Wine Tasting 101

The first time we came to California on a vacation, we wanted to go up to Wine Country and do some wine tasting. We picked up the brochures at a visitor’s center and figured our route. Oh, here’s one that opens at 9:30! So if we go there and allot 1/2 hour we could be at the next place by 10 and hit maybe 5 or 6 before lunch. Then maybe the same or more after lunch. What a fun day! Okay, so what you learn is that if you try to do that much, you are going to be blotto by the end of the day. And remember, you are driving your car. Plus after 3 in a row you won’t be able to taste anything anymore. You will end up with a fuzzy dry tongue. Two in the morning and two or three in the afternoon is more than enough.

Years ago, it was free to taste wine. Then Napa started charging and now Sonoma does too. My recommendation would be if you are going to pay for a tasting, pay more and get the really good stuff. For instance, at Chateau St. Jean if you get the $10 tasting instead of the $5, you get to taste fine reserve wines. You can sit outside and they’ll bring them to you or you can sit in the big leather chairs and munch on some grissini while they ferry the wine back and forth.

The fellow behind the reserve bar at Benziger suggested this way to taste wine to impress your friends. After the wine has been poured swirl it casually for a while. Then hold it up to the light. Next, put your nose totally into the glass for a big whiff. Finally, take a sip allowing the wine to stay in your mouth a bit before swallowing. With your best bullshitting face, remark, ah, this wine is totally approachable. Means nothing and you haven’t given yourself away if you really don’t know anything about wine.

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