then swirl the wine around in the glass like you see the host at restaurants do when they want to impress their guests. Draw in a deep breath. Taste again. Compare the first impression to the second. The two sips will not be the same. You will have experienced the range of taste in a single glass.
Notice how the wine feels in the mouth. Some wines are light and thin. Some boast a fuller, heavier texture.
All of these little rituals will cause you to really think about what food will go with the particular wine.
A lot of people spend an extraordinary amount of time throughout the year to make the event special. These are just a few. Tony Torng works with local restaurants to make sure there is plenty of food to sample between sips. Nancy Lyons gathers up items to auction. Rick Rodgers is in charge of marketing.

Robert Block is in charge of finding and training the wine pourers. He makes sure that the pourers have Rick Rodger’s fine notes about wine and serving and arranges for a new class each year so that we are helpful to the event’s patrons. He does his best to assign us to wines we like on the most convenient shift for our schedule.
There are others who deserve acknowledgement, but we will save that for later, so they can be properly thanked.
Equipped with a little knowledge from the class, I enjoyed this year’s tasting more than ever.
Here are my notes from the event, which I shared with a friend right after the event.

Knapp Fingerlakes Chardonnay. New York. A nicely sippable wine that would be great conversation starter served with white cheeses spread on light, crisp crackers.
Stephen and Walker had a nice 2003 Pinot Noir. Dry. Just warm enough on the back of the throat to leave a nice "goodbye". Would serve with lighter Italian fare. Maybe a spaghetti with fresh sauce or spinach-ricotta dumplings with sage in a light sauce with shaved Parmesan like at Cafe` Firenze in Moorpark. Bedria at the deli at the Aljibani Halal Market in Diamond Bar, makes an Egyptian lasagna on Fridays- white sauce with no cheese, very lean ground beef- much lighter than most Italian versions- which would also be a wonderful pairing.

And White Springs Springhouse White. New York Proprietary. A lightly sweet wine that would be absolutely gorgeous served with peaches on the patio in summertime. The patrons were lined up for this one until there was no more.
Funniest moment of the night was when I couldn't get opener to work on cork. Probably because it was a screw cap.
But the best was last. I had taken a left-over bottle of South Dakota's finest next-door for Chuck and Sandra to try. Walking home, Lorraine from across the street is bringing me cupcakes- so she and her husband got the rest of the bottle. I suspect there are not many neighborhoods where the residents are running door to door with samplings of food and wine just because. This is one GREAT place to live.

For more information on classes taught by Elizabeth Schweitzer, please write to her at But beware, be prepared to be delighted, enlightened and entertained.

Copywrite 2008 Lydia Plunk


Anonymous said...

How did I get behind? I read three of your latest posts and they were all terrific! Loved the recap (no pun intended) of the wine soire! That is my favorite event of the year! hmmm Wonder why? I have my favorite wines and because they pour a tiny amount at a time I tend to hang out at those tables in between the food tables! Such a great event!
In the latest article the picture were amazing! I always look forward to receiving your latest! Keep up the fine work!!
XO Trisha

Lydia said...

XO, Back Trisha! Glad you are enjoying Gene's photographs. He is a master and I am honored to work with him.
This is why I haven't been able to send to my pastor, my best friends or various members of committees who happen to have aol addresses.
This is only AOL and very recent. According to the postmaster at AOL-no messages with a blogspot link in them are being allowed to go through to their customers. All are being bounced back.
When AOL postmaster was asked if had any suggestions- I was told that I might see if AOL had any blog addresses available.

Lydia said...

Trisha! Thank you for your efforts with AOL. The problem- it appears to have cleared up! The customer service rep you contacted- Kevin- every company would be lucky to have someone such as he on staff.