Wine & Whey is a small shop tucked away in RiNo, at 3559 Larimer Street. Owned and operated for three years by married couple Pamela and Ron Zorn, the shop offers anywhere from 8-16 classes a month covering a variety of topics from beginner wine making to feta and queso fresco class. Tempted by all of them, I settled for the best of both worlds: the combo mozzarella and beginner’s wine making class.
Like a kid on Christmas morning, I sprung from bed the morning of the class and went to the shop an hour early. I watched Pamela and Ron set up for their 16-person class — the biggest they’ve ever had. The set up process resembled a synchronized duet, each of them prepping the room like it’s second nature. Their roles are clearly defined, Pamela teaches while Ron runs the behind-the-scenes necessities that come with running a small business. Pamela was even able to make an extra batch of mozzarella for the class to take home while fielding my thousands of oohs, ahhs and questions.
She’s being modest. With decades of cheesemaking under her belt, it’s obvious that she has mastered both. Before she started teaching, Pamela was making 60 gallons of cheese per day to sell at farmers’ markets under the name “Zorn Family Farms.”
“The burnout was fast,” she explained. “I love doing these classes instead because I’m a really good teacher. The fact that I get to spend my days showing people how accessible and easy it is to make cheese at home brings me a lot of joy.”
Before I knew it, the room filled with all 16 eager participants — families, couples, a group of women enjoying a birthday celebration. The group was diverse, but between the homemade cheese samples and dozens of red wines to try, the group bonded quickly.
Pamela started the class by explaining the science behind why we continually reach for cheese — it releases dopamine into the brain like many drugs do. The class let out a collective sigh of relief that they weren’t alone in facing their dairy addiction.
As the corks popped and wine flowed, Pamela walked us through the entire process of making mozzarella as we followed along with a take-home recipe. The class nods along, asking questions and cheering as they learn how easy it is to make at home. All you need is whole milk, salt and a few specialty ingredients, all sold at Wine & Whey.
The cheese portion of the class moved quickly. Pamela sprinkled in fun facts and stories as we watched mozzarella form before our eyes. She’s full of knowledge (I won’t spoil it all, but wait until you hear about all the things you can do with whey). Most impressively, she shows the class that after decades of cheese-making, her finger can guess the temperature of water within 1-2 degrees, all the way up to 140 degrees fahrenheit. We tested her as she showed us the “Certificate of Calibration” that her husband made for her. She never missed once.
Next came the wine-making, which the group did together after choosing what blend to make. We settled on fan-favorite blend that we sampled while making the cheese. The “GSM” stands for “Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre” and we were all (again) shocked to learn how easy it can be to make wine at home with the right equipment, instruction and intuition.
We’re all invited to return in six weeks to cork and custom-label our own two bottles to take home. Pamela and Ron will tend to our batch until we come back on March 12, and it’s shelved at the front of the store with others that we saw while entering class.
When we finished the instructional period, I realized Pamela saved the best for last. She brought out trays of cheeses that she had made for the class to enjoy, and we drank (even more) wine. The class even elected to stay a bit longer than the allotted three hours, getting to know each other and debating our favorite cheeses.
I highly recommend grabbing a fellow cheese-lover and taking a class at Wine & Whey. It’s a completely comfortable environment to let lose and learn something new. Wine & Whey also offers take-home kits, venue rentals, private classes and corporate events. If 16 strangers can bond in three hours, imagine what it could do for friends, family or your team at work!
To learn more about Wine & Whey, click here.
All photography by Kyle Cooper.