The Art of Wine

Pablo Antinao’s Passion For Wine…

“be an explorer.
try something new.
support sustainable practices.”

These are three things that wine educator and sommelier Pablo Antinao believes are key for learning more about wine and understanding what you truly enjoy as a wine drinker. It’s a core philosophy that he brings to his work as the wine director at 13 Prime Steak in Fresno and as the founder of the Fresno Wine Academy. 

Originally from Chile, Antinao has a long history of working in fine wine in California. His journey to wine is the type of story that many can relate to. So often people set off in one direction for meaningful work, only to be introduced to something that truly sparks passion. That spark was something Antinao couldn’t ignore, so he went after it, and California’s Central Valley is now the greatest benefactor of his decision. 

Antinao studied social work and began his career working in foster care and with at-risk youth in mental health facilities. But the time he’d spent bartending to pay for his education combined with the influence of his father’s work and love of cooking had planted a seed of interest in the hospitality and wine industries.

It’s a seed that finally sprouted when Antinao moved to the United States. His interest in wine was beginning to grow, and he knew he wanted to learn more about the industry. He signed up for a course at UC Davis. “I took it just for the pleasure of taking it, but I got fascinated by it,” he says. He wanted to learn more.

“I felt the Central Valley needed an outlet for consumers to learn about wine.
Fresno is ready for it.
It needs something like this.
I want to bring this experience to the community…”

At this point, he was married and had started a family. Going back to school for another four-year degree wasn’t a desirable option. He began searching for something that would put him on the wine track and give him the credentials he needed to be an educator without the drawn-out time commitment.

The answer was the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone’s Certified Wine Professional® credential. Antinao explains, “It was a complete immersion and that’s what I feel I needed.” 

This certificate only fueled his passion further by introducing him to wines from around the world. All his studies seemed to lead back to Europe. 

“I felt I needed to go to Europe to complete the training, to experience wine and culture there,” he says. After realizing that France didn’t offer any programs in Spanish or in English, he decided on Barcelona, and successfully earned his level one and level two sommelier certification there. 

Antinao lived in Fresno about 10 years ago. After years spent working in wine education in Monterey and publishing his book, “Taste:  The Secrets of Wine and Food Appreciation,” he made his way back to the Central Valley so he could be closer to family. 

In his role as wine director at 13 Prime Steak, he became responsible for developing the wine club, a project with which he has much experience from his previous work. A wine club is familiar at wineries, but Antinao proves it can be beneficial to restaurants, as well. 

“It encourages loyalty, frequency and a source of belonging that is grounded in the restaurant,” he says. In addition to special offers, waived corkage fees and pick-up parties, consumers get a completely different wine experience than they might at a single winery. The club allows Antinao to be playful with the wines selected and introduce people to new wines, while sharing the interesting stories of these wines and their producers. 

The club isn’t the only way Central Valley residents can take advantage of learning from Antinao. The Fresno Wine Academy is an essential resource for wine education in the area. The academy is an idea he’s had for many years. “I felt the Central Valley needed an outlet for consumers to learn about wine. Fresno is ready for it. It needs something like this. I want to bring this experience to the community,” he says.

The Fresno Wine Academy is in the Pacific Southwest Building downtown. “I think to have a wine school, you have to be in the heart of the city,” says Antinao. He also plans to expand to other locations within the city in the future.  

He offers four courses that he recommends to anyone interested in expanding their knowledge of wine. From there, people can move on to exploring wines from around the world. These first four courses are designed to provide a base to build on, and this foundation is key. The details of those courses and their syllabuses can be found on the website. 

Regardless of which courses you choose, one thing is for sure: Expect to be nudged out of your comfort zone and open up to new types of wine. Antinao says, “The secret is to taste. Be open minded and explore. Taste something you are unfamiliar with and you might find something you really like.” •

Upcoming events:

June 16 at 13Prime Steak Alpha Omega/
Tolosa Wine Dinner

July 14 at
Fresno Wine Academy
Where Umami Meets Italian Wines

August (Date Coming Soon)
Carmenere & Malbec Night at the Vault

Story by Lori Rice
Photos by Salina Marroquin

About Lori Rice

Lori Rice is a photographer and writer with a passion for food and farms. She is the owner of Fake Food Free Productions and the winner of a 2019 International Association of Culinary Professionals Food Writing Award. When she’s not telling stories and sharing photos in Edible San Joaquin Valley, Lori works with food brands, agriculture boards and publishers providing food and farm photography.

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