Hey there newbies! It’s getting to be that time of year again where parties fill up your weekends & you see your family more than the average amount. You know what that means: Alcohol! Plus, you don’t want to walk in empty-handed, right? Good thing we have a variety of options on our menu right now. Let me walk you through 8 different holiday wines you’re sure to impress with! Don’t worry, I’ll give you the run-down on each one so you don’t walk in empty-headed either!
An annual holiday favorite, our 2020 Merrytage pairs beautifully with a variety of dishes. This vintage is exceptionally yummy with a fuller body, smooth tannins, & notes of holiday spices, cranberry, with a silky finish. Being that it’s a more complex wine, it will allude to your wine intelligence, but also allow for easy drinking (Score!). It has many characteristics that present themselves as you continue to drink, making it a great conversation starter, as well. You really can’t go wrong with this one!
Winemaker’s Notes: We create this special blend annually with the goal of appealing to a broad range of wine palates. Medium bodied, fruity, and pleasantly textured, our 2020 Merrytage will pair nicely with a wide variety of dishes at your holiday table.
Our 2018 Refugio Malbec is another beautiful red to put on your holiday table this year. Again, with velvety tannins, this wine will showcase a lot of depth while still being approachable. Nonetheless, a beautiful wine for both beginning & seasoned wine drinkers. Beginning with notes reminiscent of a freshly baked blackberry pie, this wine opens up to reveal notes of cedar & pine, while also offering notes of brown spice & chocolate covered strawberries, with supple tannins. It pairs best with hearty beef dishes & rich sauces. If you’ve got a red wine lover in the group, bring it!
Winemaker’s Notes: While our 2018 Refugio Malbec isn’t as intensely tannic as some vintages, it shines with alluring complexity. With the body, and tannin restrained, the nuances of spice and forest from the oak get more of the spotlight. Our Elk Grove and Montfort Malbec provide the support for this vintage, which is enhanced with Waxman Malbec, adding more blue fruit and black pepper notes.
There’s a reason Pinot Noir is a crowd favorite: It has something for everybody. This red wine is a favorite for even the white wine drinker. Bring it to the next function if you don’t believe me. Truly, the perfect Thanksgiving wine— Of course, it can pair with other holiday dishes, as well. Pinot Noir is often thought of as a lighter wine, & compared to our bolder reds that may be true, however this vintage presents complexity in its own way, while still promising easy drinking. Offering notes of red cherry, fig, & cinnamon bark, this Pinot Noir will have everyone doing the happy dance!
Winemaker’s Notes: The 2019 Pinot Noir is 100% Pinot Noir making this a unique vintage that show cases the true typicity of the varietal. This wine is soft and elegant with simplicity, a delicate tannin structure highlighting the red fruit and spice from a partial stem included in fermentation.
*Also, offered in a holiday pack with our Pinot Grigio starting Nov. 16!
Buttery & delicious—Just like that turkey you’ll be having next week. This oaked chardonnay screams holiday with its elegant characteristics & authentic flavors. Even red wine drinkers will enjoy this one for its subtle complexity. Aged for 6 months in French Oak, this wine offers notes of vanilla amongst crisp apple, honey & pear. The balance of flavors pairs wonderfully with salmon, chicken marsala, & fettucine carbonara—A beautiful wine to bring to the party.
Winemaker’s Notes: Our Chardonnay is unique in that we age on oak, while suppressing the secondary fermentation. This allows us to accentuate the natural flavors in the wine with oak, rather than the buttery notes present in a “ML” chardonnay. The French oak used lends some creamy vanilla notes, that balance nicely against crisp, green apple notes, making our Chardonnay a little lighter bodied than most California Chardonnays, while retaining good typicity.
A white with a bit of a bite… Of minerality that is. Our 2020 Pinot Grigio is a wine with a variety of characteristics. Notes of lemongrass, nectarine, & pear explode on your tastebuds, with a crisp acidity on the finish. This wine gives you a great wine to pair with your appetizers! Adding charcuterie boards, white fish & shellfish, will make you the savior of cocktail hour. Naturally, it can pair well with the main course, as well. Regardless of when you drink it, rest assured: Your palate will thank you.
Winemaker’s Notes: Our Pinot Grigio is crafted as an homage to its home country, Italy. We harvest early, when there is still plenty of acidity in the grape, to produce a wine with lower alcohol, and crisp acidity. We ferment in stainless steel at low temperatures to bring out the delicate fruit, and mineral notes. Finally, we bottle soon after fermentation to make sure we capture those flavors and aromas before they “flash off”.
*Also, offered in a holiday pack with our Pinot Noir starting Nov. 16!
Floral on the nose & strawberry on the palate— Another wine that pairs well with your meal before the meal. A lighter choice to begin with, but that’s how it should be anyways, right? Barbera is the perfect fruit to make a rosé with because of its bright acidity, making this crisp wine a great pairing with margherita pizza or light seafood. Bringing this to the pre-party will make both a wine drinker & a wine hater happy—Trust.
Winemaker’s Notes: Barbera makes an excellent candidate for rosé, as it retains its acidity better than any other red variety in our warm Temecula climate. This gives the finished rose a crisp, refreshing finish that pairs nicely with our warmer days.
Could it BE any more obvious? I don’t really need to convince you, do I? The perfect sparkling wine for any occasion, but especially the holidays. The beauty of this wine is its ability to pair with any time of day. Have it with appetizers, the main course, or even after with dessert! Either way, your fellow guests will love you for it.
Winemaker’s Notes: Amour De L’Orange Sparkling Wine is an ambrosial delight for those of you who enjoy Champagne with a fun twist. Starting with the finest Chardonnay cuvee loaded with fruity aromas including pear, coconut, and pineapple, our winemaker added just a hint of natural orange flavoring. If you love mimosas, our Amour De L’Orange is sure to be a hit at your party, wedding, or Sunday brunch!
Alright, I know I put two in one here, but choosing one of these really has everything to do with your desserts, so it’s unlikely you’ll bring both. Each are excellent choices at the end of the night. White Port pairs well with desserts like apple pie & cheesecake, & our Ruby Port complements rich chocolate dishes. Sounds delicious, right? It is! If you haven’t tried a port before, be warned: It is a distilled wine with much more alcohol than your typical table wine. Nevertheless, exploding with flavor & a great addition to any dessert. Highly recommend.
Winemaker’s Notes: The 2020 batch of White Port brings back an old familiar classic. Blending classic and aromatic varietals aged in light toast barrels for a wine that is a pleasant night cap.
Winemaker’s Notes: Our Ruby Port is a blend of vintages, aged to allow the fresh red fruit notes to be tempered by nutty, caramel flavors and aromas brought forth by extended aging. Enjoy our Ruby Port with any rich chocolate desserts or as a decadent stand-alone digestif.
So, there they are! A variety of choices for your next dinner party this holiday season, straight off our tasting menu. I know I said you can’t go wrong with the Merrytage (still true), but honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of them. Each one would bring a little something special to your holiday evening in their own unique way, guaranteed. That’s the beauty of wine! It can be a drink, a conversation, a memory, the start to a friendship—& Especially during the holidays.
Let’s raise a glass to what it can create this season! Cheers!
Bailey Morris, Marketing/Gift Shop
Squeezing all nine siblings in their Volkswagen Van to cruise the town was adventure enough for these kids, still their blueprints as a Wiens always made room for more creativity. A family full of artists, inventors, musicians, visionaries & more— It came from their father. “He didn’t like to work for anybody,” recall several Wiens family members when remembering their dad, Gary. Becoming an architectural delineator gave him that freedom of creativity & determination; Showing people the full prospect before it became reality. Ask any Wiens where they get their ambition from, they’ll say their dad. They all had that same zeal & they all grew closer because of it. In fact, they often say that their decision to start the winery was a way to rally together & bond after his sudden passing in 1995. That inherited tenacity was the driving force behind so many of their important life decisions, but especially the one each of them made to build Wiens Family Cellars into what it is today.
