Tell me about Uncorked Events.
I do educational wine tastings at private homes and businesses.
There are things that I’ll teach: How do you identify the aromas? How do you identify the flavors? What’s important? What are you looking for? It’s not just: “Hey, that’s a cool label.”
A lot of people get stuck in a rut, so they only want to drink Chardonnay. They only want to drink Cabernet Sauvignon. So, I’m trying to help people push the boundaries a little bit.
I want to always have one that I think will be a home run wine so everybody will go, “Wow! I loved that.” And the other ones, maybe you’ve not experienced them before. They’re different.
How do you teach people what to look for?
There are certain things you can do. You systematically go through these things and learn. If it’s “hot” in the sense that it burns or warms your mouth or throat, that means it’s high in alcohol.
So, Sauvignon blancs, one is French. I call it “austere.” It’s going to be very European in its style compared to Sauvignon blanc from California. And then it will have some of the same characteristics, but it’s going to be more tropical.
You might taste flavors of melon, or in the French version it might have aromas of grass or shale as opposed to tropical and fruity.
What kinds of things affect these attributes?
Just growing it in a different place is going to change what the flavors are. If you grow it in a climate that’s cool without much rain, it’s going to take longer for that grape to ripen on the vine. If it’s grown in rocks or granite or schist or gravel, those kinds of soils, it takes minerality from the ground. But if it’s in a different kind of soil, it might be more loamy or maybe even have some clay in there. Or volcanic soil. These things come into the grape.
The French term for that is “terroir.” It’s the surrounding bubble of influences that give it characteristics that are different in one area versus another.
So, it’s the grape, and then it’s the climate and the terroir, and then it’s what the wine maker can do.
The winemaker can maybe ferment it in stainless steel. What that’s going to do is keep all other influences out of the juice. But if you ferment it and maybe even age it in oak, that brings some of the oaky flavors in it.
A winemaker can do a lot of things. He can force certain types of fermentation. There’s malolactic fermentation, where it converts malic acid into lactic acid. Lactic is more round, more smooth, even buttery, depending on the grape.
If you get a buttery Chardonnay, you know it’s had malolactic fermentation, and it’s probably been aged in oak.
What about aging?
I think that a lot of people don’t really understand what aging does.
Most grapes are produced and put in a bottle with the idea that you’re going to drink it within a year or two. But you hear all about, oh, 1962 was a great year. OK, that means the conditions in the winemaker’s mind were ideal for growing and harvesting and producing that wine. So, limited frost, not too much rain, not too much drought, there’s no smoke in the air like in California these fires.
But you can age a wine. If you buy a bottle of wine for your use at home, you probably want to drink it pretty soon. There’s no reason to let it sit around. It doesn’t get any better most of the time, because it sat there too long.
What conditions affect the bottled wine?
Things that make it deteriorate: heat, sunlight, storing it upright. You want to store it on the side because you want to keep the cork wet with the wine. If the cork dries out, it lets too much air in. You can oxidate the wine. If it’s red, it turns brown, and it tastes nasty.
And a winemaker is always experimenting. Just because you have a Chardonnay doesn’t mean it’s always going to taste the same from one producer to the next.
What’s the best way to preserve an older wine?
You have to keep them at a certain temperature if you’re planning to cellar them, basically. And different wines require different temperatures of storage, but basically you want between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
And it has to be on the side. Laid down, maybe angled so the cork is definitely wet. Don’t put it on top of the refrigerator. Don’t store it next to your oven. Even vibrations can change the flavors.
How did you get involved in this?
I got into this during the pandemic. I’ve been a wine lover for a long time. So, we’re all shut down, staying at home, not much to do. So, I enrolled in online wine classes with the Napa Valley Wine Academy.
They have four levels of certification. I went through the first three levels in the first year and a half. So, I’m a level three certified.
So, I decided I would just do this as kind of a hobby business. I’m semiretired. And this was something I thought would be fun to do.
You often use themes with these events. Tell me about that.
I did a tasting last year. We called it “Around the World in Six Bottles.” That was what this particular couple wanted, and it was probably 10 or 12 people. And they didn’t necessarily care about the grape, but how is a wine from South America similar or different to a wine from America or South Africa or Germany or France or Australia?
I have a number of themes that I’m prepared to just go with.
I’m from Virginia originally, so I love to do “Wines of Virginia.” You’re not going to get the style of California Cabernet, but it’s still really great in its own way.
