So you like to drink wine. But do you know what makes a really good wine?
Do you know which type of wine pairs well with fish? With dessert? Do you have an understanding of how our climate influences the types of wine produced in Delta County?
As a hobbyist, Tynan Szvetecz was intrigued by how the culture, history and philosophy of geographical areas affect the wine they produce. The enjoyment of wine is more than just the act of tasting it — it’s an exploration of cultures and traditions. As Tynan became more passionate about his new hobby, he began working with the International Wine Guild. Tynan is the managing partner of an Internet company that builds and market websites, and his company was hired to update the International Wine Guild’s Internet presence. He became aware of the many classes offered through the International Wine Guild, and because they can be fairly expensive, he began trading out his services. Now the International Wine Guild employs Tynan’s company full-time to do their Internet marketing, and Tynan teaches classes for the rapidly growing wine school.
The International Wine Guild — one of the few state-accredited wine vocation schools in the country — offers an amazing array of wine classes and wine school programs. Tynan set his sights on earning the prestigious title of master sommelier. There are only about 70 master sommeliers in the country, and about 100 in the world, so Tynan realizes he’s set a lofty goal and it will require several more years of study to complete his certification.
By definition, a sommelier is a wine waiter but there’s much more to it than uncorking a bottle of wine for restaurant patrons. In the United States, Tynan says anyone can call themselves a sommelier even if they’ve never had formal training. But a knowledgeable sommelier not only understands the nuances of serving wine, he can recommend wines which will complement the food that’s being served.
Tynan first completed Level I certification — “a great introduction into all the things you think you know about wine but really don’t.” This intensive seminar can take place over a weekend.
“The idea is that you’re sort of immersed in a lot of the vocabulary of wine, understanding the differences between old world wines, new world wines and fortified wines, primarily by studying France and California vintages. It’s a great course for hobbyists, or people who sell wine, or people who work in restaurants. It’s a real eye-opener into the world of wine.”
After the 50-hour Level II course, Tynan earned certification as a sommelier. In addition to learning the various styles of major wine producing countries around the world, Tynan was exposed to formal sommelier service. There are several different styles of opening and pouring wine properly and those rituals had to be successfully demonstrated during a performance-type exam, an experience Tynan found fun but intimidating.
“It turns you into the worst dinner partner because you start grading wine service on a 100-point scale,” he commented.
Master level studies begin with Level III courses. Now each major wine producing region is studied in-depth, with two-hour exams following each section. The questions on the exam become more nuanced: What’s the typical time wine is left on oak in chablis? What are the primary blending grapes in a northern or southern Rhone wine? In addition to the academic exams, students must successfully identify 20 types of wine during a blind taste test. They’re also expected to travel to three different wine-producing regions and immerse themselves in the wine-making experience.
By the time students enter Level IV, they can be considered true wine connoisseurs. Individuals who complete this course become master wine educators who can then teach master level courses.
Tynan has taught a number of classes on the Front Range and this summer plans to teach public and professional classes locally at Delicious Orchards and Fresh & Wyld. He is a graduate of the School of Natural Cookery in Boulder, so he can speak knowledgeably about food and wine pairings, which he says takes the enjoyment of wine to a whole new level.
Raised on the Front Range, Tynan is amazed that the North Fork Valley was in his backyard his entire life but he didn’t discover it until recently.
It all began with a wine seminar involving Steven Rhodes and Eames Peterson. They were doing some outreach at a wine seminar which Tynan’s parents attended.
“My dad was blown away by the quality of wine being produced in Colorado,” Tynan said. “So he called me up and said, ‘We’ve got to go check out these guys and see what they’re doing.’
“So we all piled into a car and came out here. We toured Eames’ cellar, which is gorgeous, went to the Flying Fork, and saw wonderful parts of the area.”
In an act of “spontaneous family psychosis,” Tynan, his wife Jamie and his parents came out a month later and put an offer on a house just outside of Paonia.
“It was just something we all fell in love with right away,” he said.
Tynan and Jamie subsequently bought a house in town, and Jamie found a job she loves with the Delta County Library District. Since they moved to the North Fork Valley in late 2007 they’ve developed an appreciation for the intimacy and connectedness of the area.
“People are so passionate about helping each other here,” Tynan said. “It’s an incredible place to be a part of.”
Both Jamie and Tynan quickly became involved in the community; Tynan is vice president of the Paonia Chamber of Commerce and serves on the tourism cabinet where he shares his passion for the North Fork Valley’s growing wine industry.
“This is a really special place, with a combination of factors that result in very unique wines, very sort of European style wines.”
There are also some very innovative individuals who have embraced the slow food movement and the farm-to-table trends, Tynan said. “So we’re starting to see that rich European trend, the marriage of food and wine, spontaneously and naturally form here in the valley. That marriage takes the enjoyment of wine to a whole new level, one that we try to articulate.”
Through his wine courses, Tynan has also gained a thorough understanding of the winemaking process. “That was originally on our minds when we moved out here, but then I became so busy with wine teaching that we decided to hold off for a little while,” he said. If he and his father ever decide to move forward with those plans, Tynan said they would certainly want to make wine from the grapes that grow well here. He’s intrigued by the idea of a sparkling wine made from the German gewurtztraminer or reisling grapes. “That would be an interesting contribution to the winemaking scene here,” he said.
He can also envision a Paonia-style wine bar which would incorporate three of the things he’s most passionate about —wine, food and music.
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