A special thing happens when they remember the last 20 years together; Their sentences begin with “we” rather than “I.” Their memories remain together rather than apart & their love for each other remains constant through their journey in winemaking, but truthfully, it’s just the beginning.
In retrospect, Doug Wiens’ humble aspirations were the true beginnings to what we now call Wiens Family Cellars. Residing in the state of Colorado during his teenage years where the growing season rarely lasted for more than three months, Doug’s rooted interest in agriculture wasn’t able to blossom until his college years moving back to California. Following his graduation from Cal State San Luis Obispo with a Masters in Agriculture, Doug set out for a career in the food & beverage industry over the next several years in the Northern California region. Starting as a Production Manager for a major food manufacturer, then bouncing to Quality Control Manager in other similar companies & finally becoming a Business Systems Analyst at Gallo, Doug’s experience in the food & beverage industry was now extent—to say the least. It was here that he actually became inspired to begin growing his own vineyard. So, having abundant knowledge in agriculture as a whole, he began his journey into viticulture.
Learning that their brother had bought some land up north, the remaining Wiens siblings volunteered their time to help plant, maintain & harvest the original vines for a few summers in the mid 90’s—Truly making it a family venture from the very beginning. Due to their increasing popularity at the time, the first varietals they planted were Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel & Chardonnay. Initially, the small 14-acre plot of land that he bought in Herald was intended for grape growth & resale. However, after some time selling to local wineries, the profits were just not there. He had years of experience in the food industry, extensive knowledge in agriculture & knew the basic chemistry behind wine… So, why not take it a step further? Purely on an experimental trial, Doug began making wine from the grapes he grew in his own vineyard. His garage was now the chemistry lab & his family became the test subjects. To their surprise & frankly, Doug’s as well, the wine was well balanced & very enjoyable…
Talk about marching to the beat of your own drum. Following his high school graduation, Jeff Wiens followed his aspirations in music. In fact, he was a professional drummer for ten years! Years in & out of schooling, working different odd jobs & touring with bands was just the prologue for this dreamer. Like all good eras though, they must eventually come to an end. So, after hanging up his drumsticks for a degree in Electronics, Jeff began his engineering journey. Working as an Engineering Technician while in school offered Jeff many opportunities to grow in his field while still gaining his education. After graduation, he worked his way up to Engineering Manager. Then, over the next several years & various companies later, he became a Senior Industrial Engineer. Always having a gumptious drive, it was during this stage in his career that he decided to start his own business.
He discussed these aspirations in technology around the same time that his brother, Doug was entering his journey into wine. Realizing these similar paths in mind, Doug suggested they go in on a winery together. With Jeff’s experience in management & business, he added just what the future winery needed to get up & running. Shortly after, talks with their oldest brother, George, started making this dream a reality. His background in architecture seemed to be another missing piece to the puzzle. It was on a ritual skiing trip up to Lake Tahoe in 2001 that these three began to get excited about the possibility of this venture. By the end of the trip, they decided to start their own winery…
Wiens Family Cellars was established on April 6, 2001; A winery based on family bonds & similar purpose. To convey that idea, they needed a visual symbol of their goal. After toying around with a few of his own ideas, Doug enlisted help from his son, Joe, on their way back from a football game. They doodled around, then finally stopped for food & sketched it out on the back of a McDonald’s napkin. The Wiens seal displaying the words Quality, Family, Integrity, is the same one from that original sketch… Well, maybe spruced up a little bit. Next, they needed a place.
They found a Co-Op up in Lockeford that used to be an old alcohol distillation plant. Back in the 1950s, this property had actually been a winery, then in the 1970s it became a production site for gasohol. Needless to say, it had all the equipment to produce wine. Each room was a tank (previously used to make bulk wine), & each tank had holes cut in their sides to create doorways. They rented three tanks: One for tasting & two for storage. This gave them a whopping 16 x 48 ft space to introduce their name to the market up in Lodi. For five years, they did. Of course, they also had their secret weapon: Mary.
For quite some time, their mother Mary was the only Tasting Room employee. She didn’t particularly enjoy wine, but she loved being around family, so she joined in on the fun. In her free-time, she sat reading her romance novels & interacted with the customers. “Everyone loved her,” remembers her grandson, Joe Wiens. Later on, the Dulce Maria blend would be curated as an ode to her sweet taste & manner. However, even with Mary’s excellent customer service, the small tasting room wasn’t enough to compete with the big-name wine brands in the Lodi area.
Although the market up in Lodi proved to be abundant, a small boutique winery was not necessarily the most lucrative design at the time. Regardless, their business was growing & needed more space. So, they set out to look for a new property. First, they planned on staying up in Northern California near the foothills. Then, upon George & Jeff’s research, they discovered Temecula; A hidden gem, the wine country of Southern California. At the time, very few wineries populated the area as they do now. The climate was ideal for grape growing & the market for direct-to-consumer wineries was more than promising– It was hard to pass up. A substantial move, but one they were willing to take. After having their eye on some real estate, they finally bought some property in 2003 & started their journey down South in 2005…
Becoming a licensed General Contractor with an A & B license granted Dave Wiens the ability to build nearly anything in the state of California. For many years, he did. In fact, he worked for major national homebuilders for close to 25 years. During that time, constantly travelling around the country for work gave him an incredible resume. Still, he had that will to pioneer just like his father before him & his siblings after that. So, about one year after the three brothers began the winery, Dave decided to put some of his own money into the new business.
While still working his contracting job, he began building bars for the original Tasting Room in Lockeford out of his garage, then hauling them up North in his Tahoe truck. Then, he started using all of his vacation time & weekends to help with the business. He even took his vacation during Thanksgiving to help bottle! He describes his first few years as more hands on, even working the Tasting Room on weekends. For years, he commuted back & forth between jobs & sacrificed his leisure time for the future of the business, but it was well worth it. Finally, in 2009, he came to work full-time at the winery in Sales & Marketing…
Being a registered CPA with roughly twelve years in public accounting gave Sandy (Wiens) Williams her fair share of practice in the business world. Mostly working with small businesses getting their books & taxes set up, she became another perfect addition to the family business. At first, they simply needed help, & she lent it. So much so, that for the first six years of their operations, she was receiving accounting work off-site in Kentucky while she worked her two other jobs as well. At least once a year, their family would try to make it out during their fall break, which usually ended up being during harvest. Consequently, their time would be spent cleaning barrels, moving barrels, harvesting vineyards & helping with crush. After becoming part owner along with her brothers & sister, she continued helping with the business for quite a while. She helped interview & train the first Bookkeeper, set up accounting policies & general ledger accounts, even helped auditing when they decided to move their business. However, once the company took off, working 30-hour weekends on top of her job in Kentucky became too much for anyone to handle. So, she stepped down from the accounting portion & still held her ownership while cheering them on from the South…
In 2005, they secured their spot in Temecula, beginning a new era for Wiens Family Cellars. This blank canvas was uniquely their own— Ready to be sculpted to their vision. To ensure their desired plan came to fruition, while still preventing lost time, they set up a modular building in the parking lot. On December 23, 2005, they opened it for business. This temporary Tasting Room became their new home base for about a year while they built the permanent establishment right outside its front door. These “Trailer Days” as they call them, were the foundation upon which they built so many relationships with Club Members they still have today. A time they hold so dear in their hearts, with people they attribute their ongoing success to. Still, the future was so much brighter.
Dave & George ran the lead on building the new winery. Their background in architecture & construction allowed them to fabricate their ideas in a way that no outside hire could. However, all were involved in the decision making. Each brick & concrete slab was planned uniquely for this family pursuit. Dave thought up the idea for the Cellar Room that now houses our Select Tastings, down to the final sketches. Special features went in to every detail. Additionally, the Barrel Room was placed in the back to focus your attention on the winemaking & the warm colors used were intended to invite you in, like home. Ultimately, the layout, design & presentation all had one thing in common: Intention.
