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I USED TO HATE THESE PEOPLE Catering to wine snobs left a bad taste in the author’s mouth — until she became one of them.

I have never been a stranger to wine. Growing up in Sonoma County, land of the rolling vineyards, certainly ensured a healthy exposure to it. During my summers working in wine-country catering, I became accustomed to the busloads of tourists who arrived week after week to gaze at the vines and then slug back award-winning cabernet before drunkenly hoisting themselves back on the vino-mobile. I was that server rolling my eyes as people made snide remarks about the quality of French wine "these days" at tasting dinners. Wine seemed trivial, and its fans were merely the source of a sea of stained wine glasses left for me to clear.

I hated wine.

But after I escaped to the East Coast and wasn't completely surrounded by wineries on all sides, something changed. I made a friend in the restaurant business, a snob who knew his shit, who started plying me with wine. "Yeah, sure, I'll try it," I said, noncommittally. It all tasted the same to me. But then we started having dinners once a week, when he'd pull out his newest bottle. And . . . it was awesome.

Pretty soon I had to call a cease-fire on my anti-wine campaign. I never looked back, and, strangely, started using words like "grassy" and "velvety" with gusto.

Now I find myself heading off to the upcoming Boston Wine Expo with an giddy sense of role reversal. Even though I still get flashbacks of supermanning across a crowded table of sommeliers, trying to pour wine into a tiny glass three feet away with six pairs of beady eyes trained on my hand, I will be there.

The Expo is a once-a-year, weeklong wine orgy. It's kind of pricy, so you'll have to be willing to believe in the dream of falling in love with alcoholic grape juice, but it's worth it. There will be dinners at restaurants during the week, paired with wineries. Then the Expo culminates on January 21 and 22, with 33 wine seminars peppered throughout the Grand Tasting — a giant convention room full of wine from more than 200 wineries. Nothing could be better, even though my jaded server-self of a few years ago would smack me for saying so.

"It's not a sprint, it's a marathon," says Jim Carmody, Expo co-founder and vice-president of Seaport Boston, who also happens to be the president of the Boston Guild of Oenophilists. "You're there to taste as much as you can. You get the opportunity to expand your palate and discover something! That opportunity to discover, whether it's food, or pairings, or wines, is the most exciting part."

Surprisingly, Carmody tells me that Expo attendees aren't all wine snobs in their golden years: a solid 30 percent are under 35. For newbies, hitting one of the seminars might be a good first stop.

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  Topics: Features , Wine, Tastings, food features
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