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Commonwealth Wine School: A Leader in Wine Education

Boston is considered one of the nation’s centers for higher learning and is home to many renowned universities. The city is also home to Commonwealth Wine School a leading institution for both avocational and professional wine, spirits, and sake education.

Located in the heart of Harvard Square in Cambridge, Commonwealth Wine School offers a range of courses from beginner to advanced levels. For industry professionals, Commonwealth Wine School offers certification level programs from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), the Wine Scholar Guild, and the Society of Wine Educators.

We recently caught up with Kim Simone, Manager of Commonwealth Wine School, and asked her about what you should look for when selecting a wine studies program. Kim has worked in education for many years and has numerous wine certifications including Level 3 WSET and Certified Wine Educator. She served as corporate sommelier for the Legal Food Restaurant Group for many years and is founder of Vinitas Wineworks, a wine consulting company that collaborates with retailers and wineries.

Kim Simone, Manager, Commonwealth Wine School
Kim Simone, Manager, Commonwealth Wine School

TCT: Kim, many people may be considering a wine program to advance their education. What questions should they be asking when looking at schools?

KS: It depends on their priorities and what they want to do with their education. We see people from many backgrounds and with many reasons for enrolling. Some students work in the industry and want professional certifications to advance their careers. Others are enthusiastic wine consumers who want to become familiar about a certain wine region or style. Or they are traveling overseas and want to learn about the wines beforehand. We offer a broad range of studies for both groups.

TCT:  We see more people using initials like WSET, CWE and CSW after their names. Tell us about the certification programs offered.

KS: Commonwealth Wine School offers the full course of wine studies and certification levels for WSET as well as for spirits and sake. That is something that sets us apart. We also offer certification programs for the Wine Scholar Guild and the Society of Wine Educators.

Commonwealth Wine School offers all levels of WSET certification for wine, spirits and sake

TCT: Tell us about your instructors.

KS: We work with many fantastic teachers in the Boston who are respected for their knowledge. Many are published authors or who have worked in the restaurant and hospitality management industry – just to mention a few: Erika Frey, Adam Centamore, Jo-Ann Ross , Ashley Broshious.

TCT: How large are your classes?

KS: Our classes on average range from 12-to 20 people. Especially for the professional studies programs, we want to keep classes small to encourage communication. Of course, we also host winemaker dinners and tastings that are larger, and we also offer virtual classes. So anyone can join us from outside Boston throughout online platform.

Trade classes at Commonwealth Wine School are kept small to encourage more interaction with students.

TCT: Have you noticed any changes in what students are enrolling in?

KS: We are seeing more students enrolling from our restaurant partners. We see them sent by their beverage group or manager. Many enroll to advance their education and improve their standing in the industry, or they may work retail and want to improve their knowledge to better serve their customers.

TCT: Anything else you want to share with us?

KS: Yes, it is important to note that Commonwealth Wine School is about building community, whether you are joining us for avocational or professional reasons. We offer a diverse range of workshops, wine camps and tasting events that are affordable for those individuals who enjoy learning with like-minded people, and we aim to be the leading center for higher wine education in the greater Boston/New England area for industry professionals.

Check out the current class schedule at this link:  www.commonwealthwineschool.com/calendar

Follow on Instagram@commonwealthwineschool

Listen to our SIPS podcast with Kim Simone here

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This Young South African Wine Producer is Breaking Down Barriers

There was a time in South Africa, when a woman of color would not have the opportunity to run a winery. Berene Sauls represents a new generation breaking down barriers as owner of Tesselaarsdal Winery, located in the Overberg. Opened in 2015, Tesselaarsdal produces cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with grapes sourced from nearby Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge. The name Tesselaarsdal is an homage to Sauls’ ancestors who were freed slaves and farmers in the area.

Berene Sauls, owner, Tesselaarsdal

Believe in a Dream: A Former Au Par Turns Vintner

Much of Sauls’ hands-on training has been under the mentorship of Olive and Anthony Hamilton Russell, whose namesake winery is among the finest in South Africa’s Overberg region. Sauls began working as an au par to the Hamilton Russell’s four daughters. She expressed an interest in learning the wine business, and the couple encouraged her, giving her more hands-own work at their winery and serving as her mentor.

