To start, ‘The Guru’ was a title bestowed on me by a wonderfully nice yet naive patron at the winery where I work as a tasting expert. It is not now, nor hopefully will it ever be, an homage to my own egotistical expertise.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get down to the basics. My name is Josh, and I was born and raised in the Midwestern United States. However, my birth into the world of wine was in Florence, Italy. In the fall of 2013, I lived in Firenze for one semester, studying food, wine, and culture through a study abroad program. Part of this experience included a ‘Wine Appreciation’ course with a lovely Italian woman and winemaker named Camilla Carrega, the owner of Castello di Volognano, a winery just outside of Florence. While everyone back home thought I was getting sloshed on Italy’s finest, I was actually learning a great deal about the process of growing, harvesting, and producing world-class wine (while getting sloshed on Italy’s finest).
Throughout my time in the hills of Tuscany, I became enraptured with this complex drink, and I not only developed a palette all my own, I also developed an appreciation for the art of winemaking. Camilla’s class was not only one of the most informative courses I’ve ever taken, it was one of the most challenging (and that is saying something considering I have a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and am pursuing a masters degree in the same field). We studied the growing cycle, from vegetative activity in spring to version in early summer to harvest in the fall and finally to dormancy in the winter. We went as deep as the biological structure of each grape and as wide as the overall terroir of a variety of growing regions. I always tell people that our final included one section where we had to list and describe the 10 steps for producing Champagne in the classic method. I can remember sitting in the bar (the Italians call a bar what we Americans call a cafe) going over this process with friends when an elderly Italian gentleman sidled up next to our group and said, “That’s very good! Of course, you should also know…” as he launched into a tirade about the differences in blanc-de-blanc and blanc-de-noir champagnes.
Before I left the country, I had an insatiable thirst (surprisingly not for wine) for knowledge on this topic. I wanted to know as much as I could about varietals, growing regions, history, future; if it had to do with wine, I was interested. I took out a subscription to Wine Spectator and began collecting books on the topic. I had friends and family keep an eye out for books until I returned to Indiana and could begin my own quest for knowledge and truth (‘in vino veritas,’ right?). I began with Kevin Zraly’s “Windows on the World” wine course (or at least the textbook), and learned so much about the wines of the world, specifically in France and California.
Unfortunately, much like vines from late fall to early spring, my enthusiasm for wine became dormant with the return of university courses on topics such as calculus, logic, and pedagogical theory. It wasn’t until my first year teaching that I rediscovered and could actively pursue my passion for wine once more. At the end of my first year teaching, I applied for a job at Chateau Thomas winery in Plainfield, Indiana, and I began working there as a tasting expert in May 2017. It was in this capacity that I received the title of ‘The Guru’ from one beginning wine enthusiast on a pleasant review of her experience at the winery.