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Sommelier class offers a world of wine information

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Angelo Tavernaro is passionate about his wine. Seminars in the sommelier certification course he's been teaching at Chateau Faire Le Pont winery the past six weeks are spiced with recipes, stories about the rich and famous, vivid descriptions of vineyard landscape throughout Europe and the world, and inside information about the world's best wines and most famed vintners.

That's in addition to all the detailed information his 10 students will need about world wine, wine history, beer and spirits, vineyard soils and climate, and wine and food pairing to become a wine and liquor expert themselves. The course is a first step towards earning a sommelier certificate, a credential that offers many job possibilities.

Tavernaro is a Master Sommelier, the top level of wine steward. There are only about 200 of his rank in the world. Only four others reside in Washington.

He and his wife Debbie retired to the Tri-Cities area a few years ago from Las Vegas, where he was wine director for Caesar's Palace for 20 years. He's worked as a wine expert in some of the finest hotels and restaurants on three continents for more than 40 years. He speaks five languages.

"I thought I knew a lot about wines. I found out I hadn't even scratched the surface," said Steven Bechard Friday, during a break in the next to the last session of the intensive 96-hour class. Bechard owns the East Wenatchee company, Reasonable Racks, making and installing wine storage for wineries, shops and private homes.

Others taking the class included winemakers, tasting room managers, a wine shop owner and restaurant owners.

Carol Backstrom, Chateau Faire Le Pont tasting room manager, said the winery invited Tavernaro to come and offer his course to improve local wine appreciation and wine knowledge among area professionals. The course was offered at the winery for $950.

A native of Northern Italy, Tavernaro said he moved to Washington from Las Vegas precisely for its great wine and wine future. Eastern Washington's arid climate and phyloxera-free volcanic soils offer some of the world's best wine growing conditions, he said. Phyloxera are aphid-like insects that feed on grape vine roots and have been very destructive to vineyards in Europe and California.

Tavernaro has offered his Academy of Wine and Services course in the Tri-Cities and Yakima areas several times. He hopes to return to the Wenatchee area again next year if enough students are interested. He can be reached by e-mail: