Friday, December 12, 2014

What’s the Best Wine to Pair with the Holidays?

What’s the Best Wine to Pair with the Holidays?

What's the Best Wine to Pair with the Holidays?
I can hardly believe it’s almost the Holiday Season! It seems to come earlier and earlier every year.
If you’re like my family, you’ll be drinking a bunch of different wines as we head into New Year’s Eve. It’s awfully hard to formally pair specific wines with the array of foods on the holiday table; there’s so much of everything that no one wine can cover all the bases.
But if I had to choose one wine to have with everything, from the first afternoon cocktail through the duck and roast beef and ham, to the mashed potatoes, roasted root vegetables and jello salad, to the most decadent dessert, it would be my number one favorite white wine ever, Chardonnay.
Some people say that Chardonnay is too rich to be versatile with a bunch of different foods. Oh sure, they’ll concede it’s the perfect partner for crab, especially if it’s in-season Dungeness crab like we have here in the Bay Area, and super-especially if you serve it up with plenty of sourdough bread and butter. But there is a certain crowd out there that believes you need something drier, crisper and leaner to be a really good food match.
Far be it from me to deny the allures of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio/Gris or any of the other dry, crisp white wines. I’ll drink a good one anytime! But for me, Chardonnay really does have all the attributes of the most versatile white wine in the world.
(Well, one caveat: Sparkling wine is even more versatile than Chardonnay. But then, many of the greatest sparkling wines are made with Chardonnay.)
It’s all a matter of taste, of course, but for me, Chardonnay’s richness is exactly what it has going for it. Few white wines in the world are richer. Check it out for yourself: While Kendall-Jackson produces several different Chardonnays (Vintner’s Reserve, Jackson Estate, K-J AVANT, Grand Reserve etc.), all share common flavors of intensely ripe mango, green apple, key lime pie and pear, with of course the fabulous creaminess that comes from lees stirring and the buttered toast and vanilla bean of oak barrel aging. Those characteristics may seem to suggest pairing with slightly sweeter fare (and crab, as well as other shellfish, especially lobster, can taste sweet due to its amino acids, fats and ocean salinity). But a great Chardonnay only gives the impression of sweetness; it’s actually a dry wine, which is Chardonnay’s magic: it tastes rich but finishes dry. That’s just what I want in a table white wine.
You might want to drink one of K-J’s fuller-bodied, oakier Chardonnays with your fancier, richer foods: Christmas ham, shellfish, a grand soufflĂ©, shrimp, pork loin. With simpler but no less tasty fare, like roasted chicken, pasto pesto, baked butternut squash or buttery white rice, you might turn to something like K-J AVANT or Vintner’s Reserve. And there’s practically no dessert I can think of that doesn’t go with Chardonnay, unless it involves chocolate, although even with chocolate, there’s an exception: Try Chardonnay with a white chocolate truffle. Now that’s really getting into the holiday spirit!
Steve Heimoff is one of America’s most respected and well-known wine writers. The former West Coast Editor for Wine Enthusiast Magazine and a contributor to Wine Spectator, he has also authored two books on the subject of California wine, including “New Classic Winemakers of California: Conversations with Steve Heimoff,” published in the fall of 2007.
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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Learning about Wine

What is the best way for a beginner to learn the basics about wine?


