Underdog Wine Co. offers a refreshing taste of wine education

A wine class at Underdog/Photo by Steve Gibson

By Andee LaMonica

If you’re a novice or on a budget, it’s easy to walk away from a wine tasting feeling lost. Local wine shop Underdog is working to make grape education more accessible with Wine by the Class, a monthly offering hosted by local wine educators Lisa Barber and Jennipher Walters, both certified with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. An extension of Underdog’s approach to wine—supporting small family-owned wine producers that delight customers at any price point—the classes hosted in Underdog’s private tasting room are designed to be diverse, creative and welcoming for all wine lovers. 

“These aren’t your typical Wine 101 classes,” says Underdog owner Ryan Sciara. “They have gotten people to think outside the box of wine drinking.” 

Having attended the September session myself—themed Pop Rocks & Bubbles, a delicious pairing of wine with popular junk food snacks—I have to agree.

“The sweetness of strawberry Pop Rocks and brut rosé actually becomes neutralized for more of a creamy taste,” Barber says. “It’s fun to teach others how approachable and diverse wine can be. And a pinot noir with BBQ chips? Chef’s kiss.” 

Each class theme is unique, but all include wines for a range of budgets and plenty of lessons for attendees. (For example, now I can explain why I’m putting out Cheetos with my Sancerre for happy hour.) With themes like Anything But Basic Basics and Smells Like Holiday Spirit, it’s no surprise that every class has sold out since the program began last May.  Next year’s lineup may include a class centered around Underdog’s popular “Try January” of 2022, along with a wine and popcorn pairing class in time for the 2023 Oscars. There’s also talk of wine pairings with Easter candy. Consider one spot for that class already taken.

The one thing Wine by the Class is not is overwhelming. There are no hard questions or expectations for those who show up to learn more, only answers and recommendations for those who ask. And every wine poured for attendees is available in the retail store upstairs. “I hope people walk away feeling a little more confident and empowered in their wine decisions and closer to a whole new world of wine to love,” says Walters, who not only works at Underdog but is also a contributor to SOMM TV and the wine and spirits column in USA Today. “Helping someone find their wine aha moment, where they really get a wine for the first time?  That’s when I know I’m doing my job well.”

Wine by the Class is in recess during December, but you can stop by their location in the Crestwood Shops to make an upcoming class reservation or to purchase a wine club membership or a great bottle of wine as a holiday gift—or just for yourself. You can also sign up for the next Wine by the Class at underdogwinekc.com.  

Best Wine List in Kansas City?

“My go-tos are Corvino and Antler Room. They both carry unusual varietals.” — Lisa 

Ça Va is always a spot I love. It feels fancy without being pretentious.” —Jennipher 

PotPie is where to go for a mid-week bottle. It’s a small list with great pricing.” —Ryan 

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