Wine Education III – My Frustrations in Teaching

Posted on January 18, 2012

I like to talk about wine education and how it relates to my work.  I strive in trying to keep my staff well-informed.  Sometimes I succeed and other times I don’t.  Understanding each employees needs and interests is the most difficult part.  If everyone was open to wine education , my job would be a breeze. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

My children are 4 and 5 years old and each day they are learning something new.  It’s awesome to see my son write sentences, sometimes better than this one.  I get moved when I see my daughter discover how to make secondary and tertiary colors from primary colors.  Watching them, so innocent to the world around them, soaking it all in, makes me wish I could go back to that time.  I then leave the house and go to work, all the time thinking “what am I going to miss while I am at work?”  When I get to work a see the same type of learning going on with my staff.

“Wine is confusing! Wine is Complicated!

I will never understand it!”

Let me rephrase that, my staff does not act like a four and five-year old, but for many, wine is completely new.  At first, many are reluctant to learn.  They see wine as not being important enough to put the time and energy in understanding it.  While I stand in front of the group and do a presentation, I can see some employees roll their eyes and half listen. Much of the time this is an automatic reaction for people who are intimidated by something new.  Wine is scary, there is so much to learn.  That mantra which I wrote about in my previous post, “Wine is confusing! Wine is Complicated! I will never understand it!” Is ringing in my ears as I look into my staff’s eyes.

My employees are all adults, and that is their downfall.  Adults have a very hard time learning.  They are so predisposed to their own ideas that their mind doesn’t stop long enough  to listen and take in new ideas.  Of course, these statements are broad statements, but I do see it everyday. For some people wine just is not interesting.  I’ll accept that.  However, as professionals in a profession that focuses on food and wine, they need to approach wine in a professional manner.  Understanding wine will only improve their job performance.

So I trudge on, talking about the list, describing the basics of wine, teaching about different grapes and their regions and so on.  There are days that I leave the restaurant so disheartened, burnt by service and feeling as though no one really cares.  I have a passion for what I do, and I so wish to pass this passion on to others.  A bad day for me is when an employee makes a ridiculous remark about being bored, or saying “all you talk about is wine”, or even worse, keeping silent  and not contributing.  I take this stuff personally.  Most of my employees do not realize this.  I don’t think anyone does it intentionally, these response have become automatic and are unconscious.  It is their way of showing insecurity, disinterest or maybe just plain boredom.  (I do tend to get a little boring now and then).  My challenge is not letting my own insecurities get in the way and take it personally.  I know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Then there is relief, a server comes and tells me that they just read a chapter in Window of the World on wine making.  I then realize that at least someone got it.

I always have to remind myself that although they don’t show it, they are getting it.  It’s like my son writing that sentence; he started writing one word at a time.  My employees do the same thing.  They can roll their eyes all the time.  They can act as if they are not interested.  That is okay.   I know that somewhere, deep inside those adult brains of theirs, there is a little light flickering.  It might turn off once in a while.  Obviously we all have to turn the lights off to go to sleep once in awhile, but it will turn back on again.  It might not turn on during our next pre-shift or training seminar.  But maybe the next time they are out with friends or family sharing a bottle, they chime in with a little fun fact that wows their peers.

My goal is to continue training, teaching and hopefully turning on more lights.  I will not get bogged down by the individuals that use an eye roll as defense mechanism for their fears of the unknown.  I will shatter through their mantra “Wine is confusing, Wine is complicated and I will never understand it!”  Wine is wine…that’s it!  There is a lot to know and so little of it is important.  Take baby steps.  Don’t read Windows of the World’s chapter on wine making until you are ready.  First, let wine come to you.  Taste it, smell it, don’t over think it.  Enjoy what you have in the glass first, then slowly, at your own speed, begin to analyze, scrutinize and research it.  We have to learn to write the words before we write the sentences.



  1. Marina

    Great blog…made me think of something other than what’s going on here. And because of the time you put into the education of your staff, unpretentiously, my well-traveled uncle told me he was impressed with my knowledge of wine. I agree you are a tad underestimated…even though you are a sommelier who can’t write. Thanks for the distraction.

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