Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Basic premise of 101 at Clover Hill: Seats go fast

Wine 101 is a class you'll find offered all over the region, from the Philadelphia Wine School to Bin 604 wine shop in Baltimore to many of the wineries scattered inbetween. Not that they're all the same. You'll find a difference in how the classes are taught to what they cost to the length of the lesson. What's often similar, however, is the popularity, including the one that Clover Hill Vineyards & Winery offers at its main location in Breinigsville, about 10 minutes off I-78.

Kari Skrip said by phone earlier today the winery sprinkles these classes throughout the winter and summer months. All require reservations, and for good reason. They limit the classes to 45 people and always sell out.

“Usually we do a series although I don't think we have any other classes available right now besides beginners ones,” said Skrip, who teaches some of these classes among her many duties that also involve marketing and public relations. “The classes are about an hour and a half and it's a formal, seated class where we guide you through . . . usually we'll do maybe eight, nine wines in a class. And for the most part the beginners class is mostly Clover Hill wines. We might sneak another one or two in there. The other classes we will address different wines depending on whatever the topic is. They're formal, but they're also fun. We certainly encourage people to ask whatever questions [they have], anything they want to know about wines that aren't being addressed.”

Skrip said that the winery has been putting on these classes for around four years, long enough to get a sense of trends beyond the overall popularity. What has struck her, she said, is the age of a number of the students. “It's a very young crowd that comes,” she said. “Not everybody in the class, but I'm surprised always by the number of young people that come out that have an interest in wine or a group of friends that are trying to learn more about wine. By young, I mean, like two years out of college or so and they're trying to get the details on wine. So that's been really good. And we get people too from all over. I would actually say the majority of the class comes from out of the area. Some people, it's their first time that they've been to Clover Hill. Others have been here once, enjoyed it, and check our Web site and stay on our e-mail list so they can come to some events of ours. We do get people that will come up maybe spend a full day in the area. A lot of people will spend an overnight in the area at one of the B&Bs, and make the class part of their day trips.”

One person who attended a class last fall wrote on
Lehigh Valley InSite about a class they attended that Skrip taught. The blog is produced by staff members of the Lehigh Valley Convention & Tourism Bureau. Wrote Michael Stershic, who attended with his wife and another couple, wrote: “Some we liked, some we did not, but Kari made it seem like there were no wrong answers. I give her a lot of credit for bringing her enthusiasm and passion to the event, but not making any of us feel inadequate as wine-tasters."

Clover Hill charges $25 per person for the class. The next one is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 21. By then, Skrip and the rest of her colleagues will have had enough time to recover from what figures to be a chaotic wine and chocolate weekend that they will hold as part of a
Berks County Wine Trail event. They hold the Berks trail events at their site in Robesonia, close to Reading. On the menu, a triple chocolate layer mousse paired with their Concord, a 2009 gold medal recently at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. “All of the wineries on the trail are doing something wine and chocolate, and we'll be part of that,” she said. “This is the second year [the trail has] done that. I remember last year it was a very busy weekend.”