The Best Way for Beginners to Learn About Wine
People sometimes forget that even the biggest wine expert once was a beginner! Nobody is born with the full knowledge of wine (or of anything else). Gaining understanding requires study and learning.
Of course, you’re not going to expend a lot of energy studying something unless you’re really interested in it. Not for everyone are the arcane intricacies of Major League Baseball pitching averages, or the works of Shakespeare—or wine, for that matter. But some people do get “bitten by the wine bug” (I certainly did), and for those of us who realize one day that we want to learn more about this wonderful beverage, there are many ways to do it.
For me, reading wine books was my introduction to the world of wine. There was no Internet back when the bug bit me, but there were plenty of good books — and there still are today. Too many to recommend any particular ones, but my advice would be to go down to a good bookstore and sort through the wine aisle. Books have a way of “speaking to you.” You look at the covers, front and back, scan through the pages, and if it’s the right book for you, you’ll know it.
It also depends on where you want to start. There are books that offer general approaches to wine tasting and appreciation. Others will take you through the worldwide geography of wine: countries and regions, including the grape varieties that grow there. There are even books on the technical aspects of viticulture and enology, although these probably aren’t for the novice. Whatever book you start with, it’s likely that — if it turns you on enough — you’ll look for something to follow it up with. And then you’re off on your adventure.
There also is a tremendous array of wine magazines these days. Some of the better ones include Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and Wine & Spirits. All offer a comparable format: tasting notes and reviews, articles, opinion pieces, news. Magazines are a good way to keep up with what’s happening now.
But today we have the Internet, which offers more information than anyone can possibly absorb in a lifetime. And with Google, you can get answers on almost anything within a fraction of a second. Some good places to start learning about wine on the Internet are the various wine blogs from Jackson Family Wines: Kendall-Jackson’s, for example.
Another useful stop on the Internet is Alltop, which provides handy links to dozens of wine blogs.
But reading about wine, whether through the printed page of books and magazines, or through the digital words of the Internet, can take you only so far. Ultimately, what will teach you the best and most long-lasting lessons is to actually taste wine. Wine lovers are lucky these days to have multiple ways to taste the wines of the world, without necessarily having to pay the (often high) price of a full bottle. There are wine societies and tasting clubs in most urban areas, as well as wine bars where you can sip your way across the world. The better wine stores often offer tastings, sometimes with a visiting winemaker. Check with your local wine shop to see if they can steer you in the right direction.
By far the best and most pleasant way to taste wine is to visit the winery! This isn’t always the easiest thing, if you don’t live near a wine-producing region, but the fact is that all 50 U.S. states now have licensed wineries within their borders. So if you live in, say, Minnesota or Florida, you don’t have to drive all the way to California, Oregon, Washington and New York, which are our top domestic producers.
Of course, if you do come to California (and we have to admit we’re a little biased in favor of our home state!), you’ll be more than welcomed at our various wineries. The beautiful Kendall-Jackson Wine Center, in Santa Rosa, just 60 miles north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge, is a great place to taste, to learn about wines and vineyards and wine-and-food pairing, and much, much more. We hope to see you there!
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Monday, October 13, 2014

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why You Should Know Where Your Wine Grows


Why You Should Know Where Your Wine Grows

 Ever notice how every wine description seems to have an abundance of fruit flavors listed? Yet, when you try some wine, they completely lack what you’re expecting? This little annoyance happens from time to time. It’s actually part of the reason why learning about wine is so tricky. 
Learn 2 big tips on why you should care where you wine comes from. Guess what, it has nothing to do with quality and everything to do with the weather.
  • Ripeness
  • Warm Climate Wine vs Cool Climate Wine


If you’ve ever purchased a basket of cherry tomatoes, and some taste sweeter than others, then you know all about ripeness. When it comes to wine, it’s useful to know that wineries pick their grapes at different times. Less ripe grapes tend to make resulting wines taste more tart, particularly on the finish. Grapes that are more ripe tend to make the wines taste sweeter. If you love wine with an almost sweet tasting finish, a key indicator is to look for words like ‘ripe’ or ‘sweet tannins’. If you like tart fruit flavors then you’ll want to look for wines that are described as ‘elegant’ or ‘balanced’.

Why would a winery want to pick early?

The main reason for picking earlier is because the winery is trying to balance getting the grape as sweet as possible without losing all the acidity. This is probably where the description ‘balance’ originated. While there are several additives wineries add to a wine after the fact, like acid, the ultimate goal is to not have to add anything to make wine. Wineries who time their picking to preserve acidity will vary from year to year but this method is popular because it’s a more natural way to make wine.
TIP: White wines are picked earlier in the season than red wines


Wine grapes grow from Mexico to British Colombia. The wide range in climates that grapes can grow results in different tasting wines. For this reason, wine regions are grouped into two major climate types: Warm Climate vs. Cool Climate. If you understand the general characteristics of both climate types, you can explore new wines from the climate type you prefer.

