Moira Peters doesn't think there's any room for snobbery in wine tasting. "Snobbery around wine really irks me. That's probably my Nova Scotia character coming out," she admits. "Sometimes drinking cheap red wine out of a tumbler is the best way to go about it."
Peters, a Cape Breton-born, New York-trained sommelier, grew up in the hospitality industry, earning her stripes as a server at Margaree Valley's Normaway Inn. After managing the development of a local wine program at a restaurant in New York, she was hooked.
"When I moved back to Nova Scotia [in 2010], I started tasting Nova Scotia wine again...and was really impressed and excited and inspired by what was happening here."
And just like that, the idea for Unwined, a Halifax-based portable wine-tasting party, was born.
"What Unwined is designed to do is to teach and entertain people in a space that is comfortable for them–your home, around your kitchen table, your living room...I basically come to you." And if you're on the peninsula, she'll arrive in a fully loaded bike trailer. "I love that I can depend on bicycle power to get around Halifax," she says. "I can take the barrels right off it and they become the bar."
Unwined offers an array of tasting themes, the most popular including The Neighbourhood, for locavores, and The Dominion, a selection of Canadian wines. There's even a Pogey Pack for penny-pinchers. Each two-hour party comes with palate cleansers–local crackers and chocolates–10;and tasting sheets to practice those brand new tasting skills. "My goal is that people will learn one or more basic things about wine evaluation," explains Peters. "People are absolutely shocked that they learned as much as they did. They have a great time, but by the end of it–they're actually talking the lingo."
A common misconception about wine, according to Peters, is that it requires pre-knowledge. "People tend to think it's all about snobbery...but the basics are simple, they're totally accessible." And the comfort factor of a private tasting doesn't hurt. "What you're doing is asking your brain to step aside and letting your senses take over. You're not thinking, 'How am I going to sound cool or like I know about wine.' Once you get people into the habit of actually paying attention to their senses, there's an innate knowledge."
For Peters, wine should be an experience. "The cool thing about wine is if you were to ask me what is my most memorable wine, it was a box of wine I was drinking with a bunch of friends by a canal in Paris. Wine is linked to its context. If you can help people to connect their senses with wine–it makes the experience richer."
As for what Peters swirls around in her own glass, she's a big fan of local vino. "My palate from my wine training has come to really appreciate very bright and briny–the way I describe Nova Scotia wine." She's surprised at the common misconceptions many people have about our local offerings. "It's often shocking how much Nova Scotia wine appeals to their palate."