Wine tasting for beginners

Local wine expert Jeff Weissler of Ashland aims to dispel the stereotypical notion that claims wine tasting is just for snobs. He is determined to prove that anyone who is interested can become a wine connoisseur.

Weissler has spent 26 years in the wine business and is currently conducting classes entitled Conscious Wine 101 at Headwaters Environmental Center in Ashland &

designed to teach beginner wine drinkers how to distinguish between wine varieties.

"Corporations recognize the American palate as one of habit," Weissler said. "When you taste something you like, you want to buy it over and over again. That's our Coca-Cola culture. Well you can't do that with wine."

Weissler's inspiration for the class started six years ago while he was working in a wine shop.

"A rep came in with six different wines from six different countries, and they each tasted exactly the same, Weissler said. "Where is the diversity?"

Other local wine experts agree with Weissler. Robert Trottman, general manager of Weisinger's Winery of Ashland sums up Weissler's wine theory.

"There are only two types of wine in the world," Trottman said. "Ones that taste like they come from somewhere and ones that taste like they could come from anywhere."

Weissler says that in order for wine to truly take on the life and taste that it is meant to have, the wine-making process needs to go much further than organic wine, or organic grapes. The wine needs to come from a biodynamic vineyard.


Biodynamic farming is the new buzz word concerning some vineyard procedures. According to the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association it combines common sense agriculture with a new spiritual scientific approach to practices of agriculture. Procedures include: working by the lunar cycles, using wild indigenous yeasts, solar energy or biodiesel, and having animals on the farm eating the weeds, fertilizing the soil and supporting biodiversity.

"Wine comes from the Earth, it should taste really earthy," Weissler said. "Natural wine contains a series of criteria; it needs to taste of that place and it needs to taste from the yeast of that place &

not brought from other additives like fruit and acid. You can't have sprayed yeast, it won't be the same."

Trottmann said that quality wines can be made without being trapped in a box politically.

"For us, it becomes cost-prohibitive to get every license and certificate. It doesn't mean we're not extremely green in what we do, we just haven't become politically involved in that area," he said. "There's a lot of smoke and mirrors with organics right now. You can come to our vineyard. You can see what we're doing here. We don't have anything to hide."

Wine tips

Weissler also recommends wine be enjoyed with food.

"There is no such thing on the planet as wine that is created to be tasted without food," he said.

Weissler recommends amateurs try bitter wines.

"Bitterness is what is good for you," he said. "It's what gets your mouth watering for food. Bitter or tannic red wine aides with digestion."

There is a growing trend of incorporating sustainability in the wine industry. Trottman cautions that trend must not forget the basics.

"You can't have great wine without quality of production," Trottman said. "You have to have an immaculate attention to detail."

An elitist attitude is not necessary to enjoying wine, organic or otherwise, Trottman said.

"It's not art. It's going to be passed through your body in a short amount of time," Trottman said. "Lets get real about it. It's not a painting by a famous artist. With that kind of thinking comes a lot of snobbery. And that means we don't get to incorporate it with everyday life."

The wines selected in all of Weissler's Conscious Wine programs adhere to the following criteria.

1. No synthetic chemicals are used in the vineyards.

2. The practices on the land today support and even enhance the vitality of that place for future generations.

3. The unique character and personality that the farm offers is expressed in the products that come from that farm.

4. The finished wine satisfies a fine wine lover, or at the very least, touches their curiosity.

Anyone interesting in learning more about Weissler's recommendations can e-mail him at

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