In true Wiens family fashion, they all came down to prepare for the Grand Opening once construction was finished. From big jobs to small, they began building office furniture by hand, decorating the tasting room, setting up POS systems & tying up all other loose ends to prepare for opening day. Finally on October 14, 2006, they cut the ribbon & opened their doors. Following the excitement, their time in Temecula continually proved that they were exactly where they needed to be…
With his parents working in the restaurant business, Joe Wiens grew up knowing two things: Food & Wine. He says having killer gardens was the norm & helping out with menu options eventually became his job. Later on in life, he actually became a wine buyer for his mom’s restaurant in Sacramento. He also spent a great amount of time learning about winemaking from his father, Doug Wiens. Naturally, he grew up during the assembly of Wiens Family Cellars. So, his involvement in the other activities of planting, growing, harvesting & maintaining, the original vineyards up North was immense. In fact, he even created the labels for all of the 2002 vintages! However, wanting to spread his wings at 18, he moved away from the family business.
In 2005, he joined the venture again to work in the vineyard & production, then eventually became Tasting Room Manager. After a few years, he again left the business to do his own thing. Due to his upbringing in viticulture, his dream was to open up his own wine shop in Davis, where he lived in his 20’s. However, as life changes, so do passions. Joe’s intentions with wine changed when he came back down in 2010 to get more involved in the winemaking process…
Previously a high school band instructor, limited exposure to wine & no intention of becoming a winemaker prior to being hired; In 2007, Brian Marquez was immediately hired to be an Event Bartender. He proved to be a hard worker, but his future with us was so much more than we imagined. Sequentially, working events was followed by gaining extra hours working in the vineyard, then eventually helping out with production, & finally getting hired on full-time in that department. Brian quickly became involved in the world of wine. Back when the business was mostly family, he had the opportunity of working closely with Danny, Andrew & Luke Wiens. His honorary family membership swiftly developed. However, his work ethic proved to be even more impressive. After becoming Production Lead, Production Manager a year later, then Cellar Master the following year, he finally earned the position of Assistant Winemaker on his 10-year Anniversary of working here…
It’s here where our stories all connect. From the beginning, each sibling has been involved in one form or another, but over the years, there have been a few changes to the business. When Joe returned in 2010, his dad had already begun to start his next adventure in the wine world. So, he started training Joe to officially take the reins. By 2012, Joe became Head Winemaker— Like father, like son. Doug’s involvement since then has changed. He’s still involved in winemaking, holds stake in the company & weighs in on important decisions, but also now owns two other winery restaurants that need his attention as well. Jeff has stayed General Manager & Dave became our Director of Business Development, taking over the Sales & Marketing side of things. Once the business moved down to Temecula, Sandy followed a few years later & joined the business once again. We call her our “fireman;” putting out all of the daily fires around here. The two oldest siblings, Beth & George still hold part ownership & pop in often, although their children are the ones more involved on a daily basis now. Currently, George’s son, Gabe is our Outside Sales Representative, Beth’s son, John is our Vineyard Manager & his wife, Alma heads up our Accounting & HR. Still, after 20 years, we have said goodbye to many family members wanting to begin their own journeys & welcomed many non-family employees as well… Too many to count!
When asked what they see for the future of Wiens, the response was unanimously the same: “Who knows.” The truth is, Wiens Family Cellars began on an unknown & it will most likely continue the same way— always evolving. The recent pandemic proved to them they could adapt to changing times & shift their perspective on the market; It made them stronger. So, they’re hopeful for what the future may bring. The next generation of Wiens’ have always been in & out— making them unsure of the legacy they’ll leave as well. However, their individual successes have proved to be inspiration enough for a promising future. In the end, that big question mark is not a formidable existence— it’s freedom; Freedom to stay the same or to change in any direction they choose. Although, one thing is for certain: They’ll do it together, with Quality, Family & Integrity.
Bailey Morris, Marketing/ Gift Shop
Now that you have your wine, or maybe you haven’t tried last week’s picks yet (& that’s okay), let’s dig a little deeper. Becoming familiar with varieties will help you when you’re at a store, restaurant or winery, & aren’t sure where to begin. Grapes are like people though, you gotta know where they come from in order to understand them. They are also all very different, even the ones that are the same… Kind of like a big, loud family. & There are A LOT, but we’ll start with some basics & if you want to know more, we’ll get into that later! So, starting with ones we’re familiar with & only five included in last week’s wine suggestions, I introduce you to this week’s family members: Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Merlot, & Syrah.
Nobody challenges him, but he’s also the first one invited to the barbeque.
Origin: Bordeaux, France
When: Supposedly around the 17th century
What It Is: To begin, I introduce you to the world’s most popular & most planted wine grape. It is actually a hybrid grape created from the crossbreed of Cabernet Franc & Sauvignon Blanc… Does the name make sense, now? The grapes themselves are small & robust. They also tend to be durable under extreme conditions, which makes them a winemaker’s dream. For us at Wiens, it is often one of the last varieties picked during harvest, as it takes time to ripen on the vine. In addition to its appealing flavor, Cabernet Sauvignon is also very age-worthy, often said to get better with age. It’s grown mostly in the United States, specifically the North Coast AVA (including Napa Valley, Sonoma, etc.), as well as in France, & Australia.
Traits: Cab Sauvs tend to be full-bodied, with high levels of tannins & medium acidity. They have rich, dark color & high alcohol content. Several notes can be present in a Cabernet Sauvignon, depending on where it’s grown, & under what conditions. Many common ones to find are those of dark fruit (black currant, black plum, boysenberry), more earthy flavors (bell pepper, tobacco leaf, graphite), baking spices, & chocolate. Because of its high tannin content, it often pairs well with rich flavored foods & seasoned meats.
Extra Notes: Cabernet Sauvignon is popular for a reason. It can wear many different hats depending on the winemaker’s intention. Whether used in blends for added complexity, or standing on its own as a single-variety wine, Cab Sauv creates brilliant flavors & depth to your palate when wine tasting. This is one I would recommend becoming familiar with, as it will most likely become familiar with you on any wine menu you may encounter in the future.
*Yummy Single-variety Cabernet Sauvignons we currently offer in our Regular &/or Reserve Tastings:
2018 Cabernet Sauvignon
2017 San Ignacio Cabernet Sauvignon
2018 Lund Cabernet Sauvignon
So loved, so pampered… But we all know they weren’t part of the plan.
Origin: Montpellier, France (Rhone Valley)
When: Late 1800’s
What It Is: Unlike the previously mentioned wine grape, Petite Sirah is actually a fairly rare variety in the United States. However, it was one of the most popular varieties in California up until the late 1960’s when Cabernet Sauvignon came into the picture… Yikes! Another hybrid grape, being an unintentional cross between Syrah & the very rare Peloursin, this variety was created by Dr. François Durif. Although often called Petite Sirah in America, its original name is the Durif grape, as a namesake to the man who cultivated it. The grapes tend to form tight clusters of small grapes with rich color. Currently, the most common places for growing are the United States (again, specifically the North Coast AVA), Australia, & Israel.
Traits: Petite Sirah is a variety not lacking in strength. It is a powerful, high tannic wine, with a rich purple color. It can stand alone as a beautiful, bold red, or create wonderful red blends with other varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, or Syrah. Depending on how the grape is grown & aged, Petite Sirah is said to last decades. Although, if the tannin levels greatly outweigh the acidity & flavor strength, then these blends are better served within the first 7 years. Familiar notes from Petite Sirah could include black pepper, blackberries, baking spices, or even licorice. Because it is such a bold wine, it is best paired with similarly big dishes. When I say big, I’m not referring to size, either. Rich meats, barbeque dishes, & pronounced sauces, are just a few examples of what pairs well with this variety.