You can do a “Finger Lakes of New York” wine tasting with all those wonderful whites up there.
We did a Northwest U.S. wine tasting a few months ago. There were a lot of Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and those kinds of things.
And I’ve got some offbeat kinds of things. We can do orange-colored wines, blue-colored wines, wines that smell and taste like bubble gum, licorice. I’m excited about those kinds of things. They’re different. But not too many people sign onto that.
What do your tastings consist of?
I bring these wines in to help people get a broader appreciation of what’s out there. I will introduce the wine, where it’s from, what grape is involved – or grapes.
We’ll talk about the area, so if it’s from the Loire Valley of France, we’ll talk about what’s the characteristics of Loire. What can you expect from wine from that region of France?
I try to bring stories to the wine tasting, where it came from, what did the wine maker think and what’s the backstory of the wine maker, of the winery, etc.
I do a lot of research.
Do you need special skills to evaluate wine?
A lot of people think, “I could never do that, because I can’t pick out the aromas and flavors.” But if you do it systematically and practice at it, you can get much, much better than you thought.
Obviously, you can tell if it’s red or white. But there are different colors. It can be purple, ruby, tawny. If it’s white, it can be almost clear. It can also be lemon-colored or different shades of colors. And that gives you clues as to what it’s going to smell and taste like.
If it’s red, you have to evaluate how much tannin is in it. If there’s too much, it can feel harsh.
You evaluate tannin and alcohol. Eleven percent alcohol by volume is considered low. Between 11% and 14%, that’s medium. And above 14% is high.
You can evaluate the finish of a wine, which is how long the desirable flavors and characteristics persist in your mouth after you swallow it.
You can evaluate the aromas that persist. There are different kinds of aromas. There are floral aromas. You might smell rose petals. You might smell honeysuckle. You might smell pear or apple blossom. Or it might smell citrusy, lemony.
This is all stuff that the grape brings to the wine.
We go through this entire process of thinking about: What do I see? What do I smell? What do I taste? Is it balanced? How’s the finish? Is it a long finish that’s desirable? And is it complex? Do you taste more than one category of things? Do you taste anything that is remotely floral?
If you can get the right complexity and the right elements, you want to keep drinking that all night because it’s so delicious.
You aren’t advocating for any certain wine.
Since I don’t work with a winery or a wine producer, I’m not pushing anything. I’m interested in helping educate. That’s why I like what I do so much.
I’m not selling bottles. I’ll give you the information about where to get the wines that we tasted.
But I typically buy the wine. And show up at your house at the appointed hour with the wine. The wines are already chilled. I’ve got boxes of wine glasses and everything you need.
People are probably a little more familiar with Napa, but Napa is also very complex. So, one of the things that I did after I got level three, I also earned a Napa Valley Wine Expert credential.
What’s your background?
I was and still am a management consultant. Thirty-plus years.
I’ve done a lot of the executive assessment feedback, coaching, development programs for companies.
I lived in Virginia until 2018. We came down here to be close to our daughter and our granddaughter.
Before all that: Bachelor’s degree in music composition, Master’s degree in education, Doctoral degree in global leadership development.
With such a richly diverse education, why did you decide to go this route?
I had toyed with it for some time. Most of our friends have an appreciation for wines. Some of them have huge collections of wine. Others have been involved in selling wine.
So, I started Uncorked Events with the idea that I would try it and see what happens.
My wife and I have been visiting wineries for a long time. Our son lives in Berkeley, California, which is about an hour away from Napa. So, we go visit him. And then make a trip up to Napa.
Who are your customers?
Mostly, so far, it’s been individuals or couples with their friends. For example, I had a tasting at someone’s house for his birthday party. He had about 10 of his friends come in, and we did “Wines of California.”
I’ve also done a couple of tastings at an assisted living facility.
I’m not limited to Ponte Vedra, Ponte Vedra Beach or Nocatee. I’ll go to St. Augustine or anywhere in the greater Jacksonville metro area.
Ideal group size, if we’re doing it at a home, is like 10 to 12. It could be a little more than that, depending on the size of the home. In a big group setting it’s like 30 or 40 people. That’s a lot of people. And I call on my friends and family to help pour and help do crowd control.
I can do country clubs. Maybe someone wants to do a Christmas party and they’d like to have a wine tasting as a part of that. I’d love to do something like that.
How do people contact you?
The business is on Facebook and Instagram. They could find me there. They could call me at 757-647-2571 or email me at email@example.com.