Grocery Store Decisions

12:56 PM AirplaneFoodCritic 0 Comments




We have all been there, standing in the wine aisle of the grocery store, wide-eyed, staring at the seemingly endless array of wines not knowing what to choose. Do you go by how cute the label is? Do you go by the price? Most of us probably do a combination of the two. If you are lucky, you already know the varietal you are looking for but that doesn't narrow it much down. In the end you may just leave with a wine you know nothing about except that it is the right varietal in the right price range. You may tell yourself that it doesn't really matter if it is good or bad because you are just drinking it yourself but what if it is a gift? Are you buying mediocre wine with a pretty label?
The solution is: Educate yourself. Wine education, unlike so much Math or English education, is lots of fun. The first thing to do is head out to a winery or wine bar. Think of the tasting room as your classroom. What a tasting room provides is an array of wines to taste before buying and, often, an informative tasting room staff member. We are lucky to be here in the Bay Area where most of the wines in our grocery store come from just next door. I suggest begin by picking a winery or wine bar to visit. If this is a trip to educate yourself, I suggest going on line, finding a map of the area you are interested in visiting and clicking on each winery to find the ones with the largest selection of varietals. One I like a lot is Cline Cellars. It is only a 15 minute drive from Marin and offers a wide variety of Rhone wines. A visit there will make you an expert on wines associated with the Rhone region and if you were still hungry for more learning you can cross the street to Jacuzzi where they offer a selection of Italian wines made by the same winemaker. If you prefer to stay closer to home there are also wine bars that can provide you with a sampling of wines for a nominal fee. To visit one of these I suggest searching online for the ones nearest you and then go to their web sites and looking to see if there is an event. Sometimes you can even meet the winemaker at these events. Who better to give you a mini lesson about the wine you are tasting?
Once you have learned what varietal or regional wines you like, you can plan your next trip to visit a few wineries that are known for that wine. You can do this by looking at the same map as before but now be more focused on wineries that produce more of the wine you are looking for. For example, I love Sauvignon Blanc. I planned a trip up to the Napa region to visit some wineries that I knew had at least one but often two or more Sauvignon Blancs to taste. By doing that I learned that I prefer Napa grown Sauvignon Blanc to Carneros and I do not care for the 2006 vintage at all. I also came back with a list of wineries that make great wines so the next time I am at the grocery store I know right where to go. In time, you will become familiar with the labels that you like and dislike.

By only a couple quick, well planned trips to your local wineries you can become that person that everyone calls for advice when they are standing in the wine aisle of the grocery store.

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