Extra Notes: Petite Sirah does not mess around. To a newbie, it can be very overwhelming. If you want to try it, but aren’t sure about the high level of tannins, this is a variety that can be decanted for a couple hours to calm down. I challenge you to try it at least once because the flavor profiles that can present themselves are almost never-ending. & If you still don’t like it, that’s okay! At least you’ll know for sure. Also, remember no wine is like another, so don’t totally knock it off the list!
*Yummy Single-variety Petite Sirahs we currently offer in our Regular &/or Reserve Tastings:
2018 Bare Knuckle Petite Sirah
2018 Reserve Petite Sirah
Wise & fun, with a little spice… Giving Sophia Petrillo a run for her money.
Origin: Caucasus region, notably Croatia
When: History suggests around 6000 BC, but it did not arrive in the United States until the late 18th century
What It Is: Zinfandel is one of the oldest grapes still used to make wine. The variety itself can actually be made into both Red Zinfandel wine & White Zinfandel wine. White Zinfandel is simply a rosé made from the Zinfandel grape, whereas Red Zinfandel is the traditional use of the grape to make red wine & is often mistaken for the Primitivo variety.
Little history lesson: Many experts consider them the same, however our Winemaker, Joe, best describes them as clones. When Zinfandel was discovered, it came to the States, maintaining its original name. Primitivo was sent to Italy. With varying cultural distinctions & differing climates, these two varieties are genetically similar, but not exactly the same.
The grapes are smaller, but grow in large clusters, with relatively thin skins. Zins grow best in warmer climates, but must be closely watched to prevent shriveling on their delicate skin. Depending on their growing in cooler or warmer temperatures, their flavor profiles will vary. Although the United States contains most of the Zinfandel around the world, other notable places for growth are Italy, South Africa & Australia.
Traits: Most all Zinfandels will introduce themselves with fruit-forward characteristics, specifically red fruit, & then end with a spiced or smoky finish. Overall, most Zinfandels are also considered “jammy.” The color itself resembles various red fruit preserves. Zins often contain moderate tannin levels & high acidity, with a reasonably high alcohol content. Those with more alcohol tend to present themselves as bolder wines, in comparison. The general aging consensus on Zins is that they should last about 5-10 years. Zinfandel pairs well with lighter meats or barbeque, hard & rich cheeses, flavorful vegetables & is suggested to be used with spices that seem smoked or charred, with curry being the #1 suggestion.
Extra Notes: As one of the oldest varieties still used in wine, Zinfandel sure changes with the times. It’s revered for its diversity. Although considered a sweeter variety, it can also produce beautiful, bold red wines. If you like sweeter wines, meet your new best friend (just pay attention to alcohol content like I mentioned for that desired sugar level). If you don’t like sweeter wines, you may still be in luck. There are so many different ways to make Zinfandel, you may end up being surprised… So yes, still try it!
*We currently do not offer any single-variety Zinfandels in our Regular &/or Reserve Tastings, however, try this blend for something similar:
2020 Pink Crowded
A little neglected & forgotten maybe, but with so much to offer.
Origin: Bordeaux, France
When: Late 1700’s
What It Is: Although one of America’s most abundant grape varieties, there has been some controversy regarding the beloved Merlot in the past.
A little background: It all began with one thing: a movie. Okay, that’s not completely true. Although it often gets the blame for it, the comedy movie Sideways critiquing this very variety presents no factual evidence for a drop in Merlot sales. Statistics may say otherwise, however, before the movie even came out, there was a decline in Merlot sales due to overplanting & their resulting poor-quality wines. Needless to say, look at the bigger picture, then decide for yourself! Regardless of why this unnecessary little stint in sales & reputation gave Merlot a bad name for so many years, the grape variety is slowly reclaiming its deserved prestige once again.
The grapes are a deep blue color, with thinner skins & can grow in both warm & cool climates. In addition to its home of France, Merlot is often grown in Italy, Chile & of course, the United States.
Traits: Similar to Zinfandel, the chosen growing climate will determine drastic differences in the flavor profiles present in the wine. In warmer temperatures, Merlot will give silky notes of dark fruit (blackberries, plum, black cherry), chocolate, mocha, baking spices, & even some earthy flavors (on the leafier side). It will also be medium to full-bodied with softer tannins. In cooler temperatures, Merlot will taste more roasted, giving notes closer to ripe fruit (raspberry, blueberry, fig), espresso, licorice, or earthy notes (this time more mushroom, limestone or tobacco leaf). It will generally be medium to full-bodied with medium tannins. Merlot is typically made to be a dryer wine. Depending on the style of wine, a variety of foods can pair well with Merlot. Lighter blends go well with pizza, other tomato-based dishes, or light meats. Bolder, high tannin wines, or those with earthy notes, pair well with filet mignon & rich, braised meats.
Extra Notes: Chances are, you already know what Merlot is, but its reputation is likely the only thing leaving a bad taste in your mouth. Merlot is full of flavor, diversity, & depth. Don’t let a fictional snob keep you from some excellent wines!
*Yummy Single-variety Merlots we currently offer in our Regular &/or Reserve Tastings:
2017 Reserve Merlot
She’s not a regular wine, she’s a cool wine.
Origin: Rhone wine region, France
When: Unknown, but really, really old. Thought to have been cultivated by the ancient Romans in what is modern-day Cote Rotie in France, but also believed to have been discovered by ancient Greeks, hundreds of years before that.
What It Is: Regardless of when it was discovered, Syrah has been found to be the child of two ancient grapes, Dureza (red grape) & Mondeuse Blanche (white grape). With both hailing from the Rhone Valley in France, the realized lineage has settled some disputes about where the grape’s journey began. The grapes themselves have deep color with thick skins that allow them to grow best in warmer climates. However, they can also survive very well in cooler climates that present differing flavor profiles. Syrah has not strayed far from home, with France staying as its main growing region. Of course, its popularity has led it to grow worldwide, mostly in the United States (California, Oregon & Washington), Australia, Spain & Chile.
Traits: Again, a wine that can change based on the climate it grows in. Although the profiles can change, the experience is truly the difference, from start to finish. They typically both resemble black fruit (plum, boysenberry, black cherry), herbal notes (black pepper, sage, licorice), & oak (smoke, espresso, vanilla). The major change in style differs between what they call New & Old World Syrah. Because the grape has so much history, the style has changed over time. Old World Syrah often leans on the more acidic & earthy side, coming from European countries (where it began). New World Syrah focuses on more fruit-forward characteristics with spice on the finish, from countries with warmer climates like Australia, Chile, Argentina, or here, in the States. Regardless of climate, region, or growing patterns, Syrahs typically produce full-bodied wines with medium to high levels of both tannin & acidity, & a rich, purple color. Syrahs can last anywhere from 5-25 years depending on the quality. As far as food goes, this variety often pairs well with bold dishes like seasoned meats, soft & stinky cheeses, & meat-topped pizza.
Extra Notes: Syrah has been through a lot, & no one really knows where she sprouted from, but we’re so glad she did! Various red blends owe their life to her, especially the traditional GSM blend. But on her own, she really shows her true colors (Hint: They’re beautiful). Try a variety of Syrahs, blended or not. This is another variety that can be a bit intimidating, but is so worth it. Believe me, you’ll be having heart-to-hearts with her in no time.
*We currently do not offer any single-variety Syrahs in our Regular &/or Reserve Tastings, however, try these blends for something similar:
*Suggestions from Tasting Menus are constantly rotating & subject to change at any time.
