Discovering the World’s Wines Right Here at Daemen

By Madison Lesher

We’ve all seen the movie scene where a man, dressed to the nines, sits at a restaurant table drinking wine. 

He swirls the wine and lifts it to his nose, inhaling the aromas, before taking a sip. 

“This is obviously a 1961 Hermitage and I would say it is from the Jaboulet vineyard,” the man declares.

How does he know this? What sorcery is he performing? 

The answer lies not in magic, but in deductive reasoning, where a person makes educated guesses using their knowledge of grape growing and winemaking techniques.

Daemen University students are in luck as Bruce Smoller, a professor at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, offers not only one but two wine tasting courses.

The fall course, The Art and Science of Wine Tasting, teaches students about winemaking techniques and soil and grape varieties.

Meanwhile, the spring course, Tour of the World Through Wine, focuses on winemaking and types of grapes from certain regions of the world. 

While it is optional to take one before the other, students can gain the basic knowledge of how to scent specific aromas and detect certain tastes in various wines in both courses. 

Smoller, who has been studying and earning wine certifications for 10 years, hopes to leave students with skills that stay with them long after this course ends.

“What I would really like is that you become educated consumers for the rest of your lives,” said Smoller, “When you see Bordeaux or you see Barolo or you see Stellenbosch, those are going to mean something to you.” 

The additional $125 natural science fee, though, causes many students not to register.

A blog writer for the Capital Wine School in Washington, D.C., however, highlights a few reasons why a wine tasting course is worth the money: to discover wines you enjoy, to learn something new, and to do something with friends. 

The first reason, discovering enjoyable wines, is covered by the natural science fee as it provides Smoller with the wine sampling budget. 

The budget is determined by the number of students times the $125 fee. 

With this total, Smoller decides on the products available through Daemen’s distributor for about eight bottles a week for 15 weeks. 

This semester, the course Tour of the World Through Wine has 15 students, meaning the budget is approximately $1,875. 

With increased enrollment, the budget will be higher, and Smoller could purchase either more bottles of wine for sampling or more expensive bottles, allowing students to sample a greater variety or greater quality of wines. 

Moreover, students learn something new about wine every class. From the types of grapes to the winemaking process, Smoller covers it all. 

Smoller gives the example of being at a business dinner, where they usually serve wine, and students would, after taking this course, be able to participate in the decision of what to serve with dinner. 

Similarly, Kayla Lark, who is enrolled in Tour of the World Through Wine and a senior at Daemen University majoring in biology and cytotechnology, dreams of having a bar and a wine cellar in her home one day. 

“I want to be able to know what wines I’m looking for, know which ones are in my house, know which ones to serve to my guests when I have my house parties, my guest parties, my dinners,” Lark said. 

With the knowledge from this course, students can not only impress friends and family but future employers as well. 

Lastly, this course is a real bonding experience. 

One of Lark’s most memorable moments was during one of the Kahoot games played at the end of class. 

The top three winners get to choose one of the unopened bottles of wine and the next three winners get to choose from the opened wines, used for sampling, to take home. 

When Helen Meade, a senior biochemistry major and Lark’s roommate, won a wine tasting Kahoot session, Lark was the proudest person in the crowd because Meade was “bringing home the bacon.” 

Lark continued to say that the experience was a very bonding one because all her roommates celebrated by drinking wine once home. 

Take one of Smoller’s wine tasting courses and become that expert at the restaurant who knows exactly what type of wine is being served, from what year, and what vineyard. Or just enjoy the time with your friends while gaining new social skills. 

Either way, as Lark said, “When you’re there, you’re going to be thankful you spent that $125.”

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