Diary of a Weekend Vacation at Wine Boot Camp

on 20/01/11 at 9:45 pm


Wine Boot Camp, a Wine Geek's Dream

There are few true faux pas in today’s society. Hardly anything is off limits, and what once may have raised eyebrows – obscure fetishes, unconventional childbirth tactics – has today become lively cocktail party chatter. But tolerance has its limits, and nothing stops a cocktail party deader in its tracks than ignorance of one of the North Bay’s most precious commodities: wine.

Wine appreciators everywhere – educated or not – could take a lesson from some savvy educators operating Sebastopol-based Affairs of the Vine’s Wine Boot Camp. Part tourist-driven “wine country experience” and part genuine educational program, Wine Boot Camp whips its recruits into shape so that the once mysterious characteristics of chocolate in a Merlot or the hints of honey in a Chardonnay no longer terrify. And it makes a fantastic weekend vacation experience.

Soon after registering for duty, I received an e-mail from “Major” Barbara Drady, president and event mastermind of Affairs of the Vine: “Be dressed for battle: We’ve requested perfect weather for April 20.” I was instructed to bring sunscreen, a hat, and rain gear in case of rain on my weekend vacation.

On Wine Boot Camp day, I arrived at the designated meeting spot (the Safeway parking lot in Sonoma), and the training officially began.

0830 HOURS – The recruits assemble at forward command post dressed for battle in casual clothes. There is no whistle blowing or yelling, and no mandatory push-ups — just 31 recruits gathered around three vans, anxiously awaiting instruction. Once everyone has arrived, we are shuttled in appropriately red and white vans to the square in Sonoma.

0850 HOURS – Rookie recruits and wine mavens join ranks for induction, orientation, and issuance of uniforms. The attendees on this weekend vacation range from married couples to single folk, event planners to stockbrokers, young surfers to wealthy, aging yuppies. Some people are pondering a career change in the wine industry, while others received Wine Boot Camp as a gift. Drady and her officers set out heaping baskets of croissants, muffins, and juice boxes before calling “Atten-shun!” for an initial briefing. The recruits gather around Maj. Drady, a spunky, middle-aged blonde woman — a cross between a Jewish grandmother and a Girl Scout — with an unstoppable sense of humor. Plump packets containing a three-ring binder with the “Orders of the Day,” a T-shirt, and baseball cap are efficiently distributed. We are also supplied with water and a box full of healthy and not-so-healthy snacks to sustain us through the day and, I suspect, to soak up some of the wine we will be drinking.

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