What do you think? If you think that’s a lot, I hate to break it to you, but there are about 10,000 more to dive into if you’re going to hit them all. Luckily, you likely won’t have to. Although there are numerous amounts of grape varieties, the popular ones are well-known for a reason—They’re the best. Now, that’s a pretty blanket statement & one I don’t want you to quote me on because there are many lesser-known grapes that can make excellent wines, but I’m a newbie, too. I just say what I hear… or read. Regardless, if you see a wine with an unknown grape, try it! Many grapes are quickly going extinct & you may not get to try it again. & If that’s not the case, it’s an adventure on its own, so still try it. Remember, we’re all learning here. I hope I’m at least giving you things to think about, or research yourselves… Because one thing I’m learning for sure: Wine is fun!
Bailey Morris, Marketing/ Gift Shop
Tame & easy this week, just like the bottles of red wine I’m about to get into. I feel like when you know very little about wine, the words ‘red wine’ are equivalent to a haunted house (…hear me out). It can be scary, but you’re also a little curious to see what all the fuss is about. Maybe that’s just me though, pretty dramatic… Halloween on the brain & all. Anyways, I want to change that narrative. Let’s do it together. To ease your red wine terrors, I asked our winemaker, Joe, what red wines on our current tasting menu he would recommend to a newbie. He was happy to oblige, so we’re talkin’ red wine today.
Before we begin, I’ll let you in on a few secrets. Okay, they’re not secrets, but you may not have known if you really are new to wine! With each wine, I’ll give you:
1. Joe’s Comments
a. The percentage of each grape variety present in the wine.
a. This includes: How long the wine has been aging in the barrel, what kind of wood was used, & the relevant age of the barrel. The months present in this section are applicable to the amount of time spent in the barrel. If you see A/F when reading today, or on any wine profile you encounter, that stands for American/ French. There are several different kinds of barrels to age wine in, but the real difference between them is the region they come from. Yes, it does make a difference! Also, depending on the context, another word for aged can be ‘oaked,’ just so we’re clear. If a wine is not oaked, then an N/A will take this information’s place—Pretty self-explanatory. When you see a percentage accompanied by the term “new,” the number is speaking of the barrel’s age. Wine barrels can last up to 100 years, so they’re reused pretty often. If a barrel is 100% new, it’s never been used to age wine before, & so on down the numerical list to determine a barrel’s age.
Learn more in our blog post all about barrels!
4. Tasting Notes
a. Notes given by the winemaker to explain further the intention & execution of each wine.
5. Food Pairing Ideas
a. Just in case you decide to try them at home with a nice meal!
1. “Easy drinking.”
2. Composition: 88% Temecula Valley Merlot, 12% Temecula Valley Petite Sirah
3. Oak: Aged 15 Months A/F, 30% New
4. Tasting Notes: Red fruit, and peppers dominate the aromatic profile on this vintage, with incredibly smooth tannins make it a big red that can still appeal to a wide audience.
5. Food Pairing Ideas: Thin crust pizza, parmesan crisps, truffled french fries
1. “Jammy. The Zinfandel variety tends to be more approachable” (& takes up half of the wine!).
2. Composition: 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Zinfandel
3. Oak: Aged 12 months A/F, 25% new
4. Tasting Notes: Latin for “dual”, our 2019 Dualis combines two big reds, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon, with each variety lending its own qualities and dimensions to this unique blend. Zinfandel brings rich, dark fruit character with a hint of black pepper spice, complemented by the more substantial Cabernet Sauvignon with red fruit notes and firm tannin structure. This wine drinks very enjoyably now, yet will age gracefully in the cellar for several years.
5. Food Pairing Ideas: Black pepper crusted burgers, carne asada, pulled pork
1. “Made to be fruit forward & smooth.”
2. Composition: 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Syrah, 14% Sangiovese, 9% Zinfandel, 8% Petite Sirah, 6% Grenache, 5% Malbec, 3% Dolcetto, 3% Mourvedre, 2% Petit Verdot, 2% Primitivo (WHOA! Crowded, indeed…)
3. Oak: Aged 13 months A/F, 25% new
4. Tasting Notes: Like your favorite recipe, the 2018 Crowded weaves a variety of flavors together in a balanced, harmonious blend. Our winemaking team begins with many different red wine lots, carefully crafting each new Crowded vintage into a wine that showcases an enticing bouquet of toasted oak and fruit-forward aromas, a “Big Red” palate, and approachable tannins on the finish. Very food friendly, this wine pairs nicely with almost any dish.
5. Food Pairing Ideas: Roasted turkey, lamb kebob, grilled pork loin (but also, literally anything tastes good with it)
Alright, now that you have your shopping list, it’s time for some education. Don’t worry, I’ll give you some time to get your wine. Next week, we’ll get into at least 5 of the varieties mentioned in these wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Merlot, & Syrah. That way, when you get them, you’ll know a bit more about what you’re drinking! Until then, even if you don’t try these, try a red wine! Explore what you’re afraid of, especially with wine, you may be surprised.
Wine isn’t always perfect. I know, I can’t believe I just said that. But it’s true! Unfortunately, the process of winemaking is so intricate & involved that it leaves a lot of room for mistakes. However, there are also a lot of things that just can’t be helped sometimes. Because of this, wine faults present themselves in a variety of ways. The big question is, how can you determine if something is a fault or a flaw? Yes, sometimes your wine can be saved. Let me break it down: I’m going to present 6 common faults & 2 that you may think fall into that category, but actually don’t need any interference at all. Let’s get into it!
Fault #1: Oxidized Wine
When wines are exposed to too much oxygen during aging, it’s called oxidation. Sometimes, it’s actually a strategy used by winemakers to develop their wine. However, if not watched closely enough, it can easily turn into faulted wine. It can occur during fermentation, or happen through a defected cork after being bottled. This often causes red wines to turn an orange or rusty color, & white wines to look different hues of brown. The flavors & aromas also tend to be stripped of their intended characteristics. Instead, it causes notes of bruised fruit, vinegar, or different nut varieties. It’s true, some wines have similarly deliberate notes or colors, but when they have a combination of the two, you can pretty safely assume it’s faulted. Unfortunately, once a wine is oxidized you cannot save it. However, it’s not harmful to drink, just unpleasant. Making sure your wine is stored in a cool, dark place & not standing upright for too long can prevent faulty corks from quickly drying up to let oxygen seep in. If you buy a fresh bottle of wine & notice it to be faulted as soon as you get home, take it back!
Fault #2: Corked Wine
This is caused by 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA), which is a natural compound that forms when airborne fungi and chlorophenols (organic compounds with at least one chlorine atom) interact. Scientifically speaking, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but I’m a Marketer, not a Chemist! Basically, it means that if the wood in the cork or even the wood in the aging barrel come in contact with preservatives or pesticide residue & bacteria happens to get in there, you’re corked! To ease your anxieties, let me just make it clear that it’s VERY uncommon for this to happen & it’s pretty easy to spot, too. If you smell wet dog, moist cardboard, or mold, you’re corked out of luck. Okay, I’ll stop. Anyways, the overpowering scents I mentioned often extinguish the aromas intended for the wine. It isn’t harmful, but it makes your wine very undesirable, probably better to just throw it out.
Fault #3: Reduction
Think opposite of oxidation. When wine doesn’t get enough oxygen during the aging process, reduction happens. Similar to oxidation, this is another technique that can be used by winemakers to create smoky notes, but if it goes too far, it can result in aromas of burnt rubber, skunk, or rotten eggs. Sulfur is often added into wines to stabilize it, so this is not an uncommon occurrence compared to the other faults. Luckily, this one can be dealt with (most of the time). Remember when we talked about decanting last week? Problem solved. Chances are, the wine just needs to be exposed to a little air in order to bring it back to a palatable consistency, so decant it! In very rare cases, the wine will be too far gone for even that to work. Don’t worry though, if that time ever comes, you’ll know it when you smell it!
