It's been a long time since I was in school, say, 1978, when I pictured myself living a quiet life among books and spent a year working on a Masters of Library Science.

Numerous careers came and went quickly after that but I've been writing about food now for 28 years and I never took a class about it until now.

Last night was my first class in the Intermediate Level as defined by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, as taught by Jimmy Santangelo in his Wine and Server Academy of Utah.

We met at Pago, it's closed Monday nights. There are only 8 students total, so my only remembered student strategy, always sit in the back row so you won't get called on, was useless.

This is not your typical swig-and-party wine class. We were issued textbooks, workbooks, tasting charts and exam guidelines, as well as a set of six official tasting glasses that we're supposed to bring to every class.

Jimmy had a power point presentation set up and all the students had pens in hand, ready to take down notes about wine storage, wine pouring, flavor profiles and how many units of alcohol per day (9 for men) are considered acceptable in Japan as opposed to the U.S. (3)

I can deal with this part in the course of my so-called career, I've written a lot about wine. I know the vitis vinifera, I know I can drink red with some fish, I've seen boatloads of stainless steel tanks and I can roll my eyes when someone says "malolactic."

To my skeptical yet insecure schoolmate-slash-husband, I look like I know a respectable amount about wine.

But the proof is in the palate. And I'm not sure I've got one for wine. The "Systematic Approach to Wine Tasting" card helps, basically, you rule out what you DON'T taste. Wet wool? Not a whiff. Figs? Mmmm, not so much. Elderflower? How should I know?

I don't know if I'll ever be discerning enough to pass this exam. Did I tell you there's going to be a test?

I'm not the only doubter; most of my fellow-students didn't really speak up firmly, declaring a definite opinion about their detection of lichee nut in the glass. There was more whispering and muttering than assertion.

By the end of class, when we'd all swallowed a good bit in spite of all the spitting, we got a little braver.

And Professor Santangelo was encouraging, fun to listen to and really seemed to believe that we all had a chance at achieving intermediacy.

We'll see.

Right now, I've got a few chapters to read and a little homework here in my glass.