A Win for Winos

Win a seat at a Master Sommelier's 10-week wine class

You want to drink wine with John Ragan, one of three people in the world to win both a James Beard Award for "Outstanding Wine Service" and earn the Master Sommelier title from the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Before that impressive pedigree has you running for boxed wine and the remote, we can promise that Ragan is disarmingly friendly and unpretentious—which you'll discover by attending his wine course. The class, run by Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group (USGH) at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE), runs for ten weeks. It's not cheap but we've got an offer for you: USHG and the ICE are giving us a seat for one lucky reader. Check out our Twitter feed and RT for a chance to win.

We spoke to Ragan about what to expect from the class, what you'll taste and more.

What's the course load like at your wine school? 

There's a lot of tasting: Over a 100 wines in ten weeks. There are plenty of blind tastings, lots of talk about pairings and how to navigate a restaurant wine list a little better. This helps people when they're coming to our restaurants, or any restaurant, or when they just want to open a great bottle at home. 

How do you tackle the wide world of wine? 

The first week is just all about tasting. We have something that we call a "tasting matrix" that we use for all of the restaurants which is kind of a road map. The second week is all about grape growing and wine making and we usually bring a wine maker in for that to really give a firsthand perspective. Then the last week is kind of like a dinner party where it's all about pairing. In between, we do Bordeaux versus Burgundy one week, Spain one week, Italy one week, sparkling wine one week, the New World one week. I'll bring in folks from one of the restaurants. For example, when we do the Italian week I'll bring Jeff Kellogg from Maialino, or when we do Bordeaux versus Burgundy I'll bring chef Michael Romano from Union Square Café. So it gives everyone a chance to get to know those folks from the restaurants as well, and they bring great insight to the party, too. 

Why take a wine class?

I want people to become comfortable with wine. If we're doing our job right, they will really walk out with that comfort level so that the next time they are in a restaurant and someone hands them a wine list it's a "Great I can't wait" moment and not a "Oh no, what do I do with this?" moment.

Understanding Wine runs Tuesdays 6:30–9p.m. from September 16th- November 18th.