Fault #4: Cooked Wine
Yep, it’s exactly how it sounds. This occurs after the wine has been bottled & is exposed to excessive heat, usually during storage or transport. The heat damage causes aromas similar to jam, roasted sugar, or nutty flavors. Only, add a bit of a vinegar smell as well, since oxidation is not uncommon to also occur in this instance. Sometimes, you can tell if a wine’s been cooked before you even open it because of this very process. If the cork has expanded at all or is protruding over the top, you can assume it’s cooked. Unfortunately, this fault can’t be saved, but it can be easily prevented. You don’t always have control over the transportation process, but when you do, take control of it! For example, we have hundreds of Club Members living in Arizona. Every summer, we get the same calls to hold shipments. Why pay for something you know will be damaged when it arrives? Similarly, be aware of year-round temperatures in your home. Wherever you store your wine, make sure its in a controlled environment—Consistent temperatures are important.
Fault #5: Brettanomyces
Bretta-whata-myces? Don’t worry, it’s just a name for wild yeast. You can call it “Brett” for short. This one is tricky. Some people are much more sensitive to this smell than others. Most of the time, it’s actually intentional. That’s right, another strategy used by winemakers to add complexity to their wine. This one tends to give notes of barnyard, hay bales, or band aid. Despite how unappealing I just made that sound, the truth is, some people like it. Because Brett is naturally present in almost every wine (starting with the grapes themselves), its nearly impossible to prevent it. However, Sulphur dioxide is often used to limit its expansion in the wine. Although lighter wines should almost never have this fault, bolder, red wines often do. It’s said to enhance other rich notes, being why it’s also the most occurring one on the list. Too much though often overpowers a wine & cannot be saved once it happens. If this happens to you, give it to a friend that is more resistant to the odor. Genetics play a big role in detecting this one, so it’s possible.
Fault #6: Volatile Acidity (VA)
Another tricky one, VA is present in most wines. It occurs when yeast or bacteria enters the wine during aging & creates acetic acid (the main component in vinegar, besides water). So, what do you think it smells like? You got it, vinegar (sometimes even going as far as acetone/ nail polish remover). Again, this fault is often an intentional choice made by the winemakers, sometimes not. At low levels, VA adds character to a wine, giving similar notes to that of balsamic vinegar (red fruit like cherry or strawberry). At higher levels, it completely diminishes the other notes present in the wine & overpowers with its acidic flavor. In this instance, the call is totally up to you—Another fault based on preference. Many experts say that there is nothing to do to save your wine after this, but some say you can chill it to make it more palatable. If even then you can’t stand it, save it. Make some vinegar!
Sediment & Wine Diamonds:
You know how sometimes your bottle has little visitors of residue in the bottom of it? Well, it’s actually okay. Sediment often is intentionally kept in wine to preserve flavor & “wine diamonds” (crystal-like residue formed when when potassium and tartaric acid bind together) are just naturally occurring. No biggy. If either of these happen, just decant the wine before serving & you’re good to go!
Who knew wine was so touchy? It’s a complicated process, guys. The truth is, some of these faults are bad for everyone, & some of them aren’t. As you become more acquainted with wine, you may end up enjoying certain notes that you didn’t before. It’s important to keep your mind open, but also know when to take back your bottle. Hopefully, now you have a better idea. Above all, I hope you have more of an appreciation for winemakers, everywhere. I know I do!
Bailey Morris, Marketing/ Gift Shop
Alright, choosing wine for yourself can be a lot of work, but choosing & entertaining for other people, too? Fa-getta-bout-it! Just kidding 😊 I can (try to) help. Wine can elevate the menu at a dinner party, start a conversation between strangers, & also create lasting connections in terms of taste (& I don’t just mean with flavor either). Learning how to create an experience with it should be fun, not stressful. So, let’s learn a few ways to do that together!
I’ll be honest, I’m not quite to the “picking wine for others” stage yet, & frankly, I’m not sure if I ever will be (people go to school for that stuff guys). BUT what I can do is help us with some etiquette tips & serving techniques that will make us look like we actually know what we’re doing in front of our party guests. It’s all about creating an experience, right?
Here they are. The next time you’re hosting, remember:
Temperature is key.
This is the big one. How many times have you heard to serve your red wines at room temperature? I’m sure too many to count. The truth is, room temperature (usually around 70°F) is often too warm to be serving any wine. Not far off though, depending on what you keep your thermostat at, I guess. Even red wines are more properly served when below that 70°F mark. You wouldn’t want to drink a warm soda, right? The same rule applies. Don’t quote me on this, but from my research, a variety of experts say red wine should be served between 55-69°F; Light red wines to be served on the colder end of the spectrum & bolder reds to be served warmer. White wines should be served anywhere from 45-55°F; Again, lighter whites to be served colder & oaked whites warmer. More affordable sparkling wines to be served from 40-45°F & higher quality champagne closer to white wine temperatures. Of course, these are estimates from a variety of sources I’ve encountered, so nothing is set in stone! When in doubt, go with your gut. What temperature do you think that wine tastes best at? That’s really what it’s all about. Also, if you don’t want to spend all that time preparing for it, at least stick it in the fridge for 20 minutes before serving. Just know that warm is wrong.
Pro Tip: If you forget to chill your wine, wrap it in a wet dishtowel & put it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. The water escalates the chilling process.
Stems are there for a reason.
I’m not trying to sound condescending with this one: Hold the stem, not the bowl. Remember that long conversation about temperature we just had? Well, it’s all going to go to you-know-what if you place your warm hands around the thin lining of glass between you & the wine. That’s something I didn’t even think about until I read it, so do yourself a favor & use the glass the way it’s intended to be. I know I will (now)!
Just smell it.
This one only applies if you’re really trying to impress your friends, or if you simply want to learn more about wine. Smell your wine when drinking! Don’t be embarrassed to do it either. So much of what we orally consume is influenced by our sense of smell. If anything, it will help you enjoy the wine more. & If you really are trying to impress your friends, it will show them you picked the wine for a reason & may even spark a conversation about it, as well.
Keep it clean.
More of an etiquette tip… or three. When drinking, drink from the same place on the glass. It will reduce the residue left on the rim of the glass & also help you enjoy the wine more. This way, you won’t be forced to smell your own remnants from the other side. When pouring, hold the bottle toward the base & be wary of drips. We’ve all had a bottle spill a few drops on us after pouring. Be patient with it & allow the stream to completely stop before moving it. If you don’t have the patience, at least hold a cloth napkin in your other hand under the longer part of the bottle. This will also promote cleanliness towards your guests. When clinking glasses, maintain eye contact with your partner. It may seem intense, but it’s actually a sign of respect. Maybe this one can even be a fun fact you share at the next dinner party. Okay, enough with the manners!
This is really just another tip to help you look like a connoisseur. Wine glasses are all made different for functionality, not just because they look pretty. Standard red wine glasses will have larger bowls to help release aromas, & longer stems for easier swirling. Standard white wine glasses have smaller bowls usually to encapsulate both the aromas & cooler temperatures. When it comes to sparkling wine, it may seem like the proper glass would be a flute, but a lot of experts actually recommend a standard white wine glass. Especially if you chose a more affordable champagne for the night, this will allow it to breathe & for the possible faults to release more quickly into the air before consumption.
Portion control is real.
If you’re trying to show style & grace, don’t fill the glass all the way or drink from the bottle, we can do that on our own time. The typical portion size for red wine is 5-6 oz., or about a quarter full. White wines can be poured about half way full. Use your own judgement, but also remember the tips above. Some lesser wines can benefit from a smaller pour.
Decanting can lead to new aromas.
