Couple offers knowledge on the world of wine

For years, Newport Beach residents Peter and Holly Smith have taken people around the world to introduce them to different wine regions.

Now they are offering local lessons on the sometimes mysterious but always complex world of wine.

"I'm hoping the OC Wine School will be helpful in getting rid of that notion that wine is for the elite and it's snobby," said Holly Smith, 47. "It's very intimidating for a lot of people. It really doesn't need to be like that. It can be fun."

The two are celebrating their newest venture, the OC Wine School, with a launch party Saturday at a local vineyard where the school is based, the Giracci Vineyards in Silverado. Guests can learn about the school, participate in wine tastings and munch on hors d'oeuvres while listening to live jazz.

The school is offering wine classes for all levels, private tasting parties and courses, as well as organizing events like blind tasting, rare wine tasting or a gourmet wine dinner.

"This allows us to help people with their wine education like doing the [wine] tours, but at a lot less cost to them and we can do it for more people," said Peter Smith, 55, a regular contributor to Sommelier Journal.

The school is the culmination of the couple's 20 years of experience running Avalon Wine Tour, which takes patrons around the world to learn about different wines.

They got started in the wine and hospitality business while chartering yachts in the Caribbean and Mediterranean, which is also how they met.

When they started a family, they bought a little house in Brittany, France, and started doing wine tours in Bordeaux. The tours expanded to all over Europe, then South Africa, South America, Australia and New Zealand.

Peter Smith knew much about wine before he started the tours, but gained knowledge of how wine is made throughout the years of taking guests to different wineries.

"Now we finally realized, you know I've been doing this 20 years, I actually do know a hell of a lot about winemaking and things about wine," he said. "I have a lot of knowledge to share."

The OC Wine School will offer classes on basics like tasting techniques, understanding "wine speak" and how to serve it. The classes will also explore more advanced topics like regional comparisons, building a wine collection and winemaking.

The key, the two said, isn't knowing expensive labels or what the critics like, but finding what works for each person.

"I enjoy helping people enjoy wine," Peter Smith said. "I'm very interested in the technical side ... but I enjoy more the interaction with people, and helping other people enjoy other things they weren't aware of or want to learn about."

Twitter: @britneyjbarnes

If You Go

What: OC Wine School's launch party

When: 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Giracci Vineyards, 16162 Jackson Ranch Road in Silverado

Cost: $55 advance purchase online or $75 at the door.


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