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  Cornell University

Cornell in Rome

College of Architecture, Art and Planning

Wine tasting


Went to a wine tasting last week with half the program. Justin took pictures, I took notes. We both got a little bit drunk, though perhaps I should only speak for myself. Our tutor was Renato sommelier and chef of his own restaurant. Round, portly, full of joy. Great English, but had an English speaking wine friend to help translate words that were more difficult. Who knew what their relationship was. She made jokes, translated the English word “aroma” for odors, into a way that Renato might find funny. “Aroma … a Roma!” Laughter ensues.

Table with food / photo by Justin Hui

Table in center with Steve, Ross and Zach in view.  Empty chair is Justin’s, who is obviously walking around taking pictures. Renato made a funny observation that all the girls sat together apart from the boys. We made lots of excuses, but it’s true, it was kind of like a middle school dance. I sat at a table with four girls. Cornell, which had for 92 years administered the swim test in gender separated pools, still eats apart like this. They say sushi chefs can’t be women, because our hands are too warm. Perhaps the enjoyment of wine, which is so sensory, we find instinctively easier women with women and men with men. Or maybe we are just 5th graders. Renato’s translator, or friend, did make a joke about the majority of the students being under-age. Luckily, I have been 21 since October and feel no guilt!


Speaking of sushi, here is some of the lightly cooked salmon we had, which was salty and fresh and not smoked, like we had expected it to be. Ross and Javier, at the boy’s table, in the background. Ross seemed to know something about wine, though he was as mistaken as the rest of us who believed that red wine comes from red grapes, and white from green grapes. Fail. The salmon and prolific amounts of what seemed to be cream cheese (which may have just been on our minds as Renato made a joke about Shannon being from Philly) in the appetizers reminded everyone of bagels. Haven’t had a bagel in months, of course. Appetizers were mostly delicious. Seafood with whites, meats with reds, and then we started drinking and eating everything together. I am probably a lost cause. When asked what we smelled in a wine bouquet, in terms of fruits, some of the things we yelled out were, “Watermelon!” “Pear!” “GRAPES!” At least ‘pear’ was right.


Champagne in Italia, which is called “spumante.” Interesting after all the debate about whether sparkling white wines in the US can be called Champagne, though they’re not from the area. Napa seems to have stopped this completely, and possibly the Finger Lakes. When it was time to open the spumante, Shannon was called up to open the bottle; Renato loves making fun of people in the best way. The whole thing could potentially have gone terribly wrong (someone losing an eye, window, ear, camera, etc.) but everything was fine. The sound of a cork coming out of a champagne bottle is extremely distinctive.


Savory crepe, some of which were filled with artichokes and some with mushroom. Considering that this crepe came out last, in terms of hor d’oeuvres, and the state of Justin’s wine glasses in the background, I take back everything I said about both of us getting drunk. Since I’ve lived in four wine producing locations in my life (San Francisco [Napa Valley / pinot noir], Ithaca [Finger Lakes / chardonnay], Buenos Aires [Argentine wine country / malbec], and now Italy [Tuscany / chianti and brunello]) I am thoroughly embarrassed that I don’t know more about wine. The wine tasting enlightened me … I now know that in Italy, the 1.5 liter bottle is called a “magnum.” Who would have known? Lots of stories about wine and the Church too, from Dom Perignon to the story of Est! Est!! Est!!! I will save you all the story-telling I did at the wine-tasting (“There was someone, somewhere, sent to look for something, and when he found it … “) Feel free to read it here, at Wikipedia, the most reliable source on the Interwebs.

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