Sensory Skills with Simone F.M. Spinner
“The most fun I’ve had on this podcast,” stated co-host Lisa Adams Walter. At least I think that’s what I caught as we wound up our session with Simone F.M. Spinner, author of “Denver Food: A Culinary Evolution,” and Certified Wine Sommelier, who has two more books on the way. The energy was running fast and high as we finished off a delightful virtual tasting and sensory event with Simone.
She is not one to do anything halfway. She’s passionate about writing, wine, food and travel. Her book on the Denver food scene doesn’t begin with the (white) migrant travelers who initially put Denver on the map, but with the Native Americans who originally inhabited the area long before them. It’s all evidence Simone does nothing half way.
She caught our attention with her Denver-locals courses, The Only Thing You Need to Know About Wine is What You Like Master Class Series at U.C. Denver and the Get into the Glass educational wine series to the public through her company, Wine Rocks & Chasing Grapes, LLC. Spinner skillfully demystifies wine, making it fun through an interactive approach.
Although she doesn’t offer ongoing public classes, she often appears as a guest lecturer at corporate events, conferences, team-building seminars, dinner parties, book clubs, or other gatherings. For more serious wine lovers she conducts private acquisitions and cellar appraisals. Spinner is developing a unique adventure and wine tourism program called Chasing Grapes, LLC., exploring the world of wine and taking curious oenophiles along with her, which will launch with tours exploring Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, and Germany.
On the show, Spinner walked the hosts through a virtual, sensory tasting class, featuring St. Supery’s 2019 Napa Valley Estate Sauvignon Blanc and its 2016 Rutherford Estate Vineyard Merlot. Each host had an array of fresh fruits, spices and mineral elements in hand to compare as a sensory experience with the wines.
Simone introduced this process as part of her “brain attic” training process, explaining our experiences and observations about smelling and tasting various compounds in the wine all need to be catalogued in the appropriate memory bank (an idea she “borrowed” from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series). Without that clear memory of the wine, we’re unlikely to be able to remember what it is if we want to buy another bottle, or case.
Sure enough, with each whiff of tangerine, lime zest, or currant, a new memory (about the wine tasted with it) was cemented in our “brain attic.” By the time the hosts finished this discovery process with Ms. Spinner, we were thrilled at how well it helped us remember the details of each of the wines.
In fact, we were even more surprised to learn that Ms. Spinner had undergone a traumatic event a decade ago that had completely suppressed all her olfactory sensory input. (Not a good thing for a wine professional!) Simone then proceeded to retrain her sense of smell to pick up even the most basic food scents, from produce to flora and fauna. In time, it became easier to identify them without thinking.
For those suffering COVID-19 related scent loss, Simone recommended that they be “intentional about retraining your sense of smell.” Like an athlete preparing for an event, she said the recognition of specific scents can be taught and learned (and relearned) with practice. While undergoing her own olfactory retraining, Simone said she often visited open air markets and produce stores (pre-COVID) to practice her scent-identification skills, stating that it can be discouraging with the most unattractive scents (such as diesel fumes) returning early after scent loss. But delicate scents, such as flowers and minerals, are often the last to be restored.
To learn more, of course, listen to this fascinating podcast. And visit Simone’s website:
WineRocksLLC or her LinkedIn profile
Show date: April 2, 2021