Warm Climate vs. Cool Climate Wine

Warm Climate vs. Cool Climate Temperatures
Warm climate regions tend to have more consistent temperatures throughout the season. The slow drop off from summer into fall gives grapes ample opportunity to become fully ripe but the negative is that more natural acidity in the grapes is lost. You can generally assume that warm climates produce grapes with more ripe fruit flavors and less acidity.
Warm Climate Wine Regions
  • California
  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Southern Italy
  • Greece
  • Spain
  • Portugal
  • South Africa
  • Southern France

Cool climate regions definitely get just as hot as warm climates in the peak of the season. However, it is the fact that the temperatures drop off so quickly towards harvest that make the wines taste different. Lower temperatures preserve the acidity but they also make it difficult for grapes to ripen. You can generally assume that cool climate wine regions tend to produce tart fruit flavors and have more acidity.
Of course, the vintage plays a major role in the outcome. You can have a cool vintage create incredibly ripe tasting wines and vice-versa. This is why vintage matters so much, particularly if you tend to prefer cool climate wines.
Cool Climate Wine Regions
  • France
  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • New York
  • Chile
  • Hungary
  • New Zealand
  • Northern Italy
  • South Africa
  • Austria
  • Germany

The lists of climate regions are a little generalized. It’s possible to have a ‘micro-climate’ that’s within a larger climate type. A great example of a microclimate is San Francisco. Technically, the city should get really hot in the summer, because all the surrounding areas do. However, because San Francisco has a marine fog layer in the mornings, it stays a lot cooler.
TIP: As climate change continues, we will see more inconsistent wine vintages from year to year.

What if I Don’t Know What I Like?

Buy a single variety wine from both a warm climate and a cool climate (hopefully from the same vintage) and taste them side by side. You can read about a great example of this if you’d like to compare French Malbec to Argentine Malbec.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Summer Fun at Madison Cellars

Congratulations to the winner of the Burnett's Vodka Beach Cruiser.  He's delighted to have it for his grandkids.    Enjoy!

Now for something completely different, we now have Viniq Shimmery Liqueur: 
An enticing fusion of premium vodka, Moscato, and fruity flavors elegantly combined to make a shimmery liqueur. With a sweet taste and an enticing look, Viniq is the accessory to your night. To catch some attention with this delicious, mesmerizing purple spirit, just shake to shimmer.
Serve it classic by itself, on the rocks, or combined with your favorite mixers for an amazing time. Cheers!     Cocktail recipes

As summer begins to sail away, we invite you to come by.   You never know what's new "in store."


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Learn How to Taste Wine & Develop Your Palate

Learn How to Taste Wine & Develop Your Palate

July 9, 2014 Blog » Learn About Wine » Learn How to Taste Wine & Develop Your Palate

Learn how to taste wine with 4 basic steps. The following wine tasting tips are practiced by sommeliers to refine their palates and sharpen their ability to recall wines. Even though this method is used by pro’s, it’s actually quite simple to understand and can help anyone to improve their wine palate.
We’ve written on this topic before, but wanted to offer up additional detailed facts and wine tasting tips that will improve your understanding far beyond the basics. Anyone can taste wine, all you need is a glass of wine and your brain.
How to Taste Wine

How to Taste Wine

1. Look

Check out the color, opacity and viscosity (wine legs). You don’t really need to spend more than 5 seconds on this step.

2. Smell

Pick out at least 2 flavors and take your time identifying them. There are 3 types of wine aromas:
  • Primary Aromas come from grapes and include fruit, herb and flower notes
  • Secondary Aromas come from fermentation and yeast aromas.
  • Tertiary Bouquets come from aging, oxidation and oak such as baking spices, nutty aromas and vanilla.

3. Taste

Two elements make up taste: flavor and structure.
  • Flavors such as lemon, raspberry or coconut.
  • Structure such as the level of sweetness, body, alcohol, acidity, and tannin.
  • Profile The taste of wine is also time-based, there is a beginning, middle (mid-palate) and end (finish).

4. Conclude

Did the wine taste balanced or out of balance? Did you like the wine? Was this wine unique or unmemorable? Were there any characteristics that shined through and impressed you?
WANT MORE? Get secret to these four steps at the bottom of this article.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Importance of a Wine Glass

May 21, 2014 Blog » Wine Tips & Tricks » The Importance of a Wine Glass         


You’re probably wondering why some people are such sticklers about wine glasses. What’s the big deal if you prefer your wine out of a Solo cup? If the wine is cheap and you only want it for its ‘therapeutic’ benefits, then a Solo cup is fine! However, if you’re trying to understand wine and want to be able to taste all of the nuanced flavors, then you may want a proper glass.

The Importance of a Wine Glass

wine glass
Illustration by Louise Gellert from the Netherlands.

