Friday, December 2, 2016

Moving On: Wine Class

I didn't plan to take a course on the Wines of Northern Italy. It just happened.

I did know that I would need to find something to do starting the first of October. When Mark died last March, I sort of set a six-month window to grieve, attend to administrative matters, adjust and try to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.

Mark - along with my children - had been my life, my whole life, ever since he was diagnosed in the spring of 2013. We both retired from our careers - his in medicine, mine in law. We did everything together for the next three years. And though I had started to think about what my life would be like after he died, I did not expect him to leave as soon as he did, nor was I very far down the path of figuring out what my life would look like without him in it.

During the ensuing six months, I tried to figure things out, tried to figure out who I was and in which direction I needed to walk. As part of this process, I did a fair bit of traveling, culminating in a long-anticipated cruise in French Polynesia. Once that was over, however, I knew I was going to have to find something to occupy my mind and my body. 

Regarding the latter, I thought about training for a triathlon, but that has yet to come together. I haven't swam much since I was a child, and I'm looking forward to working through some minor aches and pains I've had these past few weeks so that I can start that program. 

As to my mind, I felt I needed something to keep it active, to exercise it and keep it fit. Going back to work wasn't really an option, at least not in the practice of law. I am retired. Period. Also, until very recently, I hadn't felt any desire to start working again on my memoir or to do any other writing. So that was out, too. I had to look around for something else.

In August, I decided to try to start learning Italian on my own, having read that language study is excellent for helping to stave off dementia. (I know, I know, I'm way too young to worry about not being able to remember why I walked into a room ... until several minutes - or hours - later.) 

At my first class with instructor Sheral Schowe

Then I heard about a one-evening class on Italian white wines being offered through the University of Utah's Lifelong Learning program, and I decided to go. It was there that I learned about an upcoming eight-week course being offered by the international Wine Scholar Guild through the local Wasatch Academy of Wine. It would start here in Salt Lake as soon as I returned home from Tahiti. Perfect. I signed up - even though (or especially because) after nearly 30 years as a practicing Mormon, I knew next to nothing about wine.

Though the course offered a certification upon successful completion of it (which requires passing a written test), I initially went into it as an enrichment experience only and a framework in which to learn not only about Italian wine, but also about Italian history, geography, culture and food.

And then of course there was the wine tasting.

During those first few weeks, we learned about the regions of Valle d'Aosta, Liguria, Piemonte and Lombardia. Once a week for three hours, we met for class and for tastings. It was fun.

I also spent an increasing amount of time each ensuing week reading not only from our text, but from other books that supplemented what I was learning in class.

Then, as we moved into Emilia-Romagna, Trentino/Alto Adige, Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia (all regions in the north of Italy), I decided that if I was taking the course, I might as well study for and take the certification test.


I hadn't studied for an exam since I took the Utah bar exam over fourteen years ago. Talk about clearing out the cobwebs and exercising my mind! I quickly came to realize that all that time that I had been spending doing extra-curricular reading might have been better spent on focusing on what I was actually going to be tested on. Then, I started preparing for the exam in ways that I had learned when I was studying for a law school exam - which I eventually came to see weren't really working for me as I tried to get a much older (but wiser) brain to retain what I needed it to. And so I learned.

Class celebratory dinner this past Tuesday evening (Photo credit: Sheral Schowe)

And I've been making new friends along the way. It turns out that people who take wine classes tend to be interesting and fun people. Some of us are already planning extra-curricular tastings and branching off into (I can't believe I'm saying this) Scotch as well as wine.

I took the test a few days ago, and I think I passed, though I won't know for a while since the Wine Scholar Guild is based in France and takes this whole certification thing pretty seriously. I then plan to take the second half of the course, on Central and Southern Italian Wines, starting in April. If I pass that test, too, then I become - presto! - an "Italian Wine Scholar."

And I keep my brain from turning to mush. Hopefully.

On a more serious note, however, this course has helped me to fill the hours and the days, and the intellectual and mental challenge have (unexpectedly) helped bring me to a point where I have felt like blogging again and where I'm ready to tackle my memoir. (We'll see how that goes.) It's become part of my journey as I move on after Mark's death and continue the ongoing process of forging my life.

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