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Jon Yu: From Architect to Sommelier

wine glasses © Moncherie

“Wine is bottled poetry.” - Robert Louis Stevenson

Although living in Las Vegas – one of the world’s largest gambling meccas – Jon Yu never gambles on a bottle of fine wine. As a certified wine expert and educator, there is very little he doesn’t know about wine varieties, history and trends.

AARP Colorado welcomes Yu on Wednesday, Sept. 23, at 6:30 p.m. for Wine Walk Wednesday, an interactive webinar exploring the basics of wine. Click on the link to register for this free webinar.

While there may be a thousand styles or types, wine can be broken down into 9 styles ranging from sparkling and dessert wines to red, rose, white and everything in between in body and flavor. As a certified Level 2 Sommelier, Yu enjoys teaching the basics of wine composition and geography, wine tasting, wine pairings and the intricacies of the right wine for that special occasion.

It didn’t take long for Yu to fall in love with wine. As a young boy he asked for a sip of wine from the dinner table and his curiosity was satisfied. Overseas travel with his parents also gave him a huge exposure to wine customs, and, thanks to his father’s business trips abroad, he was able to explore a wide selection from which to choose from various restaurants.

Today, as a Sales Consultant for the Breakthru Beverage Group, he gets to spend much of his days around a warehouse of every type of wine imaginable.

jon yu photo.jpg

“My favorites are the Spanish wines of Rioja because of the complexity of the flavors and the passion that reflects the people of Spain from my personal experience” explained the 32-year-old Sommelier. “These flavors trigger warm memories of friendships, adventure and discovery.”

For newcomers, the mystery and intricacies of wine may seem a bit snobbish or even elitist. Yu educated himself on his own with support from world traveling parents. Today, he is a fully fledged oenophile (aka, wine lover).

“I was born in San Diego and raised there and in Las Vegas,” he said. The family moved every four years from California and Nevada.

His ethnic background is as diverse as his favorite wine selections. Chinese and Portugal on his dad’s side and predominantly United Kingdom nations on his mom’s side.

“I find there are great liberties to being diverse in this fashion but it also creates a constant search for what IS home.”

After earning his BS in Architecture he worked in that field for nearly 7 years before turning to wine retail where he immersed himself in studying and eventually became the in-store wine educator.

For some wine novices, the issue of wine pairings with various foods and desserts may seem mysterious and confusing. But Yu explains that this tradition dates back centuries.

“Food and wine have never been separated,” Yu explains. “There is a natural progression in gastronomy to pair differing flavors together to make a new, greater flavor,” he says.

“Wine and chocolate, wine and cheese, soy sauce and rice, bread and olive oil,” are all common examples of wine pairings. “All represent the dichotomy of food’s evolution. Is this evolution a trend? Absolutely! We celebrate the new and reminisce in the wonderful memories they create. What may be new to me, may be reminiscent for others.”

Yu owes much of his knowledge and training to the Total Wine retailers where he conducted many training classes in wine, beer, and spirits to educate loyal customers.

“This training has led to many great opportunities. First and foremost I’ve built relationships with suppliers, wine makers, and industry leaders from around the world.”

When one door closes another one opens, as they say.

“After leaving the architecture field I said to myself ‘I could make one client happy every 2-4 years, or make a thousand people happy every day.’

”I stuck with the later, and, found my next great passion with teaching.”

_Lorenzo Chavez is a Colorado writer and AARP volunteer.

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