I know I’m not alone when I say that it can be really daunting to pick out a bottle of wine. I often find myself scanning the seemingly endless rows of bottles at the wine shop, unable to decide which to buy, and worse, uncertain of what I’m even looking for. So, I decided to take Wine Essentials at ICE to better understand my palate and what factors affect how a wine tastes.

As a graduate of ICE’s Culinary Arts program, I know how important palate development and proper balance of flavors is to creating a dish, and wine is quite similar. In the first session we smelled and tasted four tiny ramekins of unlabeled liquids — aside from the first, which contained water, the taste of each of the remaining three was assertive and not enjoyable on their own. We were told that one contained bitter grape tannin, another contained tart grape acid, and finally the last contained sweet fruit sugars. We then combined a tiny bit of each and tasted the resulting mixture. It no longer had any of the aggressive qualities of each individual component and tasted vaguely of wine. It painted a very clear picture of how everything comes together to form a balanced wine. More…

I never thought I’d hear one of the leading sommeliers in this city sing the praises of boxed wine, but that’s exactly what happened when I heard Bernard Sun, the James Beard Award–winning sommelier of the Jean-Georges restaurant group, speak at ICE. The wine connoisseur stopped by to educate a full classroom on the ins and outs of New Zealand wines.

In keeping with Sun’s philosophy that the best thing about wine is the story behind it, he was sure to educate the class on New Zealand itself. This kiwi crash-course included a breakdown of the very wide variety of wine regions within the country. The country runs nearly 1,000 miles north-to-south, so it provides many different climates. Another distinction of New Zealand wines is that regardless of the region, there is an emphasis on the purity of the land and the agriculture. In fact, there is a push to certify all New Zealand wines as organic by 2012. More…

When ICE President Rick Smilow and Anne E. McBride wrote Culinary Careers: How to Get Your Dream Job in Food they discovered a plethora of food jobs they had never heard of before. Since the book’s release, they have been discovering even more interesting career paths in the food world. DICED shares some of them with you in a reoccurring feature, “Unique Culinary Careers.”

Wine and beverage are an integral part of any fine dining meal and it takes great skill to artfully pair wine with food. Wine writer and judge Renie Steves works as an instructor teaching people how to be their own sommelier, giving people the knowledge about wines, regions and taste so they can match wines with the dishes they create. Her September 22 class at ICE is called “Be Your Own Sommelier.” Steves writes for the Fort Worth Business Press and Wine News. She is based in Forth Worth, Texas, but has travelled to over 50 countries to visit wineries and judge wine competitions. Her career is an enviable mix of travelling, eating, drinking and meeting new people. We asked her about what she does now and how she got there.

How would you describe your job?
I’ve had cooking school for over 32 years. While I still teach the occasional one-on-one, one-on-two or team-building class, my career has evolved to become a journalist writing about food, wine and travel. It’s a gorgeous combination. The wine and food world is actually quite small. I get to meet people who are passionate about the same things as me, and that’s such a plus. There is almost nobody I meet who I wouldn’t want around my dining room table. More…

Up through Wine Essentials session five, Director of Wine and Beverage Studies, Richard Vayda, has taken us on a worldwide, whirlwind tour of the wines of France, Italy, and Spain. Session five grounded our palates back in the U.S. of A., with Vayda’s introduction to the wines of our own true terroir.

The class was a true education in getting to know what’s lying right here before us, whether from California, New York, Texas or even Arkansas. Grapes are growing far and wide through our fifty states and they’re here for the drinking.

Tastes ranged from a light, summery, picnic-friendly pinot gris through hearty, substantial, tannin-filled cabernets and syrahs. Throw a Carneros pinot noir into the mix, and you realize that just how versatile American wines can be. More…

Ah, la France. Rolling hills, valleys of vineyards, row upon row of grapes in the French countryside. Nowhere else in the world does wine have such a reputation, and from nowhere else are wine names so cryptic and confusing.

Whether you’re sitting down at a fine New York City French bistro, hunting for a smooth merlot to accompany the veal roast you have marinating in the fridge, or glancing through stacks of Burgundys and Bordeauxs for a BYOB pick, selecting French wine is just downright difficult. That is, until Director of Wine and Beverage Studies at ICE, Richard Vayda, broke down the codes of a French wine label and educated us Wine Essentials Course 2 students on the background, history, and geography of French wine.

This past week, classic French music hummed upon entering the classroom. Cheese was plentiful and bottles awaited opening, and I was thrilled to see a new addition to our individual wine glass arrangement: an aperitif glass, garnished with an orange segment. Once class began, Vayda whet our palates with a pour of Lillet Blonde, a fortified, aromified wine, made in Bordeaux. It paired up perfectly with the orange segment and created a pleasant mood in which to absorb Vayda’s knowledgeable introduction to wine production in Burgundy and Bordeaux. More…

Over the past five months as a Culinary Arts student at ICE, I have expanded and fine-tuned my palate, tasting the likes of sweetbreads, tripe and foie gras bread pudding, to name just a few. Beyond having a story to tell my friends at the end of the day, these foods are palate broadeners. With the knowledgeable guidance and encouragement of ICE’s Chef Instructors, I have expanded my tasting spectrum and ability to connect flavors.

Now, it is time to put these new tasting skills to use. As a student in ICE’s career programs I have the option to take part in variety of specialty classes that cover an array of topics. It was with great excitement and a taste for further adventure that I began ICE’s Center for Wine Studies Wine Essentials six-part course this past Monday evening. With my more developed ability to think for and to detect tastes, I was ready to tackle whatever lay in store. More…