If you went to any of the Martha’s Vineyard Food & Wine Festival events last October, you might have heard the name Sam Decker.
He was the sommelier who represented the Vineyard in the Sommelier Throw-Down along with wine maker Joseph Carr and wine expert, Mark Fine.
It was at that event that I first met Sam, and could immediately tell that he has a passion for wine. Sam talks not only about the wine, but also gives you the history behind it, the soil that produces it. For him, it’s more than wine, it’s a part of history and the grapes tell the story.
Sam, a West Tisbury native, has had quite the world experience with wine. He and his wife have recently moved back to the Island and he is continuing to nurture his love of wine.
When I head about MV Wine School, founded by Sam, who is the general manager and wine director of Atria restaurant, of course my interest was immediately piqued. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to get a group of friends together and spice up a weeknight during the Winter.
MV Wine School takes place on Wednesdays in the dining room of Atria. We decided to do the Exploring Burgundy class. Well, it’s not really a class per say but rather an interactive workshop.
Upon entering the room, we were greeted with a glass of bubbly which is a wonderful way to begin any event.
Then we chose our seats. Classes tend to be about 18 people. At the table, there was a beautiful cheese tray with the most wonderful buttery toast.
Once everyone was there, our education began. One of the reasons for choosing the class on Burgundy is because it’s a style of wine that my friends and I are not too familiar with. Why not expand the the ole repertoire.
I had no idea just how amazing this experience would be. I knew that Sam is passionate about wine, but this exceeded all my expectations.
There is a minerality to the soil that influences the taste of the grapes. We learned about terroir, a french term referring to particular region’s soils and aspect (terrain), and how that affects the taste of wine.
For the producers of Burgundy wines, the history runs deep. In the 500’s, monks dominated the wine producing in the area. They were well funded and dedicated to wine making. It was the monks who chose the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes that started the wine legacy of Burgundy.
We went on to learning about the regions and how the wines are classified from the vineyards and grapes. Some of the wines have grapes from a specific vineyard, the Grand Crus (expensive), to the Villages category where a number of vineyards contribute grapes to make the wine.
All the time, sampling the wines of the area, and if you closed your eyes for moment, you could imagine being in the vineyards of France.
First, I have to admit, that I thought all Burgundy wines were red, how’s that for not knowing much. This first wine was the color of fresh cut straw. It was buttery and velvety.
It was a pleasant wine, a nice place to begin. We moved on to two other white Burgundy wines. I preferred the wine from the Cote De Beaune Puligny Montrachet region. This wine had an essence that was very unique.
I’m not going to tell you which one it was – you’ll have to take the class! With each wine from different villages or regions, we learned about the soil and the grapes, understanding that the grape is the used to give a sense of place, a fingerprint used to let you know where the wine is from.
However, it wasn’t until the second Bourgogne Rouge that I fell in love. A bold wine, that Sam described as “delicate but feral” which made us laugh, this red was it for me. The Domaine Maume Gevrey- Chambertin 2009 stole my heart. So much so, I was poaching my friend’s glasses.
This is wine that would never catch my eye in the store. The label is boring and I don’t always buy a $50.00 and up priced bottle of wine.
However, this is one that I will buy on my own and will savor, thinking about Cote De Nuits wine region in France. Not that I’ve been there, but I feel like I know it a little bit after this class with Sam.
In between the wines, we were also served food. During the whites, a delicious lobster risotto. For the reds, a delicious squab dish.
The whole experience was so decadent – the wines, the education, the food, the laughter shared with friends. I love MV Wine School, and luckily there are a number of additional classes happening.
The one on champagne is most likely going to be one I visit! You can visit MV Wine School for all the details. Classes range in prices, $45.00-$55.00, an unbelievable value, and are held during the week, roughly an hour and a half in length.
However, you might want to allot some time to head to the Cellar to continue the fun and discuss all you just learned.
MV Wine School is a fun way to learn about wine together, an experience that is memorable and educational and of course fun. We had a great time, and are looking forward to our next one. Best to sign up quickly, classes fill up. Winter months are a little more fun with clever new things like MV Wine School, thank you Sam Decker.
And, thanks for reading the On Point Blog. You can learn more about the MV Wine School on its website. Hope there’s a class that interests you and helps you expand your horizons.