IT may sound awkward to admit but Dirty Dancing star Kurt Phelan�s love of wine stemmed from unemployment.
After graduating from NIDA, the Queensland-born actor started working for a wine club to pay the bills his independent theatre work could not.
�I�d always appreciated wine but never knew what I was doing until I did a six-week education course for the job,� the 33-year-old said.
�From there I went on to WSET, the international sommelier intermediate course.
�Since then I�ve changed companies and when I�m not working on a production, I organise tastings and cases for wine club members.�
You can imagine Phelan�s delight when invited by Sandalford Wines to visit its Swan Valley Estate in Caversham last week for a private cellar tour and wine tasting with Sandalford winemaker Mark Brown.
�I have a huge passion for Australian wine especially and trying to get people to taste varietals they wouldn�t usually drink,� he said.
�I suppose today has really changed my mind as well, which is why it�s been really great, seeing the other side of what I do.
�I take over from when it�s in the bottle and now I�ve just seen what happens before it gets in to the bottle.�
Phelan said he dreamt of opening his own wine bar but was currently focused on his full-time job of being Johnny Castle.
He said he had been flabbergasted at Perth audiences, whose responsiveness had taken the classic story on stage to another level.
�On the Saturday after opening I went to say �Nobody puts Baby in the corner� and had to wait for ages because they wouldn�t stop cheering, they knew what was coming,� he said.
�I had to just say it through the cheers.�
Despite sustaining injuries during the show (he broke three ribs in December, then dislocated them in March and again in May), Phelan said he had the time of his life playing Johnny.
�I got cast in the role and it was such a big step for my career that any trepidation took a back seat and my heart and passion took over,� the Sydneysider said.
�These people had trusted me out of everyone in Australia to play the role so I had to trust in myself and go for it.
�I tried to ignore the fact that I�m a huge Patrick Swayze fan; I think it would have been worse if I was doing Point Break because that�s one of my favourite movies. I just had to leave it all at the door.�
Dirty Dancing is at Crown Theatre Perth until September 6.