How a Wine Glass Works

Releasing aromas. Enjoying wine is all about aromas. It’s the same joy as smelling bacon frying or sniffing a hot cup of Chai tea. With wine, the aromas are released as the alcohol volatilizes from the surface of the wine. Having an increased surface area is a benefit to optimize releasing aromas while drinking. There have been studies to show how swirling wine increases surface area.
Collecting aromas. It’s a surprise that not more coffee and tea cups have ‘aroma collectors’, because they’d benefit from the same effect that the bowl of a wine glass offers to wine. Depending on the style of wine, you may want a large aroma collector or a smaller one. There are no set rules for this logic, however we’ve seen that white wines typically have smaller aroma collectors and bowls to maintain their temperature whereas red wines typically have larger bowls to showcase their aromas.
Thin lips. There are differing opinions on the lip of a glass, however the general consensus is that the thinner the lip of the glass, the less ‘in the way’ the glass is to the drinking experience. We’ve seen this in all types of glasses, from water to whiskey.

You should be able to throw (maybe swirling can do it) the wine around in the glass in order to unlock all the aromas. A wine glass is normally more narrow at the top for two reasons:
  1. so the wine doesn’t end up on the floor when swirling
  2. it helps collect the unlocked aromas and makes it easier for us to smell them
Louise Gellert

Types of Wine Glasses Chart by Wine Folly

Trying to Pick the Right Wine Glass?

Need some more information on picking wine glasses? No matter what anyone tells you, there are some factors that you might like to consider (like how clutzy you are) to help decide what glasses to buy.

Guide to Types of Wine Glasses

Louise Gellert

Don’t Think a Wine Glass Matters?

If you don’t think the glass matters, then I suggest you try out a glass tasting. Serve one glass of wine in a water glass and another in a wine glass. I assure you – there will be a difference. The scent changes radically and the experience of drinking a glass of wine will be completely different and new.
Louise Gellert

Wine Glasses T-Shirt

Get the Wine Glass Tee

If you already use wine glasses for everything like water, milk and green smoothies… then you’ll definitely rock this t-shirt.

Get a T-Shirt

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

5 Tips for Storing Opened Wine

These are the best ways to preserve the last few glasses of your open bottle.


Wine Enthusiast polled its editors and other wine pros on the best ways to preserve the last few glasses of your open bottle. 
ReCork It Right
The first rule of preserving your wine is to replace the cork correctly. While the “clean” side may seem easier to fit in the bottle, resist. The stained side has already been exposed to the wine, and it tasted fine. That “clean” side may not be so clean, and it can taint what you’re planning to drink in a day or two.
Use Half Bottles
Air flattens your wine, lessening flavors and aromas. To minimize air exposure, use a funnel to pour the remaining vino into a screw-cap half bottle. Even if there’s a little air at the top, it’s far less than in a regular bottle.
Refrigerate It
It’s amazing how often people will keep leftover wine on the counter after they’ve recorked it. You wouldn’t do that with food, so don’t with wine. The cool temp can’t stop exposed wine from breaking down, but it can slow the process significantly. 
Don’t “Open” It 
If popping high-end bottles is what you call Wednesday (or you’re itching to taste those gems in your cellar), it may be time for a Coravin. This device, which looks much like a Rabbit opener, pierces the cork with a needle and tops the bottle with argon gas. -Pour what you want, remove the needle and the cork will seal naturally. Many restaurants use it to sell top-shelf wines by the glass. $299,
Finish It
Look, there are roughly five glasses of wine in a regular 750-ml bottle. If you and yours have two glasses each and split that last glass—all while eating a decent-sized dinner—it’s not bad. In fact, according to recent studies, 1–3 glasses a day may improve your heart health. 

If you don't want to drink your open bottles of wine, try these recipes from top chefs >>>

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Dream Job?!

Want That Wine Job! Enologist


May 14, 2014 Blog » Wine News & Entertainment » Want That Wine Job! Enologist


For the analytical person who doesn’t mind getting their hands dirty (or stained a little purple), being a Wine Enologist might be the job for you. We interviewed Lillian Gresset, the enologist at Corliss Estates in eastern Washington about oenology and being an enologist.
If you have a knack for science and biology (and you love wine) then enologist is a dream job!

Awesome Wine Job: Enologist

All about Wine Enologist Job

What exactly is an enologist?  

An enologist is someone who is responsible for everything having to do with the science (chemistry and biology) of the wine. Their responsibilities vary a lot from winery to winery depending on the winery size, wines produced, and needs of the winery.

