In early May, Greg, Gabi and I had a chance to attend the St. Michael’s Food and Wine Festival. This weekend in St. Michael’s, Maryland was a chance to experience great food and wine in one of the most beautiful cities on the east coast. I am still working on writing up a few of the events we attended, from oyster to beer tastings, wine to cooking seminars. But first and foremost was the wine seminar we attended that was led by Sommelier Laurie Forster.
Laurie Forster, otherwise known as the “Wine Coach”, has been in the wine industry since 2002. In just seven years she has become a certified sommelier and more importantly, built a reputation as a serious wine educator. To add to her impressive resume, Laurie recently authored a book, “Sipping Point”, which is a great guide for beginners on many things wine. Along with wine training, Laurie is a certified life coach who has found a balance between the two. She does corporate wine events that help bring together team members in a fun, informal, and most importantly, wine-oriented way!
We attended Laurie’s seminar “wine by the numbers” which was a beginner level wine course that taught guests how wines are rated by the critics and what it all means. She stressed that regardless of what anyone else thinks about a wine, the important thing is what you think. The take home message was drink what YOU like, regardless of how many points it gets.
I had a chance to speak with Laurie both before and after the seminar. She’s a very fun, down to earth, and knowledgeable wine lover at heart who has made her passion her profession. In the days following the festival Laurie was kind enough to answer a few questions about her philosophies on wine, pets and her perfect day. Below is a fun question and answer seminar I did with Laurie that was a lot of fun and offers some great advice to novice wine connoisseurs.
I would recommend checking out Laurie’s website and signing up for her newsletter. We discussed doing a wine and food pairing event sometime in the future which should be a lot of fun and a great learning experience. A quick flip through of her new book, Sipping Point,revealed a lot of great wine information in a concise and well laid out manner.
For more information on Laurie’s services, or to buy her book, check out her website: http://www.thewinecoach.com.
Q & A With Laurie Forster, “The Wine Coach®”
Michael Mohammadi: When did you get into wine? Was there an “ah-ha” moment with one wine in particular or did it just build up over time?
Laurie Forster: “During my years as a software salesperson I traveled the country wining and dining clients to close the deal…since I was basically a beer drinker at the time I had to start educating myself about wine to order the right bottle. I began taking wine classes at A Cook’s Table in Baltimore and attending as many tastings as I could. That is where I met Jerry Pellegrino of Corks who has been a real mentor to me and my husband Chef Michael Forster who at the time was the Chef de Cuisine at Hampton’s in the former Harbor Court Hotel. I fell in love with wine and luckily for me I had a generous expense account so I was able to taste some great wines. While my love grew gradually the first Barolo I had at Da Mimmo’s was truly an aha moment for me and has sparked a real obsession for me with the wines of Piedmont!”
MM: Who has influenced your wine education the most?
LF: Early on Jerry P. was a great source of direction and education. Then in the beginning of 2001 I moved to NYC. There I studied at the Institute for Culinary Education, obtained a certificate with the American Sommelier Assn and worked at Astor Wines, on of the largest wine retailer s in NYC. NYC is a great place to learn because virtually every day there are classes and learning opportunities available!! In July I will be teaching classes at both Astor and the Institute for Culinary Education which is such an honor!
MM: When did you decide you wanted to become The Wine Coach®, that is, an educator of wine?
LF: After the birth of my daughter I took a break from the wine world to stay at home. At the end of 2004 I decided to start holding wine events here in Easton, MD. At my first event I was amazed at how much everyone wanted to learn and how much they bonded with each other. That is when the idea of The Wine Coach® came to me—I could blend my knowledge of wine and my experience as a life coach. My new goal was to help everyone connect with wine in a way that was approachable and fun, while also creating opportunities for them to connect with each other. At my events everyone begins talking about the wine but by the end they are having conversations about the important things in their lives—their family, their passions and even trading phone numbers. There is an old proverb that states “Over a bottle of wine many a friend is made.” I have found that learning about wine often teaches us broader lessons about life and gives us a safe place to begin connecting with others. Each event confirmed this as I saw people expand their knowledge of wine and their circle of friends.
MM: What’s in your personal cellar?
LF: Never enough! My prized bottles are Barolos and Barbarescos…Aldo Conterno, Pio Cesare and Marchesi de Gresy.
MM: The economy is struggling yet wine prices for well known regions seem to be holding fast (or going up). What lesser-known wine regions offer great value?
LF: I look to South America, Austria and Spain for great value. I also tell people to look for tounge twisters…I like to say that if you can’t pronounce it you should be drinking it. Offbeat grape varietals like Torrontes, Viognier, Gruner Veltliner, Nero d”Avola or Lagrein to name a few can be great wines for the money. People shy away from things they aren’t familiar with but this is where you find the fun stuff!
MM: What would you be doing if you weren’t in the wine business?
LF: Something else that allowed me to travel and drink great wine.
MM: Do you have any pets?
LF: We have an aussie doodle named Belle who is about 1 ½ years…
MM: In 6 words, sum up your perfect day.
LF: Great wine, paired with interesting conversations.
MM: Vacation time: Hawaii, Alaska, Italy, or anywhere but here?
LF: Italy is my favorite destination by far but a week doing nothing on the beach sounds good right now!
MM: Dessert: Cheese plate or something sweet?
LF: Hmm it is a toss up between cheese plate and something Chocolate.
MM: What wine would you pair with it?
LF: I LOVE vintage port and great chocolate wine like Banyuls or Brachetto d’Aqui.
MM: What types of foods pair better with beer instead of wine?
LF: Maryland Crabs, burgers and spicy foods are great with beer although I could find wines that work too!
MM: Any advice to the novice wine drinker?
LF: Don’t be intimidated. Taste as much as you can. Lastly, if someone acts like they know everything about wine then they know nothing about wine! Wine is a humbling topic like life. The more you know the more you realize there is to learn.