Best Of 2005

Best Way to Stop Drinking Merlot: Classes at the Cleveland Wine School

Even if you think Sideways was a film about fat people negotiating the aisles at Marc's, you need not resign yourself to a lifetime of humiliation at the hands of the wine world's cognoscenti. Just sign up for evening classes at the Cleveland Wine School, and learn, at long last, how to tell a Merlot from a Meritage. Grape by grape and country by country, wine guru Marianne Frantz and her crew of experts will teach you everything you need to know - from the finer points of sniffing to the best bottles to buy for your own budding wine collection. Lessons, presented in three- or five-class series, are pegged at $100 and $180, respectively, and begin with the basics of how to judge color, aroma, and taste. Then, it's time to learn all about the major varietals, principles of food-and-wine pairing, and how to order wine with confidence. Along the way, there's plenty of opportunity to sample representative wines and match your own developing palate against the experts', until you actually find yourself using descriptors like "oaky," "fruit forward," and "jammy" with nary a self-conscious giggle. Maybe you'll never be Robert Mondavi, but at least you'll know who the hell he is.