Enologist Facts

Enologists start at $30,000+
Most make $50k – $80k a year.
Depends on experience and size of winery etc.
You get to live close to a winery/vineyard
Your work varies day-to-day
Usually their main job is to run a laboratory and do analysis on the wine/juice. The results of these analyses are then used by the winemaker to assist in making decisions on how to treat the wine or juice. One of the most important things these analyses are used for is to monitor the wine for flaws and spoilage and to catch a problem and treat it before it becomes an issue.
There are characteristics of the wine (e.g. nutrient levels, acid levels, sugar levels, spoilage, microbial activity) that we cannot see, taste, or smell. Testing the levels of these components is very important so they can be corrected or kept where they need to be. The enologist monitors the wine at bottling time making sure proper sanitation takes place so that the wine temperature and microbially stable post bottling. During harvest the enologist monitors sugar and acid levels which helps the winemaker in making the decision as to when to pick the grapes.

Madeline in the lab at the IVDP in Portugal

Who is the perfect person for this job?

Being an enologist is great for people who love science and love wine! Working at a smaller winery usually allows you to do other things, not just lab work all the time, so it’s a great job for people who prefer not to get stuck doing the same thing all day, every day. There is also a great variation in the workload and type of work from season to season. It keeps things interesting. And, of course, being analytical and a problem solver is helpful. Patience is also important because there are so many variables in wine chemistry and each wine will react differently. Sometimes it can be difficult to understand what/why the wine is behaving a certain way.

Lillian Gresset Wine Enologist
Lillian Gresset, the enologist for Corliss Estates

Do you need to have a good nose to do your job?

In a winery, you are producing a product that ultimately needs to taste and smell good. You can run analysis all day, but if the wine doesn’t taste and smell good, there is really no point.

What is your day-to-day like?

My day can be so different from week-to-week, month-to-month. I work with a small group of people and we usually have a talk in the morning about what needs to get done and how we are going to do it. Sometimes I need to gather samples from tanks and barrels for various analyses and lab trials. Sometimes I’m doing maintenance on lab equipment. Sometimes I work in the cellar moving wine and cleaning equipment. Sometimes I’m giving winery tours and tastings. Sometimes I’m making additions to the wines. Sometimes I’m tasting wine and doing blending trials. During harvest things are a bit different. Things are moving very fast and days are long. There is daily fermentation management and sensory evaluation. The days where fruit is being processed there is a lot of setup and cleanup. Usually we have several harvest interns to help out.

What is your favorite part of the job?

For me, it’s great to be part of making something amazing. The combination of creativity and science keeps things interesting. And, of course, it is a great industry to be in. You are surrounded by great food, wine, and interesting people. It’s hard work, but very rewarding.

How to become an Enologist

Advice: It is most important to have a good foundation in chemistry and microbiology. Many enologists will also get a degree in Enology.
  • Community College: There are quite a few community colleges that offer certificate programs in Viticulture and Enology. Some of these programs do a great job.
  • University: There are a few universities who offer a B.S. in Enology and have Master’s and PhD programs. The university I attended had a fully operating winery where the students got to experience it all, from harvest to marketing the wine.
Most people who get into wine production like to take advantage of the fact that there are wine producing regions all over the world. It’s fun and educational to travel and work harvest at different wineries. That is a great way to get experience. You can learn a lot in school, but nothing can prepare you more than hands-on experience.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Come see us!

Get your free bag and receive 10% off wine purchases when you bring it back.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Wine, poetry, & painting!

Friday, April 11 • 7-9:30 p.m. • Ridgeland
Join us for a night of painting and wine tasting!  We've partnered with Madison Cellars to bring you a selection of wines to sample while you create a mixed media wine themed painting!
Love this quote by Robert Louis Stevenson..."Wine is bottled poetry."  Will this evening make you a poet?  You know it!
And if you have another favorite wine quote, you're welcome to add that to your painting!
Limited availability so call your friends and register early for this night of culture and art! ;)
You must be 21 to attend this class.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Save money, save the earth

                           Get your Madison Cellars wine bag and use it for 10% discount on wine.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Improve cheap wines....and expensive wines!

