Vino Rosso o Vino Bianco?

Wine is a big part of the Italian culture, as most people know, but I had no clue how in depth the wine world really is. Fortunately I got to experience this firsthand with two activities I did this past week—a vineyard tour and a wine seminar.

Villa Sandi

Last Sunday a group of us visited local vineyard Villa Sandi. Unfortunately it was pouring outside so we didn’t get to see the actual vineyard itself, but we did get a tour of the wine cellars and a wine tasting. I was amazed at the vastness of the wine cellars. A huge underground maze of chamber after chamber, Villa Sandi must have had 10,000 bottles at least. Villa Sandi is known for its prosecco, which is a dry, sparkling white wine produced in the Veneto region of Italy (where Venice and Paderno del Grappa are located). We got to taste the Prosecco in addition to their Merlot and their Novella, a thinner red wine. A red girl myself, my favorite was the merlot. Molto delizioso!

A snapshot from the wine cellars at Villa Sandi

To build upon the Italian winery visit, last night Doctor Al, the head of CIMBA, gave a presentation on wine, detailing everything from how it’s made to the type of glass to use when drinking it. I actually learned a lot and want to share the most interesting things with you:

Enjoying wine at the second CIMBA gourmet dinner

(1) Did you know you are supposed to hold a wine glass by the stem, not the glass part? This is a common mistake Americans make and is a dead giveaway for us amateurs visiting Europe. I had absolutely no idea, as my parents hold the glass and I’ve always thought it awkward to hold the stem. But the reason for that is to a) avoid making fingerprints on the glass and b) avoid changing the temperature of the wine. Who would’ve thought!

(2) Perhaps most people know this, but I had no clue the type of wines are named after their grape counterparts.Merlot, pinot noir, chardonnay…all types of grapes! Also, there are white wines made from red grapes. The only difference is that they remove the skins. With rosé wine, which has a pinkish color to it, the red skins are removed at just the right point in time to allow a little color to seep through.

(3) The type of glass you should use to hold your wine is not based on whether it’s red or white, but rather the “bouquet” or the aroma of the wine. The more fragrance a wine has, the larger the glass opening should be. On the other hand, if the wine has a weaker aroma you should use a glass with a narrow opening to concentrate the smell as much as possible.

(4) The 4 S’s of professional wine tasting—See, Swirl, Smell, Sip. First you should look at the wine and make some observations about it, like the clarity of the color, etc. Second, swirl the wine in the glass which releases oxygen and betters the taste. Third, stick your nose in the glass and smell it. Fourth, sip the wine, taking care to get it in every nook and cranny of your mouth to really taste it. Pay attention to the after taste too!

(5) Like everything else about wine, there is a science to pairing foods with it. The pairing should be based on the quality of the food, such as its acidity or juiciness, matched to the complementary characteristics of the wine. This one is pretty in depth and a chart comes in handy. A basic guideline to remember, however, is white with fish and red with red meat.

(6) “Sell with cheese, buy on apple.” Did you know that cheeses mask the taste of a wine really well? If a wine has a sour after taste, eat it with a piece of cheese and the taste goes away. However, if you eat an apple it brings out the imperfections of the wine. So, the witty rule of thumb is to always have cheese on hand if you’re selling wine, and take an apple with you if you’re buying it.

Most importantly, how do you figure out what type of wine you like? Go to a restaurant, have everyone order from the same meat family, give your waiter a price range and he or she can usually help the group to find a wine to try. It’s all about practice, practice, practice and true mindfulness. You must really think about what you are tasting and experiment with all types of wine. Then you are well on your way to becoming a sommelier (a wine steward)!

This post was cross-posted to


Arrivederci Seattle, Ciao Paderno!

Ciao! It’s my seventh full day here in Paderno del Grappa and I am already loving it.

Me standing by the entrance to campus

After a full 24 hours worth of travel from Seattle to Venice on Sunday-Monday, I couldn’t have been happier to finally arrive on campus. Little did I know how quickly things were going to start—the second we got off the bus, we checked in with the CIMBA staff, took a campus tour, and then had a quick orientation. Classes started the very next morning! (Much to everyone’s surprise.)

Our first two weeks on campus are jam-packed with orientation activities, classes, and the LIFE leadership program (which was incredibly eye-opening!). The philosophy of the CIMBA program, so eloquently put by one of my professors: “Work hard. Play hard.” With a full course load consisting of International Marketing, Business, Culture and Society, Journalism Ethics, Entrepreneurial Strategy, and Italian for Travelers, I definitely agree with this philosophy.

Something I’ve found myself really enjoying here is the fact that the majority of the students are from the Midwest or East Coast. In fact, the only two west coast schools represented are University of Oregon and University of Colorado Boulder. It’s so funny to see the differences between us westerners and easterners, like the fact that multiple people have pronounced Oregon “or-gone.” I find it so funny. It’s also very cool to hear about life on the other side of the Rockies. Not only am I getting an international education, but a broadened American one as well!

Other random things I’ve discovered/experienced thus far:

(1) Italians drive SO fast. The streets here are very narrow with no side lanes for bikers or people. Just crossing the street to go to the Tabacchi (Italian version of a convenience store), you have to watch carefully for cars whizzing by at 40+ miles per hour. And I thought Americans drove fast!

(2) Mosquitos are 100 times worse here and I should have packed Cortisone. I can’t seem to find anti-itch creme here in Paderno, let alone decipher the labels.

(3) When it rains, it POURS. The first two days here were gorgeous, sunny, 80+ degrees. But Wednesday it suddenly DOWNPOURED and all of us were caught in shorts and flip flops walking to class. It was quite the scene. Never again can I complain about the rain in Eugene!

(4) There’s no such thing as free water, much to my disappointment. Luckily in the dorms we get water (and only water) with every meal, except the glasses they provide are kid size. Everyone has to refill their glass at least 5 times during every meal. We get a kick out of it.

(5) Cheese is acceptable as a side dish during meals. The other night at dinner they served cooked mozzarella cheese, just by itself! It looked like someone had pulled the topping off an American-style cheese pizza and put it on a plate. It totally grossed me out.

Told you Italians love their cheese.

(7) The bathrooms at all the restaurants I’ve been to so far are set up very differently than in America. Both genders walk into the same toilette to find a common sink area and two more doors to a male and female stall. When I first experienced this I thought I walked into the men’s bathroom!

(8) Italians, at least the ones in the North, are very in shape. I have not seen an overweight person yet and when we hiked Mount Grappa yesterday, all the Italians we passed on the trail were cruising along with their walking sticks and hiking boots. Little did we know that we were embarking on a 6 hour trip up and down a 6000ft mountain. We looked like total wussies compared to the experienced and equipped Italians. What a trek!

Beautiful Mount Grappa (it’s a 10 minute drive from campus and I can see it out my dorm window!)

If I’ve learned this much in only three days time, I can’t imagine how much is in store for 3 months worth. I can’t wait! :)

This post was cross-posted to