Part businessman, part world explorer and part educator, Maurice DiMarino represents various sectors in the wine industry. As wine-and-beverage manager for Cohn Restaurant Group, he oversees 20 beverage programs (and growing). As an instructor at San Diego State University's College of Extended Studies, he teaches several subjects to diverse groups of wine professionals and those aspiring to join the industry. In both positions, he is able to educate people of varying interest and knowledge levels.
I took a California wine class with DiMarino. In three short weeks, he taught a vast amount about our state's wine history, regions and trends. I came away with a deeper knowledge and an increased thirst to continue learning more.
"I want to make it challenging yet enjoyable," DiMarino said of teaching at SDSU.
Though in a much different way, DiMarino's role with Cohn affords him the chance to educate as well.
"It is different teaching staff, consumers and wine students," DiMarino says. "When working with staff, I need to focus on what is important to know at the table. When teaching consumers, I like to give history and a framework of whatever the subject is. I keep it a lot more general since most consumers do not work with wine on a regular basis."
The wine lists DiMarino helps curate with wine managers at CRG restaurants also work in educating diners by including a wide variety; from old to new world, from traditional standbys to exciting new finds. DiMarino notes that some locations are more wine-centric and thus can carry a more adventurous wine list that may include local wines, obscure old world selections and up-and-coming new world wines. And often the cuisine dictates the wines.
"If the concept is Mexican, like Coasterra and Indigo Grill, I build a Latin list featuring Spanish, South American, Baja and California wines to fit the concept," DiMarino says. "I am all about broadening people's horizons. However, I need to consider that not everyone wants their horizons broadened—so I need balance."
For those who do want to open up their view on wine, they can find DiMarino's wine wisdom on his blog or go to cohnrestaurants.com to learn about events. I've got my eyes on Cohn's Prime Cru wine club, which features wine sales and educational events nearly once a month.