Beginners Guide to Decanting Wine

Beginners Guide to Decanting Wine    


How Long Should I Be Decanting Wine

Decant wine for 5 minutes to about 2 hours. The action of pouring a wine from a bottle into a decanter does most of the work of decanting wine instantly! High tannin wines such as syrah, Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti benefit greatly from a little longer wine decanting. How long should you be decanting a syrah? 2 hours before drinking. Tricks to speed up decanting wine:
  • Speed decanting wine by pouring the wine once or twice between two decanters (or between decanter and the wine bottle with a funnel)
  • Swirl the wine in the decanter to increase the air/wine ratio.
  • Get a vinturi wine aerator they are fast.
  • Buy a bottle of white wine or champagne to drink while you wait. Time will fly!
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Versatile Petite Decanter

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What Wines Should I Be Decanting

Decanting any cheap wines because it makes them taste better. Cheap wines can have really awkward rotten egg smell sometimes when you first open them due to sulphur dioxide. Our noses are very sensitive to this smell (some more than others) and it can ruin a wine tasting experience. Fortunately, often this smell can burn off very quickly after decanting wine and the resulting value wine can be very tasty!
Decanting expensive wines, especially massive cabernet sauvignons, Italian wines such as (Barolo, Chianti, aglianico, Montepulciano d’Abuzzo, super-Tuscans etc), Syrah, Malbec, Petite Sirah, etc.
You can decant white wine and pinot noir, however, most do not really need it. You can however decant a very acidic pinot noir if you find it to be too tart, decanting will help smooth out the flavor a bit and make it more palatable.

Are There Special Decanters For Different Wines?

The most practical advice I can give you about special decanters if you actually want to use them is buy something that is easy to clean. There are regular sized decanters for 750 ml bottles and also magnum decanters. In the wine-centric restaurants I’ve worked they have 2/3 as many 750 ml crystal decanters to 1/3 crystal magnum decanters.
Cleaning Decanters
Believe it or not most restaurants do not use soap to clean the inside of the decanters. It’s too difficult to remove all the detergent and this adversely affects the aromas and flavors of wine. A deep clean is okay now and again, I use a hypoallergenic fragrance free soap. Wash the outside with hot water first and rinse the inside with cold water, this will keep the glass from getting foggy on the inside.
Most of all. I don’t recommend putting your wine in a blender, I’ll rant about this later.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Wine Wisdom With A Wink: A Slacker's Guide To Selecting Vino

Wine Wisdom With A Wink: A Slacker's Guide To Selecting Vino


A few months ago, we told you all about the bologna advice swirling around in the wine-tasting world. And then we offered you a few tips to quickly master the art. (Yes, it is highfalutin, but there is some real science behind it.)
Now we've decided to do the same with wine selection.
Turns out, picking out a great bottle at Safeway, or even just a glass while out for a nice meal, isn't as hard as some wine connoisseurs might make you think.
Just ask Madeline Puckette, who runs the website Wine Folly. She's a graphic designer and certified sommelier — that person in fancy restaurants that helps you decide between a California cab or an Oregon pinot. She has combined the two skills to create an infographic that boils down wine selection to a flow-chart. (Here's a full version of the graphic for you to explore.)
The chart bases its recommendations on essential questions like:
  • Are you trying to recover from a hard day's work? (Then wake up your senses with a nebbiolo or pinot noir.)
  • Are you just trying to get drunk? (Grab a high-alcohol shiraz or zinfandel.)
  • Do you actually like the friends you're buying the wine for? (Splurge with California pinot noir.)   
Yes, the infographic is a bit tongue-in-cheek. For instance, Puckette suggests a bottle of merlot for your second anniversary because "complacency is a b*tch," while anniversary numero uno, on the other hand, earns a "hedonistic joyride" of a California pinot noir.
But between the wine jokes and cheeky bits of wisdom there is solid buying advice for newbies. Here are four rules of thumb that will take you far when selecting wines:
1. If you can't pronounce the words on the wine list, ask for the "Coat Do Roan:" This rule comes straight off of Puckette's flowchart, and we love it.
Cotes du Rhone (pronounced Coat Do Roan — no "s") is a red wine from southern France made with a cornucopia of grape varieties (the Frenchies name their wines by region, not by the type of grape, as Americans and Aussies do).
French wines can be uber expensive in the U.S. But Cotes du Rhone gives you the biggest bang for the buck.
"The best Cotes du Rhone are only about $15. It's the best taste for the dollar," Puckette tells The Salt. "On the other hand, if you want to enjoy the best Burgundy, you're going have to pay about $50 to $80."
Plus, the Rhone region pumps out a boatload of Coat Do Roan each year. So chances are, you'll run across it at French restaurants or on the grocery shelf.
2. When your only choices are cheap ones, take a cab: Making wine with the grape variety cabernet sauvignon is easy peasy. The cab fruit thrives even under less-than-ideal conditions. So it's hard for winemakers to mess up a bottle of cabernet sauvignon, even when they're working with cheap grapes.
That means cab sauv (as wine lovers sometimes say) is the go-to wine when you are penny-pinching or your only choices are low rent. Even at bargain-basement prices, these wines can be drinkable.
So when the vino is served in plastic cups (hello, transatlantic flight) or from 1.5-liter bottles (hello, intermission at the local theater), you're best bet is the cabernet sauvignon.      

