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Ian Blackburn - Educating Los Angeles on Wine Since 1995

In the early 1990s Ian Blackburn was looking around Los Angeles for avenues to educate himself on wine and finding mainly only wine shops. To meet this lack Blackburn founded LearnAboutWine. His intention was to make a difference specifically to the wine culture of Los Angeles and the surrounding area, while becoming more educated himself. Via phone interview he explained how LearnAboutWine (LAW) varies its approach to instructing and presenting wine to addresses the different settings and ranges of extant knowledge in the audience. Only a few events are like Revenge of the Merlot where winemakers meet local industry professionals and then later consumers also savor their wines.

Many events are structured like tastings or classes and LAW offers several intensive events. Wine Camp is offered to bring the curious up to speed by filling in gaps dilettante wine lovers may have in their knowledge. Over 15 years, asserted Blackburn, more than 30,000 people have taken the two hour course. LearnAboutWine also offers a more advanced credential program, trading cleverly on its judicious-sounding initials and the final is known as the "bar exam." LAW offers a membership option to individuals who wish to directly support its mission. With membership come benefits like private events and tastings and some discounts to public events.

Wineries throughout the world are courted for participation in LAW events, narrowing only for thematic events (e.g. tasting by region or varietal), and frequently limited by logistics. Revenge of the Merlot had a heavy prevalence of California wines, but Blackburn insisted it was because wineries from other parts of the world couldn't make it to the event in time. Blackburn's goal, as he put it, is to connect the customer with the right winery. With that in mind, the wineries he wants to see at his events are the ones that will benefit from being there. Blackburn doesn't exclude big volume wineries or commonly known appellations, but he has found that his events better suit operations wherever the winemaker is closely involved in production and public relations.

Looking to the future, Blackburn anticipates continuing to nurture Los Angeles' wine culture along with his own body of knowledge. Blackburn is a sommelier and a Master of Wine candidate. As a professional cellar consultant and auction ambassador, Blackburn is continually refining his appreciation of wine which directly informs the direction of LearnAboutWine's mission.

Check LearnAboutWine for future events and keep up with Mr Blackburn on Twitter or Facebook.

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