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Faith Kaplan
Photo by Kate Rifkind


by Rhonda Spivak, March 30, 2011

One of the under-reported aspects of the  recent  Limmud Conference in Winnipeg (a terrific program put on here for the first time by  the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg and the Rady JCC, Etz Chaim, Hebrew U, Shaarey Zedek, and Winnipeg Board of Jewish Education) is Faith Kaplan’s session “Boreh Pri Hagafen: An Introduction to Wine Tasting.”

The obvious question in my mind was how come Faith got to run that session?  Is she a qualified oenophile?

I started thinking about it when I noticed that Faith’s wine tasting session was at the same time as my talk about Israeli-Jordanian relations in the aftermath of the revolution in Egypt.  That’s when I realized that while I was working away at preparing my talk, all Faith had to do was pour wine! Not only that, but I was cheated out of the opportunity to attend her wine testing session.

Let’s get serious, who wants to do a session that’s competing with wine tasting? Had I realized in advance I would have tried to combine our sessions, which would have made for an interesting question and answer session. 

In an EXCLUSIVE one- on- one interview with Faith after the event, The Winnipeg Jewish Review posed the “hard question”:  What qualifications do you have in the field of wine tasting?

She replied, “I like to talk and I like to drink wine.”

I replied, “You mean you like to whine?”

She stuck to her guns. “I’m a good talker and I’m a good drinker,” and that was reason enough to run the wine testing session, she claimed.

And I thought to myself, based on those credentials the Federation could have given her a phone card and sent her to the liquor store to pick up the wine, but how did she get to actually lead the session? Faith smiled mysteriously and I began to wonder how many glasses she had sampled and whether there was any left over.

Faith began articulating how she had learned to assess wine with skillful “swirling, sniffing and swishing.” She knew how to classify a wine’s age by its colour. Personal taste dictates whether a wine is too “acidic or sweet”, but there is a universal disdain for wine that is corked or worse, leaves a “bad aftertaste.” She claimed that she could tell if a wine smelled like “fruit, flowers, stinky socks, raw sewage or cholent that was left over from last Shabbat.”

And then Faith lowered her voice to make sure no one could overhear, leaned closer and admitted her sensitive nose could always tell if the wine had “a disagreeable odour.”

I began to be persuaded that she actually knew what she was talking about.  Heck, by the time she was done talking she had convinced me that she had grown up picking grapes in Napa Valley, and that she still had blisters on her toes from too many years of barefoot grape crushing. (This is the preferred method by vintners the world over, though more expensive to execute than machine crushing.)

What clinched it for me was when she intoned “I can appreciate a well made cork screw when I see one.”

Which is why I want readers to know that if you have wine tips, wine suggestions, wine-related emergencies or surgeries, or even if  you just want to invite Faith to a party so that she can “talk, sniff and drink wine, ” please contact [email protected] and we will do our best to forward your inquiries in a timely fashion.

P.S. In all seriousness, Faith Kaplan, a woman of many rich and varied talents, once contemplated a career as a wine professional and started the International Sommelier Accreditation program. When she realized that she would likely be returning to the hospitality industry to hone her skills, this self admitted “worst waitress in the history of Nibblers Nosh” determined she was too old to work evenings and weekends, and despite her affinity for working a room, Faith only completed the first course on Wine Fundamentals. This bon vivant may not be a certified connoisseur, but she is certainly a lover of wine, and a bona fide oenophile.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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