The only activity better than drinking wine is making it. And that's why it's time to turn to the experts who are ready and willing to hold your hand through the whole process. Yes, you could wait until the fall to hit California in harvest season where wineries host tons of events for the education of wine lovers. Or you could get instant gratification.
Quite a few resorts and wineries host "boot camps" during the spring and summer. These are more than a half-day blending seminar or stroll through the vineyards. Instead, your wine knowledge is put to task and the intensive experience lasts a few days. Consider signing up for a grown-up's take on camp.
What: Sommelier Boot Camp
Where: The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs, Colorado
When: March 8-10, 2013
At this tony resort's second-annual Sommelier Boot Camp, it's the next best thing to taking a sommelier exam. Sommelier Michael "Bucky" Buckelew—who works at Summit, the resort's restaurant—coaches six seminars in wine (from "All About Riesling" to "Bordeaux Varietals"), which includes take-home educational materials along with plenty of tasting. The weekend also means a "Wine Pairing 101" dinner in the Penrose Room on the final night where you put your newly educated palate to use, pairing salty and sweet flavors with different wine varietals. Package prices start at $480 per person and include accommodations on March 8 and 9, the seminars and tastings, a Friday-night reception, dinner in the Penrose Room on Saturday night, and a $50 breakfast credit for each morning. There is also a one-night package for March 9 only, for $330 per person.
What: Wine Lovers Boot Camp
Where: Culinary Institute of America's St. Helena, California, campus
When: May 20-24, 2013
The CIA is the culinary holy grail for rising, young chefs and their instruction includes wine too. Now non-chefs can join in the fun too with Wine Lovers Boot Camp, five days of wine-soaked bliss. From 9 am to 5 pm daily you devote yourself to wine, in a combination of seminars, guided tastings in the CIA's state-of-the-art wine-tasting classroom, and vineyard/winery visits. At the end of the course, you get to prepare a multi-course, gourmet dinner as a group—paired with your favorite wines. The experience costs $2,195 per person and includes dinner in the CIA's restaurant one night.
What: Wine Camp
Where: Long Island, New York
When: April 25-28, 2013; June 3-6, 2013; June 24-27, 2013; and July 15-18, 2013
A collection of wineries and bed and breakfasts (Long Island Wine Country Bed & Breakfast Group) organizes four-day Wine Camps each year on the North Fork of Long Island. A rate of $1,299 per person includes accommodations for three nights and transportation to all events, which includes educational classes about wine, tastings from eight local wineries, breakfast and lunch daily (including al-fresco lunches in vineyards), a welcome dinner at The North Fork Table and Inn, and a five-course dinner paired with wines at Castello di Borghese (hosted by owners Marie and Marco Borghese). But the best part is this: you get to take home a case of wine.
Kristine Hansen is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee where she reports on food, wine, and travel topics around the globe for Fodors.com, along with new-hotel openings. She also writes for Wine Enthusiast, TIME, Whole Living and American Way. In 2006 she co-authored The Complete Idiot's Guide to Coffee and Tea (Alpha Books/Penguin). You can follow her on Twitter @kristineahansen or through her web site.
Photo credit: Courtesy of The Broadmoor