The most frustrating times I had starting at Fino were had at our server meetings. It’s hard to believe, I know, if you have read my past few posts citing certain love affairs with these wine tastings. It was a boys’ club of know-it-alls talking about pencil shavings and lead, visions of forest floors, and baking cookies with Grandma at Christmas time. I made fun of these people while I would cook dinner with Jackie later that evening talking about how awful it was listening to this pretentious banter. I would smell and sniff and yes, I would finally get something. Grapes. Oh, well, right. Wine is made from grapes. How poetic.

I spent most of the year finally realizing that what I was smelling were actual things and not just grapes. I was getting that fruit but which one? Peach? Yes, that’s it! Biscuits you say?! Yes! That’s what I wanted to say! I knew it was something- I just didn’t know what. 

Then I realized that the only way to ever understand was to practice. I had to immerse myself in the culture in order to learn the language. When I decided to not be so judgmental of my cohorts, to stick to the wine and beverage career path, not I only did I have to smell these things but I had to talk about them and in turn, have some opinions.

After google searches for aroma classes and websites on how to prime your palate, I came to the realization that the only way to practice was to engage in this pretentious banter on a regular basis. Here’s how I did that:

cuppings @ Houndstooth

tequila, sotol, and mezcal tasting @ Fino

Something eventually clicked over time. I now feel more comfortable with the process and the conversation especially when I can smell my mother making me a  peanut butter and jam sandwich in my New Jersey kitchen or a walk with my great uncle to tend his garden in our joint backyard growing up. I also feel comfortable talking about the smell of ash and smoke that brings me to Oaxaca, Mexico if I can’t physically be there. Now these things I can identify. These things are what I can appreciate in a cup of coffee or a (sipped) shot of tequila.

It’s also nice when a cocktail with no trace of espresso can bring you to visions of a cup of coffee had on your balcony wrapped in a blanket with a book:

Jerry Thomas' Coffee Cocktail @ Fino - brandy, port, egg, and sugar

Nowadays you’ll find me engaging in the banter and being one of those in the clique-y club but you’ll also find me in my own romantic dreams of future travels and past memories. You don’t have to be part of a boy’s club or feel pretentious to be capable of that.