CRAVE Wine Academy offers delicious instruction

Bacalao with charmoula and spring greens, paired with Evodia Garnacha

Bacalao with charmoula and spring greens, paired with Evodia Garnacha

Every month, CRAVE hosts a Wine Academy--a mini class on the basics of appreciating wine, conducted over a 4-6 course pairing dinner. CRAVE Executive Chef Mike Agan creates the menu, and Sommelier Tim Edmunds chooses the wines that will go with each course and teaches the class over the duration of the meal. Each class focuses on the wines of a specific region and is hosted at each of CRAVE's three metro locations throughout the month. April's class focuses on the wines of Spain. The Hot Dish attended Monday's class at the Mall of America CRAVE. Read on for a sneak peek at the Wine Academy.


The Academy begins at 6:30 p.m. with a brief overview from Chef Agan on what to expect from the meal. Agan spent years at Solera before joining CRAVE, so he was in his element with the Spanish tapas-style menu he had prepared for the evening.

Dinner got started with a generous appetizer of shrimp croquetas with lemon aioli ("fancy bar food," as Agan called it), paired with a Burgans Albarino 2009, a refreshing white wine from the rainy Rias Baizas region of Spain. As we enjoyed the croquetas and wine, Edmunds walked us through some of the basics of evaluating a wine based on its color/clarity, aroma profile, flavor profile and texture. To set the less studious of the bunch at ease, he added, "If you're just here to knock back some juice, I'm not going to judge."

Edmunds taught us how to "trill"--the fine art of sucking oxygen into your mouth as you take a sip of wine to enhance the flavors on your palate. He clicked through a slideshow brimming with luscious pictures of the Spanish countryside, as well as some more informative slides about the benefits of hand-harvested grapes and the features of the individual wines we were sampling.

All in all, we enjoyed six wines over the course of the meal: four reds (Tempranillo, Garnacha, Sangre de Toro, and Monastrell) bookended by two whites (Albarino and Con Class). We enjoyed the Tempranillo most of all of them, and Edmunds was kind enough to open another bottle and pour us one more glass after most of the class has disbanded.

After seven glasses of fine Spanish wine, the details of the educational portion of the evening may be fuzzy, and Edmunds is happy to email guests a copy of the slideshow after the fact for a more sober review. Participants also receive a coupon for 15% off their next wine purchase at Surdyk's, in order to "continue your education."


At $55 per person, we found the CRAVE Wine Academy to be a terrific value: a delicious meal expertly paired with a variety of wines, an educational experience, and the chance to have exclusive access to the Chef and Sommelier of an up and coming restaurant group in the Twin Cities. The Spanish class will take place twice more this month, once at the West End location, and once at the Galleria. May's class will focus on Tuscan wines, and June's will be dedicated to wines of California that go well with summer barbecue fare. The full list of classes, dates and locations can be found here.

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