Wine World Through the Back Door

“Wine is the only art work you can drink.” ~ Luis Fernando Olaverri

Yes, wine is drinkable art, but my friend Ryan Sorrell is teaching the world that there is more art to a wine bottle than the wine inside. Ryan is the artist and founder of Vino Mosaics. I wrote an article about Ryan’s wine art two years ago. As he continues to impress with his incredible Vino Mosaics I felt it was time to put Ryan in the spotlight once again. Today, Ryan shares his wine journey in a way that is personal and inspirational. If you did not read my feature on Ryan’s Vino Mosaics I strongly encourage you to read it as well; his art is fantastic!

As a student studying abroad in Italy many moons ago, I had as my constant companion Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door. I loved his guidance, which frequently steered you away from the tourist traps to gain more authentic and personal experiences of each culture. When Michelle presented me the opportunity to guest blog for her while she embarks on her own international travel, it gave me pause to reflect on my unconventional journey through the wine world over the last few years.

I truly stepped into the wine world through the back door. As Michelle introduced in her blog post Pairing Wine with Art Through Vino Mosaics, I am an artist who makes mosaics from wine foils preserved as tiles. I didn’t know much about wine when I first started. My parents collected the foils from their opened bottles in a glass vase, and I just thought they were interesting to look at. I made a few pieces for friends and family, but as interest grew I knew I would need to increase my supply and soon started visiting wine bars to see if they would save their discards for me. While there, I usually met a bartender or Sommelier who were all too happy to introduce me to new or interesting wines. My budding interest in wine led me and my wife to visit Napa Valley. I’ll be honest I was basically going door to door panhandling for foils at as many of Napa’s 400+ wineries that I could fit into our itinerary. However, that vacation far exceeded my expectations as I was greeted with open arms and treated as an “industry” insider. I met so many warm and gracious wine people and that lead to wine dinners, unique educational tours, and invitations to come back for art shows and events. My wife and I now visit Napa and Sonoma quite regularly and enjoy connecting with the friends we’ve made there.

Napa Valley Arts exhibit in April

Around the same time I had also branched into social media as a way to get my art out to a broader audience. I am blown away by how many amazing people I have met from Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. In fact, Michelle and I initially connected on Twitter and eventually joined a group of local wine bloggers for lunch one day. The entire party hit it off and we still get together regularly to share interesting and rare bottles of wine. We have even branded ourselves the #DallasWineaux (that’s plural in French) so that people could easily follow our exploits on line.

Dallas Wineaux lunch

This group of knowledgeable oenophiles encouraged me to attend wine seminars and conferences that have been both fun and eye opening. What better way to learn about wine than to drink a ton of it (and spit most of it, responsibly). I’ve also gotten great book and movie recommendations from this group that has grown my knowledge. Furthermore, and maybe most importantly, we all share great contacts we’ve made in the wine world to help broaden our network. All of this has taken my wine appreciation to the next level, and I’ve gotten to hobnob with some truly legendary wine personalities while opening bottles that were just as special.

I’ve met many wine professionals, including Master Sommelier Fred Dame

So how can you get more into wine? While I’m far from a wine expert, I do have some advice from my back door travels.

  1. Join a local wine club: a wine shop near by our home offers a great wine club at various commitment levels that allows you to try many different wines from various regions while also getting to know other wine enthusiasts (or curious novices). There is sure to be a similar shop near you. Take the plunge and try some wines that may not be at your local supermarket.
Off the Vine Wine Club
  1. Travel to a wine region: I spoke about Napa Valley and Sonoma earlier, but I’ve also had opportunity to travel to Montalcino in Italy and the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Anytime you can travel to a wine region and taste their wines while taking in the culture and surroundings you will be enriched. The people pouring the wines in tasting rooms are often wine educators so you are sure to learn something new with each stop. Repetition is key to learning so travel often. Also, don’t overlook your own home state. I’ve had some fantastic wine in Texas that nobody else would know about because they aren’t shipped outside the state.
Enjoying a wine destination vacation with my wife and friends.
  1. Start a wine group: if you have some friends that are interested in wine at any level, organize a themed get together. Whether you each bring a bottle of some varietal, or some particular region, or do a blind tasting to test your knowledge or preferences without labels. These types of events are always fun and educational. No need to be stuffy about it, wine is meant for pleasure and camaraderie.
Dallas Wineaux
  1. Join the conversation: Through social media you can follow industry insiders (and knowledgeable outsiders) and not only learn more about wine but in many instances interact with them. There are many scheduled and impromptu chats on Twitter and Facebook, great blogs to follow, a myriad of books to read, and movies/documentaries to watch. If I like a book or movie or article I will often follow that person on social media to learn more. Chances are you will happen upon an opportunity to interact with them.

Wherever you are on your wine journey I hope you keep your palate fresh with new experiences and knowledge. I never would have anticipated the events that have unfolded since my humble beginnings, but I imagine that I have only scratched the surface of all there is to know and try. Hope to see you on the road!

Since Michelle has been known to pair her blog posts with a song, I’ve chosen Frank Sinatra’s Come Fly With Me.

8 responses to “Wine World Through the Back Door”

  1. Ryan’s work is awesome! One day there will be a mosaic in our tasting room! (just have to get the tasting room first! LOL) I too was happy to share Ryan’s story in a Pursue Your Passion piece! He has true passion!

  2. Still think you need to come visit me and I will take you to the secret winery area that is the Temecula Valley just 30 minutes south of me.

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