(This column originally appeared in the 2/18 issue of Dan’s Papers)

Discovering Wines Without Breaking the Bank

I’ll admit it. I’m completely obsessed with wine. I love drinking it, talking about it, reading about it and, obviously, writing about it. Even thinking about it brings a smile to my face.

Why has wine seemingly taken over so many aspects of my life? It’s a challenge, because no matter how much I know, there’s always more to learn. Every time I taste a new wine, talk to a winemaker or talk to a fellow wine lover, I pick up something new and exciting.

Over the past year, I’ve been disappointed by the lack of wine classes available to those of us living on Long Island. Sure, we can travel into Manhattan to continue our wine educations, but classes are often on weeknights or cost several hundred dollars per person. These kinds of exorbitant costs only perpetuate the kind of wine snobbery that drives me crazy. Wine and wine education should not be luxury items reserved only for those with overflowing bank accounts

Where are the affordable wine classes that will teach people about wines in a relaxed, un-intimidating setting?

Look no further than Stony Brook University’s Center for Food, Wine and Culture. They’ve put together a “Discovering Wine Series” of classes, both in Manhattan and at Stony Brook’s main campus, that bring together some of our regions’ most knowledgeable wine people with approachable, interesting wines in a relaxed, fun setting.

I recently attended a session titled “Important White Varietals,” which was hosted by Gary Madden, general manager at Lieb Family Cellars and Louisa Hargrave, the Center for Food, Wine and Culture’s interim director and the founding mother of Long Island wine.

The class was an absolute delight. After discussing wine-tasting basics for the uninitiated, we tasted three Pinot Blancs, three Sauvignon Blancs and four Chardonnays from various regions (including Long Island), comparing the different tastes and styles.

These kind of side-by-side tastings are some of the best educational tools around and I encourage anyone to try it. You can read every wine book at your local book store, but you really learn by tasting. And tasting some more.

In the coming weeks and months, the “Discovering Wine Series” continues at Stony Brook’s main campus with sessions like:

March 10th: An Italian Heritage of Flavor From America’s Secret Wine Region with Sal Diliberto of Diliberto Winery in Jamesport.

March 17th: Seeing Stars: Romancing Champagne with Michael Cinque of Amagansett Wines and Liquors.

March 24th: From Aroma to Bouquet: How Wines Age with Eric Fry, winemaker at Lenz Winery for the past 16 years.

April 14th: Creating a Regional Cuisine with resident chef Michael Meehan and winemaker Greg Gove, both from Peconic Bay Winery.

Each class is $55 and you can bring a friend with you for an additional $45, making it ideal for couples that are interested in wine. And, if you sign up for three or more classes, each one is only $40. The classes each offer at least six different wines and light food pairings for each.

For more information and for a complete list of upcoming sessions, email Ginny Clancy at or call her at 631-632-9404.

Lenn Thompson is a contributing writer for Dan’s North Fork. Email him at