Patrick Coffield wants to teach people to be successful – one glass of wine at a time.
By day, Coffield is an administrative assistant for the Military Science Dept. By night, he’s a wine connoisseur. As the instructor of the World of Wine class, the most popular Leisure Review class offered through the UCSB Recreation Center, Coffield teaches important things: like why some wines stain teeth, the differences between types of wine, what type of glass to use and which old wives’ tales are wrong.
“It’s the most interesting class on campus,” Coffield said. “It’s a UCSB tradition,”
Coffield’s interest in wine was sparked when he took the class while attending UCSB 25 years ago.
After graduating from UCSB with a degree in English literature and history, his passion for wine led him to attend wine schools in Europe. He eventually worked as a wine steward; the person who produces the wine list and recommends different wines for various foods.
Upon returning to the Santa Barbara area in the late 1970s, Coffield began teaching a champagne class at UCSB before taking over the World of Wine class five years ago.
“I wanted to see how big this class could get,” Coffield said.
Since that time, he has consistently increased enrollment to its current size, two classes totaling 360 people.
RecCen cashier Chuck Schonder said the class has recently increased in popularity. This quarter’s original 260-person class filled up in two weeks, resulting in the creation another 100-space class.
“I had 10 people waiting outside to sign up before 8 [a.m.] on the first day of the quarter,” Schonder said.
Not just anyone can enroll in the class. Because students taste the wine, all students must show a picture I.D. proving they are 21 or older before enrolling in the class.
“This is one of the few classes you can’t sign someone up for because of the I.D.,” Schonder said.
Coffield said the large size of the classes, held in Chemistry 1179, is due to the quarterly trips taken to either the Santa Ynez Valley for wine tasting or to the Santa Barbara City College Culinary Arts Institute for a five-course gourmet meal.
The extra trips are not included in the class fee and they vary in price. This quarter, the classes are going on a wine tasting tour of the Santa Ynez Valley. The cost is $25 and eight busses have already been reserved for the May 8 trip. Coffield said that the organizing of such a large group trip has been a logistical nightmare.
Schonder said many of the people registering for the class had turned 21 in the past few months and want to learn about wine without having to buy it themselves. He said some people claim to dislike wine, but that they just have not learned to like it yet.
“Do you like food? Then you like wine,” he said. “Boxed wine is a good start. It’s great driving a Volkswagen, but wouldn’t you like to drive a Porsche?”
For the $65 per-quarter class fee, students get six two-hour lectures on various wine-related topics, including what characteristics to expect from different varieties, what foods to eat them with, proper etiquette and the chance to taste five to six one-ounce glasses of wine from several continents each week. Coffield also invites guest speakers, such as viticulture scientists and local winery owners, to class. He said he often has not tasted many of the before the class, as a whole, experiences them.
“It’s worth the money,” Brooke Farrell, a pourer for the class and a member of campus staff for the Bren School and Art Dept., said.
Although the class is not offered for academic units, students take notes, receive and are assigned homework. Students often bring bread, crackers and cheese to eat with the wine and share with friends.
Upon finishing the class, students looking to learn more or simply taste more wines are invited to become pourers; the people who aid Coffield in doling out the one-ounce samples during each class.
Coffield said the information taught in class is key for the future success of his students.
“If you’re really going to be successful in upper class society, you need to know about good wines,” Coffield said. “You really don’t need to know about your B.A. You need to know about wine.”
Despite Coffield’s enthusiasm for drinking wine, he said it should be done in moderation.
“I stress not getting drunk,” he said. “[Drinking] doesn’t have to be sophisticated. In Europe, it’s just another food. Here, we think it should be by itself to get some buzz, but it doesn’t have to be that way.”
Although he said he encourages people to eat prior to attending or to bring food the meetings, he does not condone students bringing their own alcohol. He said that he has caught people chasing his wines with beer in preparation for Thursday night bar specials.
“If they bring in wine, I take it away from them,” he said. “They’re ruining their pallet.”
Coffield said that more people are taking his class because more people are buying wine due to the competition from countries such as South Africa, Chile, Australia and New Zealand.
“It’s a great time to be alive because the prices of wine have all dropped,” Coffield said. “Nothing in your life can be so bad that a good bottle of wine can’t fix it.”