Jen Van Tieghem
If you've been to Liberty Public Market (2820 Historic Decatur Road) at Liberty Station, you've no doubt felt the communal atmosphere that the collection of venues offers. Eateries and specialty shops find a home here alongside pop-up vendors and a mess hall where visitors can convene.
My first stop at the market came with an invite to its wine shop—Grape Smuggler—and its first Wine School session. These pairing events showcase wines and appetizer-style servings of matching cuisine typically falling into a certain theme. Grape Smuggler's location means that each pairing class works in conjunction with another merchant at the Liberty Public Market.
The class I attended focused on wines from Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico, and pairings by nearby Cecelia's Tacos. Beverage director Greg Majors provided an introductory talk on the region and a packet of information about the Valle with space to take notes.
As the wine flowed, the feeling of community grew inside Grape Smuggler. Groups began discussing wine, food and personal preferences. Majors made good use of the long table and bar seating, walking around and getting feedback from individuals and small groups; he'd then get the drinkers' attention (not always an easy feat) and share some of the thoughts he collected, giving everyone a range of perspectives to consider and a chance to revisit the wine and food with different ideas in mind.
I particularly enjoyed Majors' laid-back style. In many ways, he served as an observer, reporting the outcome of his conversations without imparting his own opinion and didn't seem put off by anyone's criticisms of certain wines or food items.
Attendees received five wine samples with four food samples for $40. And while I enjoyed the tapas from Cecelia's, the portions were small and I was still in need of dinner after the event, making the ticket price seem a little steep.
In the end I had two favorites—one out of my budget—a Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend called Gabriel by Adobe de Guadalupe. The other was a Chardonnay by Monte Xanic, which worked best with the spicy flavors of our cuisine as it had a rich mouthfeel and peachy sweetness.
The next wine class is on Sept. 21, and will feature wines from around the world paired with imported and domestic cheeses from Venissimo (I'm drooling).