Sauls says the learning experience of working every department of Hamilton Russell Vineyards was invaluable. Eventually this led to the Hamilton Russells offering to help Sauls start her own winery in 2014. They have provided her a production facility at their winery and seed money to build a winemaking facility.

tessalarsdall vineyards
Tesselaarsdall vineyards

Tesselaarsdal – A Symbol of Freedom and Heritage

Located in the Overberg, Tesselaarsdal is a rural village with historical significance. The widow of its namesake settler, Johannes Tesselaar, left his farmland to his freed slaves upon his death in 1810, a bold move at the time.

Sauls glows with excitement talking about her future as a winery owner, something she knows would have made her mother and grandmother proud. “I named my winery Tesselaarsdal to honor my roots and legacy, and the women on wine’s label represent my mother and grandmother who both loved the land,” she shared.

Eventually Sauls plans to grow her own estate fruit. For now, she sources her grapes from nearby Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge whose higher elevation and cool winds provide ideal growing conditions.

We tasted Tesselaarsdal’s two wines.

Tesselaarsdal Chardonnay 2020

Sauls second vintage, is aged in both amphora and six months in oak, giving it a light toast blended with soft tropical and citrus notes and a nice minerality. As we tasted, visions of Asian curry, Cajun blackened redfish and fresh grilled trout crossed our minds.

Tesselaarsdal Pinot Noir 2019

This wine is aged just over nine months in French oak, imparting notes of allspice, wild strawberries, and fresh cherries on our palate. In South Africa this would be the perfect wine for a classic braai. Here stateside, we call that a cookout on the grill with sausages, lamb, chicken skewers and grilled vegetable. The night we tasted this wine we had cauliflower pizza with bitter greens, anchovies, and caramelized onions.

Tesselaarsdal means “heaven on earth” in Old Dutch and Afrikaans. And for Berene Sauls it is a place to honor her heritage and plant her own piece of heaven, writing an exciting next chapter for this vibrant young woman.

Importer: www.vineyardbrands.com     www.tesselaarsdalwines.co.za

Meet Berene Sauls and hear her story on The Connected Table SIPS

 

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Chef-Driven Teas with Food Pairings in Mind

We enjoy drinking wine with our meals and an evening cocktail. We also know taking a healthy break from daily alcohol consumption is a good thing, especially in our profession. However, drinking water with our dinner just doesn’t provide the satiating satisfaction we desire.

Happily, we discovered Enroot Sparkling Teas, thirst-quenching cold brewed teas with botanical and fruit flavors that do not overpower the palate. The recipes for Enroot’s five different tea flavors were created and tested by chefs with food pairings in mind. Our first taste of Enroot was at Chef J J Johnson’s Field Trip at Rockefeller Center in New York City. At the time, we had never heard of Enroot, but we were impressed. Then, our friends at Vineyard Brands introduced Enroot a wine tasting in New York City last October. Vineyard Brands is the distributor. We were hooked!

We tasted them all! And we are thirsty for more!
We tasted all five botanical teas alone and also mixed with white rum. Enroot is distributed by Vineyard Brands

It turns out Enroot is the brainchild of three friends, Cristine Patwa, John Fogelman and Brad Pitt (yes, the actor!) The teas were conceived to appeal to the “sober curious,” population who want to enjoy low or no-alcohol beverage options and seek something better-for-you than a sugary soda. Tea, being filled with antioxidants and botanicals makes sense.

Fact: Low- and no-alcohol market, driven by millennials, is continuing to expand, with consumption expected to grow 31% by 2024, according to the IWSR.

Brad Pitt, Cristina Patwa, John Fogelman
Brad Pitt, Cristina Patwa, John Fogelman- Cofounders, Enroot

CEO Cris Patwa was inspired by the refreshing teas made by her grandmother, Pamela, a small-scale farmer and food entrepreneur in the Philippines. “When I was a little girl, my grandmother would cut open fresh mango for our afternoon snacks. If we were thirsty, a fresh coconut would be plucked and hacked to enjoy directly from the trees as refreshment. We lived with this authentic connection to our food, farms and family – which ultimately became the values that Enroot is founded on today. A driving force for me in creating this company with Brad and John was to be able bottle these memories and learnings from her.”

The cold brew process takes over 20 hours. “This method avoids scalding or over-cooking the tea leaves and botanicals which can create bitterness and astringency that often require a notable amount of sugar or artificial sweeteners to mask,” said Patwa. “Without this bitterness in our slow cold brews, we were able to avoid the use of added sugars, sweeteners, artificial ingredients, flavors/essences/extracts, concentrates, Stevia or monk fruit – while only being 25 natural whole calories. “

Enroot works with small farmers around the world to select its botanicals, another nod of respect to Patwa’s grandmother.

