Kathryn "Kat" House wants to help you defy the stereotype of a wine snob. First, she says, ditch the snob part. Then, she advises, just drink what you like.
"People can be intimidated by wine, like they think they need to have some special knowledge or something," House says. "But, hey, it's just a beverage."
Drinking what you like is the best way to start, she says. The trick is to ask yourself why you like it. Once you do that, you're on your way.
"If you figure out your own palate, you'll be the most educated wine drinker in the room," she says. "That's the secret."
Of course, you need a vernacular in which to think and talk about wine. That's where House, who is a serious wine educator, comes in.
Her light and breezy attitude toward wine - the oldest libation on the planet - makes it easy to learn, and its something she's eager to share.
House is the owner, oenologist and "wine geek" of Wine Wise Idaho, a wine education, analysis and consulting company she runs out of the Cinder Wines building in Garden City, where Telaya and Coiled also make wine.
Since she arrived in Boise in 2011, she has increased the number of tastings in the Treasure Valley and worked to broaden the area's wine culture.
She teaches monthly wine appreciation classes in Garden City at her Tuesday Night Taste Club, hosts wine dinners for Telaya Wine Company, a label she consults for, writes a wine blog, organizes special classes around wine and food, and teaches workshops at events such as Taste208 on April 13. She makes her own private label - not for sale.
Through her Wine Wise Laboratory, she also does scientific analysis of grapes and wine for vintners across the Snake River Valley AVA.
"She's really positioning herself to be the doctor of wine in Idaho," says Joe Schnerr, who co-owns Cinder with his wife and winemaker Melanie Krause.
"It's a service she can provide to the industry that will make us better," Schnerr says. "And she's building a bridge to the consumer. We're so excited to have her here."
Despite it being "just a beverage," there is something magical about wine that allows it to become a catalyst for so many things - from conversation to cultural development, she says. That's what captivated the 33-year-old to make it her career.
House grew up in Santa Rosa, Calif., close to the heart of California's wine county. Her dad made wine at home, and trips to area vineyards were family affairs, combined with hikes and picnics.
She went to Washington State University to study veterinary medicine. That's where she met her husband, Dan McClaskey.
A few years ago, the couple came to visit friends here and decided that Boise was a place they'd like to live. McClaskey, a physician, sought a residency here and is now on staff at St. Luke's. They have two small children.
It turned out the vet idea wasn't a good fit. So, after college, when she was deciding her next step - graduate school or something else - she worked at a restaurant.
"One night a group of professors came in," she says. "We started talking and they suggested I study with them. I asked what they taught and when they said, 'oenology' it hit me. I love teaching, working with people, travel, food and wine. It all came together."
From there, House earned a master's degree in horticulture with an emphasis on viticulture - the study of grape growing - and oenology - the science of winemaking. She focused both studies through the lens of education.
She worked at Seven Hills Vineyards and Pepper Bridge Winery as an intern, then became an assistant winemaker at Betz Family Winery, one of the most iconic boutique wineries in Woodinville, Wash., before going out on her own.
"There's a lot of science in winemaking, and I'm really a scientist. But for all of that, there's also an art to it," House says. "There's no recipe to follow, you have to feel your way. Even at Cinder, we have three winemakers using the same grapes from the same vineyards, and yet the wines are very different."
House continues to push herself in wine education.
She now is going for her Master of Wine, an international designation from the Institute of Masters of Wine in London. It is one of the highest levels of wine education you can achieve. There are about 200 Masters of Wine worldwide, including 35 in North America - one of whom is House's former boss, Robert Betz.
Once that happens, House will play an essential part in elevating people's perceptions of Idaho's wine industry, says Idaho Wine Commission executive director Moya Schatz Dolsby.
Dolsby first met House when Dolsby worked at the Washington Wine Commission a few years ago.
"It's amazing to have someone of Kat's caliber in Idaho," Dolsby says. "It really says that - to quote Sunset Magazine - Idaho's wine scene has arrived."
House's goal is to help Idaho's wine culture grow, she says.
"It's still very young here. I would love to see Boise's wine culture take off even more," she says. " It's a great way for people to connect. I'd love to be the one to help guide them on that path."
Contact Kat House at WineWiseIdaho.com.