Interview with Joe Woelfle, founder of Blatz Liquor & Upcoming Wine Class Schedule
Since I moved to Milwaukee about 5 years ago I’ve observed an increased enthusiasm to discover the world of wine among locals. Three new wine bars opened in the downtown area and the ability to purchase quality wine has remarkably improved. Being the wine lover that I am I’m ecstatic about this and impressed to note that the movement is only getting bigger. Milwaukee, a city known for its wonderful micro breweries definitely has the clientele but only until recently has locals had the opportunity to first hand learn about wine. One recent addition to the movement is Joe Woelfle, owner of Blatz Liquor, a store focusing on select high craft beers, wines and liquors, located in downtown Milwaukee. During the past year Joe has combined efforts with Nathan Norfolk, wine sommelier and started offering monthly wine classes. I had the opportunity to meet with Joe recently to discuss his interest in wine and how he wants to contribute to expand the appreciation of wine among locals in our beautiful Fresh Coast city.
Erica: What inspired the idea of offering wine classes?
Joe: When I opened Blatz Liquor in 2008, my second store in the Milwaukee area, I saw this as an opportunity to offer quality high craft beers and wine to the downtown clientele. Milwaukee is a city where beer is king but I’ve also noted that most of us that enjoy a high craft beer also do or want to enjoy a good glass of wine. It does seem however that very few have had the opportunity to learn about wine and develop an appreciation for it. The purpose of these classes is to offer this to those that would like to learn more about wine.
Erica: What makes your classes unique and do you have a specific demographic that you target?
Joe: The classes cater to anyone that wants to learn more about wine. Nate has the ability to help those rookies among us but also teach and discuss wines with individuals that already have a strong basic knowledge of wine. We start each class with a short power point presentation during which time a brief background on the wines being tasted is offered and then afterward everyone has the opportunity to taste and discuss the wines. The classes are offered in the common area in the Blatz Liquor building, snacks are served and the atmosphere is informative yet relaxed.
Erica: Do you have a specific focus, such as varietal, region?
Joe: Each class has a different theme. Our first class (and the only one that we will repeat from our previous classes) will cover the 6 great grapes, provide a background on each, discuss their tasting characteristics and then offer the opportunity to taste them. In addition various other themes are incorporated in the classes which include regions, grape varietals and food & wine pairings. We will end the season in May where we’ll focus on wines to serve with barbecues.
Erica: Can you tell us more about the logistics of the classes?
Joe: During each class we taste an average of 6 wines all ranging between $8-$35. Our focus however is to specifically taste unique wines, not commonly offered for purchase in Milwaukee (but available at Blatz Liquor) but further to develop tasters’ palate so that they’ll be able to distinguish the types of wine to purchase in general. There is no common theme in each class, an expression of wines are tasted. Classes last from one to two hours, depending on how much fun everyone has!
Erica: Do you target a specific demographic?
Joe: No. During our prior courses anyone with enthusiasm to learn more about wine attended, ranging from those in their early twenties to late fifties. Classes are affordable ($20/class) but informative enough to cater to both the novice and those with significant knowledge of wine.
Joe also mentioned that over the years he has created relationships with most wine distributors in the city and can help those looking for a special wine not found anywhere else. There are wines that are not distributed in the Milwaukee area, unfortunately, but he and his team have the expertise to offer great alternatives that will impress any wine lover.
Erica: When will the new classes start?
Joe: The first informal tasting will be on December 16th, when Blatz Liquor will have a Christmas party offering a tasting of both high craft beers and wines. Going forward wine classes will be offered the third Wednesday of each month. Those interested in learning more should attend and I can provide additional details. If you won’t be able to make it to the Christmas party on the 16th, also check out the calender on our website. It’s up to date for all classes offered. In addition, if wine enthusiasts can’t make it to all of the classes that is fine, each class is unique and offers it’s own lesson and experience.