“Each ingredient is meticulously sourced to ensure the highest quality farm-to-bottle experience. Our organic teas can take several months to several years to evolve and mature for careful picking during harvest season,” said Patwa.

Enroot also partnered with The James Beard Foundation (JBF) to select 12 chefs to create the botanical recipes for Enroot. There are currently five flavors. Apple-Lemon-Cayenne-Yerba Mata; Mango, Ginger- Tumeric-Guyasa, Peach-Hibiscus Jasmine Green Tea, Raspberry-Mint White Peony Tea and Strawberry- Lavender Rosemary- Tulsi (a type of holy basil). The chefs also created cocktail recipes and dishes to pair with the different teas which can be found at www.drinkenroot.com

A Certified B Corp, Enroot has also committed to supporting JBF’s Women’s Leadership Initiative. “The desire to support women is also a nod to grandmother, Pamela. In many ways, she laid the foundation for who I am today, imparting wisdom and life experience, and learning about business, agriculture, community, and sustainability,” said Patwa.

Find recipes at www.drinkenroot.com, Follow @drinkenroot.com   www.vineyardbrands.com
Find recipes at www.drinkenroot.com    Follow @drinkenroot.com
Cris Patwa, Photo by Michael Becker, Grooming by Brigette Jackson
Cris Patwa, Photo by Michael Becker. Grooming by Brigette Jackson

Listen to our conversation with Cris Patwa, CEO, Enroot- The Connected Table SIPS! podcast-iHeart Radio

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New Zealand’s Villa Maria Celebrates Sixty Years and a Fruitful Future

Sixty years is a milestone for any business and especially when it is a winery. Even more interesting is when the winery is located in New Zealand, which is still considered a “new world” wine region. Many of the country’s earliest grape growers were immigrants from Croatia with the biggest wave arriving between 1890 and 1914. This included the Fistonich family. That is where the story of Sir George Fistonich and the birth of Villa Maria begins.

In 1961 at the age of 21, George Fistonich leased land in from his father and planted his first acre of vines in Auckland with the goal of making quality wine, accessible to many. From those humble beginnings, Villa Maria expanded to three wineries throughout the country. It is New Zealand’s most awarded winery with more than 2000 accolades. In 2009, Sir George Fistonich was knighted in recognition of his service to the New Zealand wine industry, a first in that nation.

George Fistonich being knighted
George Fistonich being knighted

Villa Maria’s winemaker, Tom Dixon started as a cellar hand in 2013. “Villa Maria one of the few wineries making wines in every production region of New Zealand. We are based in Auckland on the North Island. On the east coast in Gisborne, we grow Chardonnay and Pinot Gris; just south in Hawkes Bay we produce Bordeaux style reds and Chardonnay. The South Island in Marlborough is where we make out Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir,” he explained.

Tom Dixon
Tom Dixon

Villa Maria’s Sauvignon Blancs take center stage. We tasted the Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon 2021, Marlborough (SRP $16.99). The wine’s flavor notes blend citrus and tropical fruits with lemongrass, fresh herbs and a whiff of bell pepper. Dixon explained that Villa Maria sources its Sauvignon Blanc grapes from two vineyards to achieve this balance of flavor.

“The Wairau Valley in Marlborough has a warmer climate and more fertile soils which bring out the tropical fruit character. In the Awatere Valley the climate is cooler, drier, windier and the soils are poor, resulting in wines with more vegetal character such as snow peas and grass. With the Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc, we aim for a 50-50 split so you can taste a lovely intermingling of both tropical and herbal notes,” he noted.

Villa Maria Seddon Vineyard (Marlborough)
Villa Maria Marlborough – Seddon Vineyard

Villa Maria is also recognized for its sustainability platform based on four pillars: Respect the land. Tread lightly. Invest in people. Inspire conscious consumers. “By caring for the land and focusing on preservation, we benefit by making better wine. By investing in people, we have a committed team who shares our mission. Our passion and desire to be sustainable and responsible we want to inspire others to do the same,” he said.

Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc

We recommend pairing Villa Maria with plant-based dishes, salads, grilled fish, mussels frites,  papaya salad or pad Thai.

The wines are imported in the U.S.A. by Winebow. Connect: www.villamariawines.com IG: @villamariawines

Listen to our SIPS podcast with Tom Dixon here:

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Attention importers and wine and food companies and the talented people who work with them. Let us help you spotlight your brands and programs this Fall and beyond through custom podcasts on The Connected Table SIPS on iHeart Radio and more.

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