For both budding gourmets and full-blown epicures, one of the best bets is the Cleveland Wine School, which holds professional, classroom-style tastings and instruction at both the Hilton Cleveland South (6200 Quarry Lane, Independence) and the downtown Ritz-Carlton (1515 W. Third Street, in Tower City). Upcoming introductory classes include Wine-Tasting 101: How to Taste, on January 13 or February 3; and Varietals I: Understanding the Basic Six, on January 27 or February 24. Hospitality professionals may want to reserve a seat at Sales and Service 101, offered on January 26 or February 9.
There will also be a Salute to Bubbly Monday, with a tutored tasting of sparkling wines and champagnes, on January 12, at 6:30 p.m. at the Ritz-Carlton ($50). Afterward, wine-school director Marianne Frantz and Executive Chef Paul Carter will host a specially priced three-course dinner, with matching wines, at Century, in the Ritz. And on Wednesday, January 21, at 6:30 p.m., Master Sommelier Matt Citriglia will lead The Ultimate Food & Wine Pairing ($50, also at the Ritz). For more info, visit www.clevelandwineschool.com, or call 216-295-9583.
Less formal, but no less valuable, are classes hosted by wine expert Todd Thompson at Grady's Fine Wines (20253 Lake Road, Rocky River). This winter's series of $30 Tuesday-night classes will focus on terroir, that peculiar combination of soil and climate that makes Italian wines, say, taste different from their Spanish counterparts. The series begins January 20 with French wines, then moves on to Italy (January 27) and Spain (February 3) before winding up with a comparison of Sonoma and Napa Valley products on February 10. Class size is limited to 12, and questions and discussion are definitely encouraged. For more info, check out www.ttwine.com, or call 440-333-3106.
Membership in the Akron-Cleveland chapter of Wine Brats, a confederation of young professionals bound together by love of wine, can also lead to viniferous enlightenment. Members gather to sip, learn, and have fun while raising funds for local charities. Visit www.winebrats.com to learn more. And finally, don't overlook classes at local cooking schools. For instance, many of the food-related events at The Loretta Paganini School of Cooking (8613 Mayfield Road, Chesterland) focus on wines, too; for instance, check out the New York Wine Country dinner ($55) on Saturday, January 31, at 6:30 p.m. or The Foods and Wines of the Sunny Riviera ($45) on Friday, March 12, at 6:30 p.m. Visit www.lpscinc.com for details.