From getting the inside cellar scoop on a vintage Bordeaux to learning about California cult wines, Ian Blackburn is one of Southern California’s most informed resources. I recently caught up with the very busy certified wine educator who founded LearnAboutWine to ask him about the enduring success of his crusade to refine palates through various events like the Stars programs that have reached tens of thousands of wine-lovers over the years.
What’s your vision of LAW’s mission:
“I established LearnAboutWine 15 years ago to improve the wine culture of Los Angeles, to educate consumers one sip and class at a time. For beginners, we focus on the basics and continue the experiences for those who are passionate and into collectible and rare wines and more advanced learning experiences, trips, and tastings. We also host over 100 events a year so we can build the audience for quality wine and improve its ability to sell everywhere.”
What are the main benefits for participants?
“Our goal isn’t to sell wine─we want to communicate a pure message of wine education. And that’s much easier to do when the wine is really good. For that reason, we charge more for our classes than a wine shop, because we are not selling wine, we are selling the education. I’m in my second year of study as a Master of Wine student, and in my 15th year as a wine educator, so all this experience, combined with my professional service and winery work, make for lots of good stories, expertise and, of course, entertainment.”
Is there a place for more serious aficionados at the table?
“Yes! The more you know about wine, the more it speaks to you. Even my basic class can entertain an expert, because we don’t dumb down wine; we taste the best and explore it. The classes are very interactive and provoke great participation from both those in the know and people just starting out.
We also host more advanced tastings, like our STARS of Cabernet event, where the winegrowers are on hand to pour and interact with our more wine-savvy participants. Other more serious tastings, like our VINTAGE programs, give us a chance to open up the best and really get inside some of the top wines ever made. For example at this Friday’s VINTAGE CULT event, California cult wines like Screaming Eagle, Scarecrow, Harlan, Bond, Spottswoode, Insignia, Opus and others will be displayed and poured. No one else is opening these wines, they’re usually traded at auction or collected, but we’re opening and enjoying them!”
Although the upcoming VINTAGE CULT event is now full, everyone from the merely curious to absolute wine geeks should keep the many LAW programs and events on their radar, including the Stars of Cabernet event to be held November 5 at the Peninsula Beverly Hills. More than 100 world-class wines will be featured, including rarely offered Cabernets that range from $100 – $300 per bottle and a buffet provided by The Peninsula.
Sweetening the deal, wandermelon has arranged for a discount for readers: just use the code “FOKO” to receive the special price of $75 (normally $90 advance; $120 at the door) while they last. Proceeds from the silent auction benefit TJ Martell Foundation and Cancer Research at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
LAW SCHOOL – A four-week wine credential program designed for those who want to reach the next level. Pass the BAR exam (Beverage Aptitude Review) and participants join an elite set of wine-savvy trade and consumers that possess a great foundation of knowledge.
The next couple of months feature collectibles tastings including:
Vintage Port – 1963-66-85-94-97-00-03-07;
Vintage Champagne – stellar collection of mature vintage Champagnes from top growers and producers.
Vintage Bordeaux – a vertical tasting of top growths like Chateau Montrose (going back to 1899) or a horizontal tasting of first growths planned for the new year.
April 2010 – Blackburn will be taking groups to famed growing regions of Rioja, Burgundy and Tuscany. (3 separate week long excursions).