The best way to learn about wine is to taste it. Sure, you can read all about it in a book, but what’s the fun in that?
The easiest and most enjoyable way to learn about wine is to go wine tasting. Tasting room hosts are hospitable, they encourage questions and are willing to share their knowledge about wine.
Most wine-tasting rooms open at 10 or 11 a.m. and generally close around 5 p.m. Many charge tasting fees (usually $5 to $10) that are normally deducted if you purchase wine.
If the tasting room is not crowded, it’s the perfect time to learn. Keep in mind, there are no stupid or dumb wine questions.
Most hosts are friendly wine lovers who really enjoy their job. When they detect your sincerity (taking notes is a good idea), they will share all kinds of wine facts and information. And if you get lucky, some hosts will even let you taste those “special” wines not on the tasting list. Yes!
If you are going to visit winery tasting rooms, you should have a designated driver. If there are eight or more in your group, you should call ahead and notify the winery of your visit. Arriving in a limo without notice is just plain rude.
Many wineries have beautiful picnic areas and are happy to have you use them, so pack a nice lunch. Most will let you use their wine glasses; just don’t fill them with Bud Lite. Not cool.
If you are doing a wine walk, decide on a lunch spot ahead of time. It’s likely your group will break up. The temptation of shopping vs. wine tasting is strong. (Just ask the Navigator.)
Having a late lunch is a good idea as everyone should be hungry. Murphys, Lodi, Paso Robles and Santa Cruz are excellent wine walk locations.
When tasting, have some awareness. You are tasting wine, not drinking wine! If the tasting room is full, get your taste and move out of the way. If you don’t like the wine, use the dump bucket. There is no need to broadcast to the tasting room that wine No. 5 really “sucks.”
And pinkie-waving wine snobs who talk in mumbo-jumbo wine-speak, stay home and read the book.
Have fun learning about wine and be a good guest. Cheers!
What’s on our table
In our home, rosé season is Easter through Thanksgiving. A dry rosé pairs with just about everything, and here are three that made our table and definitely will be invited back: 2013 Charles & Charles Columbia Valley Rosé (World Market $12); 2013 Benziger Family Winery Dry Rosé (all supermarkets $19) and 2013 Navarro Mendocino Rosé ( www.navarrowine.com $15.50).