Another big one. When it comes to decanting, there are several factors to consider. First though, let me explain what it is & what it does—This blog is for newbies, after all. On its own, the word decant simply means to pour liquid from one container into another. In this instance, we’re pouring wine from its original bottle into a pitcher of sorts. Of course, decanters (said pitcher) themselves are specific to wine & take odd shapes to allow for proper oxidation. Decanting our wine allows for the flavors & aromas to present themselves in ways that may not be possible in their enclosed bottle. Think of it as a dramatic way of “letting it breathe”—But it really works. With certain red wines, it’s one of the only ways to let it breathe at all. Now, any wine can be decanted, but that doesn’t mean they should. When deciding to do so, consider the age of the wine (younger wines will respond better to decanting), the notes you recognize when you open it (those with bitter, extremely oaky, or very few aromas at all should be decanted), & the acidity (overly acidic wine should be decanted, try it before determining this). If you still aren’t sure, take a look at the varietal characteristics. Bolder varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah will benefit from decanting. The truth is, no wine can be made worse by decanting it, just pay attention to how long you’re decanting it for. This process can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the wine. Typically, it’s a rule that 30 minutes should be enough, but every wine is different. Some wines don’t even need that much time (usually lighter whites) & some need more (bolder reds & sometimes oaked whites). The good news is, you can always taste it while its aerating! That’s actually something you should do to see how it can transform from start to finish. Taste whites every few minutes & reds every 20-30 minutes to catch those flavors & aromas. It may seem like a lot of work, but it’s actually just pouring & waiting, I promise. Plus, it can add a nice centerpiece or added aesthetic to your party! Talk about a conversation starter.
Pro Tip: Cheaper wines often have faults or sulfur-like smells when opening. Decanting helps make them more palatable & can elevate the wine itself. Some of us have to finesse on a budget, okay?
So, who feels confident enough to serve wine at a dinner party yet? Me either, but hey, the first time is never the smoothest. We’re all still learning, right? At least now I know some hacks to overshadow all the other blunders I might make. As far as the wine menu goes, don’t stress. If you like it, it’s worth sharing with friends! & If they don’t like it, keep in mind, not everyone can have your good taste 😉
Until next time, fellow newbies!
Bailey Morris, Marketing/ Gift Shop
This Newbie venture began with me asking about wine tasting, & with so many topics peaking my curiosity along the way, I failed to truly answer that very question: How do you taste wine? Well, while knowing how your wine travelled all the way from vine to glass is equally important, today we’re going to discuss what to do when that glass is poured & you’re faced with the inevitable role of judge in a trial of aromas. Let’s learn some tasting tips!
Let’s set the scene, shall we? You’re visiting a local winery with friends & decide to do a tasting. Sitting down, a pen & piece of paper join you at the table. What’s that for? Tasting notes. You quickly realize the only thing you’ve ever tasted in your wine was the alcohol (or what you thought was the alcohol) & you don’t know what the heck you’re looking for. Relax, we got you!
Remember, the step before these steps: Think. Being open & staying focused on those aromas & flavor profiles throughout your tasting when you’re a beginner will help it become easier as you keep practicing. That doesn’t mean it has to be so serious, just keep your mind free to let those possible characteristics present themselves to you. I’d also like add that thinking involves questioning, too. So, don’t be afraid to join in on the conversation, or start one, if you’re unsure of what you’re detecting!
The glass is poured. The first step is the easiest: Look. The first thing you want to do when observing your wine is to notice the color’s opacity & hue, as well as the viscosity (or apparent “thickness”). Much like ours, most wineries will have white menus to help you with this step. Hold the wine glass over the white background to get the best view of your glass. Wines with a more intense red color often have more acidity, those with a deeper purple color usually have lower acidity, & more opacity often means younger wine. Also, notice the “legs” on the wine (the tear-drop like remnants of wine left inside the glass after swirling, also pictured in top photo), these typically mean higher alcohol or sugar content. However, remember every wine you will ever try is different. These are only guidelines, there are many other factors that contribute to these outcomes. They can also change while aging in the bottle. Moving on. Although important to the process of wine tasting, this step does not require a ton of thought. Basically, identifying these characteristics will give you a point of reference when continuing on.
Now, before you bring that glass to your lips, don’t forget to bring it to your sniffer first! Next step: Smell— Probably the most important step because it gives you a foundation for when you begin tasting. Bring the glass to your nose & sniff, just for a baseline first. Then, swirl the wine to open up those characteristics you’re looking for & go in again in short sniffs, then think about it. There are hundreds of aromas you can detect when smelling your wine, so be open. You may notice fruit, herbs, oak, or earthy notes. Even then, you may be able to narrow it down even more (i.e. chocolate covered strawberry, toasted marshmallow, etc.). But I get it, picking those out of thin air seems impossible sometimes. That’s why it’s always good to taste with others. Not only is it more enjoyable, but it will also enhance the experience in expanding your wine knowledge. It’s important to remember in this step, & also when tasting the wine, that there’s really no wrong way to recognize these notes & no wrong answers either. All palettes are different, & what you detect, another person may not. Again, taste with people & play off each other’s notes.
Now, it’s time: Taste. Take a sip of wine, not a mouthful. Then, you can “sip” it through your teeth to continue opening those aromas, “chew” on it to make sure those notes hit every taste bud & crevice inside your mouth, or simply let it sit on your tongue. I know the next step may seem like it should be to swallow, but it’s actually completely acceptable to spit it out. Tastings often come with spittoons for that very reason. Chances are, you’re tasting a lot of different wines. You may want to save that buzz for later on with the wine you enjoy most, or you may just not like it—It happens, & it’s okay. You can’t like them all. Whichever way you decide to do it (even if it’s not listed here), make sure to be focused on what characteristics you’re picking up. Is it sweet or dry? Sweetness. Does it taste tart or make you salivate? Acidity. Does your mouth feel dry after? Tannins. Hot sensation running down your throat? Alcohol. Just to name a few… & don’t forget the flavor profiles. You may notice certain aromas when smelling that don’t translate on the tongue. Branch out. Make sure to stay focused until the finish (final note, essentially the aftertaste).
Then: Discuss. This is where a group comes in handy, but even if you are tasting alone, talk to your waiter or sommelier. They’ve been hired for a reason, bounce off their ideas & convey your thoughts, too. Ideally, this step should be happening the whole time, which is what makes it so fun!
Put all of it together & you should have a pretty good idea of the wine you just tasted. Yeah, all that for just one wine, but that’s what’s so fun about it! It’s almost like a game. Also, your views are entirely subjective—Remember that. Your tasting experience is heavily influenced on your environment & your genetics, as well. It can’t be helped; Some people’s individual senses are much more sensitive than others. The good news is: The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll be & the better understanding you’ll have of what you like.
So, what now? Taste a lot of wine, take a lot of notes, do it with friends, & be open to learning each time. Enjoy it!
(& if it still seems like a lot, try a few of our resources from previous blog posts linked below!)
Vocabulary to Remember & Aroma Wheel
Bailey Morris, Marketing/ Gift Shop
Restaurant wine lists can be… extensive, to say the least. The last thing you want is to stress over something as minuscule as a drink choice when out for a meal meant for leisure. Or is that just me? Regardless, all those options often put us in that position anyways. In all reality, you don’t need to be an expert to order your wine, but it helps for your own enjoyment to feel as if you played at least a small role in your decision, don’t you think? After all, this blog is focused on those wanting to know more about wine. So, here’s a few tips next time you’re out & want to order wine!
1. Do your research (if you can).
This goes for both wine as a whole, as well as the specific restaurant you plan to dine at. It can help calm the nerves when you know a little more information, prior to being surprised with countless possibilities when you arrive. Most restaurants have a wine list online that you can view before dining, especially now with COVID introducing more QR-code menus than ever before. Take a look at it, see what they can offer you. The varietals, the regions, the flavor profiles—all of them should be on there for your viewing. This doesn’t mean you have to choose your wine before you even sit down, just do yourself a favor & see what you can even choose from first. If they don’t have a menu, do your general wine research. Try to understand a few of those vocabulary words we put out a few weeks ago (i.e., tannins, acidity, crisp, bold, etc.). These will help make talking to the wait staff &/or sommelier (a trained & knowledgeable wine professional) much smoother, & if it still doesn’t, so what! You’re a beginner, you tried & that’s what they’re there for anyways… but we’ll get into that in a bit.
