Have you ever felt mystified while looking over a restaurant wine list? Or wondered what wine to serve with your homemade pasta bolognese? Maybe you've wanted to visit French wine country but haven't known where to begin. Lucky for you, wine education and travel just become a lot more accessible to Valley wine lovers thanks to the newly opened Trocadéro Wine School. Run by Certified Wine Specialist Bill Dunphy, Trocadéro offers a wide array of courses geared towards both professionals and casual consumers.
We had a chance this week to sit down with Dunphy and learn a little more about his passion for wine and his journey to opening Trocadéro Wine School.
Dunphy says he first became interested in wine in college after two of his friends returned from semesters abroad in Rome. "When they came back to Boston, they had been Italianized and so we just started fixing Italian dinners, and of course wine was a part of that," he says. "In grad school I went to Paris for a year," he adds. "I really began to get into it because it's part of the natural lifestyle there."
Dunphy returned to Europe several times for business, all of which drew him deeper into the culture of wine. While working in Brussels, his employer owned a wine importing business on the side, and when Dunphy lived in Heidelberg, Germany, frequent trips to nearby wine country led him to his first experience making wine.
"It was a Reisling," he recalls. "I remember picking the grapes. I was very particular about sorting and picking only the best quality grapes, and [my friend] would say, 'We need more grapes! We need more grapes!' So we made the wine, we brought it to the winery, we pressed the wine, the whole thing. A year later we went back to Germany to try the first wine."
How was that first Dunphy vintage? "It was great," he laughs, "Well, it was good, but it would have been better if we hadn't put in all those grapes!”
Dunphy characterizes his path into wine as one of exploration, learning, and trying. His love of sharing wine and food with people made it a no-brainer to open up Trocadéro Wine School here in Phoenix.
The school was originally imagined as a tourism company, but didn't stay that way for long. "People kept saying to me, 'Next time you go to Europe take us with you,'" he says. "I started thinking about a wine and food tour business, and so as I was putting that together, I thought having some personal credentials would be helpful."
Dunphy now holds an Advanced Level 3 Award Certification with Merit, and a Diploma-level candidacy with the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. He recalls, "After I took their advanced class and took my final exam in New York...the instructor said [they] had over 30 schools around the country, but nothing in Arizona, and did I want to start a wine school? So I sort of changed directions a little bit."
Trocadéro Wine School, named for Place Trocadéro, the site across from the Eiffel Tour in Paris that Dunphy traversed each day on his way to graduate school, offers several types of classes. Along with the first two levels of WSET courses, Trocadéro also has consumer based, wine appreciation classes.
“The WSET is focused more on the business side of wine... people who are involved in retail, distribution, importing, and in restaurants also," Dunphy says. "It's not only wine but also spirits. It's very respected, and very rigorous from an academic perspective."
He adds, "They do have a restaurant element, Level I – and we have a class coming up soon – geared towards restaurant servers so they can do a better job helping customers select wine from the menu.”
The school's consumer classes cover a wide range of topics, from a Mother's Day Class that focused on women winemakers, to a successful wine and cheese pairing course. Trocadéro also offers a class geared towards twenty-somethings who want to learn "how to negotiate a wine list in a business environment."
Dunphy has a partnership with Vincent Guerithault, chef-owner of the Vincent on Camelback. "I'm putting the fall schedule together right now," says Dunphy. "One class we're going to do with Vincent is a food and wine pairing class...where he's going to make five dishes and I'll do a couple wines for each one."
Although currently focused predominantly on course offerings, Trocadéro has not abandoned its original goal of conducting wine tours. Dunphy says that the first trip will take place next year.
Travelers will spend "three to four days in Paris, three days in Champagne, and three days in the Loire Valley," Dunphy says. "It will be a trip that is organized with a food and wine thread, but people will have free time of course to do whatever they want to do... whether it be going to museums or other things. But it will take the pressure off figuring out where to go and how to navigate."
Other potential trips include a tour of Oregon and Washington wine country. "My son is a chef in Portland," Dunphy says, "and there's just fabulous things happening in the Willamette Valley.”
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It's clear that wine appreciation for Dunphy is first about sharing and community. "I just love the experience of sharing wine with people and having them feel good about it," he says. Even traveling to different wineries and vineyards is a necessary of the experience. “I think historically there's been this snootiness attached to wine, and that's sort of crazy because when you get to know winemakers and meet them, they're grape farmers... they're very open, wonderful people.”
Trocadéro Wine School is offering the WSET Level I Award in Wines beginning this Saturday, July 18 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. The course costs $199. More information on the course, as well as the forthcoming fall schedule for all Trocadéro's classes, and details on upcoming wine tours can be found on their website.