For those on a budget who prefer a white, go with chardonnay. It may have some fake vanilla or oak flavors added, but at least the wine will taste like something.
3. For fancy noirs, think pinot: Oh, pinot noir, you're so picky! The pinot noir grape is the opposite of cabernet sauvignon: It's hard to grow and do right.
"Thin skinned and temperamental," Paul Giamatti's character says about the grape in the 2004 movie Sidewaysa film that, among other things, can be read as one man's singular obsession with pinot. "Only somebody that really takes the time to understand pinot's potential can then coax it into its fullest potential ... then ... it's flavors are the most haunting and brilliant, thrilling."
And Puckette agrees. She recommends buying this "hedonisic joy ride" for "wine lovers" and "your favorite people in the world." Or to help you get through a dreaded birthday.
But all hedonism comes at a cost. To enjoy the pinot joy ride, you'll have to be willing to fork over about $20 bucks for a bottle or $10 for a glass at a restaurant. Cheap pinots just aren't very good or worthy of your taste buds.
4. For cooking, remember the sauvignon blanc: Puckette performed some experiments with a chef cooking with different types of white wines. Her conclusion? Sauvignon blanc was the best for use in white sauces, because it adds a jolt of acidity, like a lemon or lime. And decent ones are readily available for about $10.
"Sauvignon blanc is a wonderful wine to cook with," she says. "Why add lemon to a sauce when you can add a wine that's got more acidity? Plus, sauvignon blanc adds a herbaceous character, adds a little spice to the sauce."
When a recipe calls for reds, try a Chianti or sangiovese.


Friday, January 24, 2014

Increase Your Vocabulary with Wine Words

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Wine tasting is more fun when you pick out flavors. Flavor picking is a lot like remembering adjectives or famous people’s names; they might be on the tip of your tongue but they’re hard to spit out. Despite the glee of flavor picking, it’s actually a pretty difficult skill to learn when you’re just starting down the path of wine wizardry. One of the hardest things to get past in the flavors in wine is the most obvious ‘vinus’ character (a.k.a. ’wine flavor’).

Check out the following wine words to improve the way you communicate about wine.

Increase Your Vocabulary with Wine Words  

A wine that smells really intense
  • aromatic lift (white wine)
  • bold aromas (red wine)
  • tremendous nose
  • brooding
  • pungent
A wine that doesn’t smell very much
  • delicate
  • closed
  • subtle
  • soft
  • light
A wine that tastes really strong

A wine that doesn’t taste very strong
  • elegant
  • nuanced
  • airy
  • subdued
  • mellow
A wine that tastes bitter

  • tannic
  • chewy
  • muscular
  • structured
  • firm
A wine that tastes smooth
  • plush
  • round
  • velvety
  • supple
  • opulent

A wine that tastes tart

  • elegant
  • lean
  • racy
  • crisp
  • zippy
A wine that tastes earthy
  • herbaceous
  • loamy
  • forest floor
  • mossy
  • savory

The Power of Suggestion

Has this happened to you?
Someone says something like ‘carnuba wax’ when describing a Chardonnay and suddenly that’s all you can smell. Now you’ve been unwillingly transformed to your last visit to the auto detailer. How do you move past the power of suggestion?
A trick from Master Sommelier Tim Gaiser
In order to pass the rigorous blind tasting exams, Tim Gaiser has recommended sommeliers practice overcoming the power of suggestion with a visualization technique. Identify the most obvious flavor and imagine putting it on a sheet of paper. When you imagine setting the paper aside, suddenly you can smell new flavors. This powerful memory training technique is referred to as ‘the palace of memory’. You’ll be surprised how well it works when you try it yourself.