Russ Winton: Wine List

Wine Line: Enjoy wine, don’t stress about it

When I started writing this column, my objective was to be consumer friendly. In fact, on my business card I have written in small cursive font, “a consumer friendly approach to wine.”

As a wine writer, I’m always on the lookout for good wine deals (see below) and interesting wine experiences. When I find them, I pass them on to you and that’s what makes writing this column so enjoyable. This year, I decided not to make any major changes to any of my five mission statements that help keep this column consumer friendly. They are:

1. Enjoy wine. Wine is supposed to be fun, so enjoy it. If you like to put ice cubes in red wine, do it. There are no rules.

2. Wine is simple. Wine is just fermented grape juice, which means the yeast has converted the sugar into alcohol. It is not rocket science. To understand wine you must do homework and that means you must taste many wines. Make sure you taste all the different varietals, regions and countries. A tough assignment, I know, but someone has to do it.

3. Ignore wine snobs. If you hear someone describe a wine as having “nuances of bruised fenberries wreathed in ripe Asian moonfruit,” avoid that person. Pinkie-waving wine snobs are boring and can suck the life out of a party.

4. Trust your palate. Develop your own taste for wine. Discover what you like and what you don’t like. Don’t outsource your palate to someone else or to a wine publication. Wine ratings are just someone else’s opinion. What is your opinion?

5. Drink what you like. Food and wine pairings are just suggestions. If you like to drink cabernet sauvignon with Velveeta tacos, that is your call. Drink what you like, period.

All of the above wouldn’t fit on my business card so I thought “a consumer friendly approach to wine” would best describe my column. However, I am going to make one small change in 2014. When I re-print my business card, I’m getting rid of that tiny cursive font and printing the description in a huge bold letters. My eyesight was much better six years ago.

What’s on our table

The results of the 2014 S.F. Chronicle Wine Competition have been released. The competition places wines by price levels, which is great for consumers. The wines mentioned here are best of class winners. If you like sauvignon blanc, try the Black Box 2013 (up to $13.99) or the 2012 Franciscan Napa Valley ($14-$19.99). If you’re looking for a house chardonnay, try the NV Liberty Creek (up to $9.99) or the 2012 Cupcake ($10-$14.99). If you’re a fan of viognier try the 2012 McManis (up to $19.99). I’ll save the red wine winners for next time. Happy wine hunting and cheers to 2014!