2. Don’t panic.
This one is mostly for all the anxious folk, like me. If you’re presented with a wine list that feels like it takes 3-courses just to read through, remember why you’re there: To enjoy yourself! Chances are, you already know what you’re in the mood for, so just go with it. Picked out your meal first? Great, now choose a yummy wine to go with it. Oh, you chose your wine first? Cool, now what sounds good to eat with it? & Even if it takes you until the bottom of the bread basket to choose either one, order some champagne to sip on while you decide—it’ll do the calming down for you, believe me.
3. Stick to your budget.
Depending on what city you’re in, what genre of food you’re eating, or even the number of people at the table, wine can jack up that check total real quick. On special occasions, price may not be an obstacle, but when going out for just a regular date night, it can be a major factor in your decision. Not only that, but especially when ordering for other people, sometimes sticking to a budget can be uncomfortable. Don’t be pressured into purchasing more than you’re willing to pay for, either. If it’s on their menu, they’re willing to associate their name with it, so it can’t be all that bad. I know that doesn’t sound very convincing, but remember, more expensive doesn’t always necessarily mean better wine.
A small tip if you are embarrassed talking about price with the other dinner guests: When in doubt, point. Tell the waiter or sommelier you’d like a wine “similar to this one” & point to a price on the menu. You can even be more specific & tell them the wine type, variety or meal choice you made to pair it with.
4. Talk to your sommelier.
I feel there are very few things as intimidating as speaking to a professional in their field without having any to little knowledge of the topic yourself. Fun fact, though: You don’t need to know it all—that is NOT a requirement for ordering wine. Actually, that is the whole reason your waiter or sommelier is there in the first place: To help you! & If you think it makes you look inexperienced to do this, you’re wrong. Having a proper conversation with them, telling them what you like & don’t like, & asking for their opinion, will not only get you a wine you’ll love, but enhance your wine knowledge as well. Most high-end restaurants will have a sommelier on staff, but not all dining experiences will. Either way, do not be afraid to ask questions. Especially if there is a sommelier; Their entire job revolves around their wine expertise.
5. Ask for a taste.
If you still aren’t sure even with the recommendations from your waiter or sommelier, ask for a taste. Be brave! Very rarely will they say no, & if they do, that’s literally the worst scenario. Remember though, when they pop open that bottle right in front of you, pour it out & don’t leave until you try it—You don’t have to like it. That’s the whole point, after all. Be considerate, but honest! Make sure you like what you’re paying for; It’s not cheap, remember?
6. Try something new!
This is kind of a bonus tip, but one I feel is very important. You’re not going to learn more about wine by only drinking Cabernet Sauvignon for the rest of your life. Try one you normally wouldn’t try! If that intimidates you, let your waiter or sommelier pick for you. More likely than not, there are hundreds of varieties you’ve never even heard of before. & Who knows, one of those unknowns could possibly be your new favorite. You’ll never know until you try.
The cheat-sheet version of this list basically reassures you that you can’t order wine wrong. You just have to be brave with it. Be confident in not knowing a lot! & No, that’s not an oxymoron; It’s good advice for someone learning about wine. Keeping an open mind is the only thing that will take you to that next level. If you don’t care about getting there, that’s fine, too. If anything, these tips will at least lead you to some yummy wine, & who wouldn’t want that?
Bailey Morris, Marketing/ Gift Shop
Crazy about Wiens wine? Here’s a list of restaurants we serve our wine in! *
1909 – 28656 Old Town Front St, Temecula, CA 92590
Barrel 33 – 40754 Village Dr., Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
Bluewater Grill – 26700 Ynez Ct, Temecula, CA 92591
Pechanga Resort and Casino – 45000 Pechanga Pkwy, Temecula, CA 92592
Reading Cinema – 41090 California Oaks Rd, Murrieta, CA 92562
Francesca’s Italian Kitchen – 31165 Temecula Pkwy, Temecula, CA 92592
Spicy Noodle – 25395 Madison Ave #111, Murrieta, CA 92562
Coin-Op Game Room – 28588 Old Town Front St, Temecula, CA 92590
EscoGelato – 122 S Kalmia St, Escondido, CA 92025
Goat and Vine – 41923 2nd Street #102, Temecula, CA 92590
Grazing Theory – 32127 Temecula Pkwy Unit C, Temecula, CA 92592
Embassy Suites – 29345 Rancho California Rd, Temecula, CA 92591
Oscar’s Brewing Company – 29375 Rancho California Rd, Temecula, CA 92591
Backyard Bottle Shop & Taproom – 39400 Murrieta Hot Springs Rd STE 123A, Murrieta, CA
Ferro – 25840 Cedar St, Idyllwild-Pine Cove, CA 92549
Grapes & Grains – 28061 Jefferson Ave #5, Temecula, CA 92590
127 West Social – 127 W Elder St, Fallbrook, CA 92028
Toast – 31093 Temecula Pkwy d6, Temecula, CA 92592
*This list has been gathered as of 8/24/21 & is subject to change at any time. Should you dine at any of these establishments, please understand quantities are limited & may not be available at time of visit.
Wine itself is an art, but wine with food? A masterpiece! Let’s learn some basic tips on how to pair wine. First, understand there are many more correct methods to pairing wine than incorrect ways, I promise. You can either pair wines based on similar characteristics, or opposing flavor compounds. I know that sounds like a free-for-all but it’s not, let me explain.
When pairing based on similar characteristics, you want to really think about the food or wine (whichever you decide to start with) & decide what notes are present. Ultimately, this requires you to have a pretty good idea of what you enjoy as far as varieties go, but chances are, you already have your preferences! If beginning with your food choice, say you want to make steak for the night. Will you be adding a marinade? Spices? Adding a reduction sauce? Noticing the flavor profiles present in the food will help you pair them with similar ones present in the wine. Both our Grand Rouge & Reserve Malbec go well with premium cuts of beef because of their notes of berry & various spices, so there you go! However, watch out for being too literal! It’s all about balance. Bitter foods do not pair well with bitter wines… but we’ll get more into that. If trying to pair using opposing flavor compounds, do the same thing—Just opposite! For example, with the same pairing of steak & a ‘big red’ wine, the fat & oil present in the steak will counter the high tannin levels present in the wine.
Like I said, it’s all about balance. Here is a chart for a better visual, courtesy of Wine Folly. It contains six primary tastes that can affect your food pairing. The straight blue lines represent good combinations & the jagged grey lines represent flavor compounds you want to avoid.
Bonus tip: If your recipe calls for wine, don’t get the ‘wines for cooking.’ These are full of additives like food coloring & artificial flavors—No thanks! Try a wine you can actually drink while you cook (yes, please!). Usually, you can use a wine that would pair well with the meal itself, but every dish is different!
Now, some basic rules for pairing:
1. The wine should be more acidic or sweeter than the food.
2. Match intensity levels! Intense food = intense wine (i.e. rich, creamy pasta with an oaked Chardonnay), delicate food=delicate wine (i.e. sushi with a Riesling).
3. Tannins disagree with fish oils, so it’s pretty uncommon for reds to pair well with seafood.
4. More often than not, white, sparkling, or rosé wines create contrasting pairings, while red wines usually create corresponding pairings.
5. Know what you like, & go with it! There may be ‘rules’ for a more complimentary pairing, & they really do work! Ultimately though, if you like the wine, that’s good enough!
For a general blueprint to get started, here are some common wines & their pairings.
All in all, just go with your gut! As you continue to experiment with wine, your knowledge will grow & you’ll realize just how subjective it can be. Practice, practice, practice, remember? Your palate, however, is the most important factor on your journey to understanding wine & food pairing. You know what tastes best to you; These are just some simple guidelines in the case of more significant occasions. It’s really not as serious as it seems though, I promise! Have fun with it & share with us some of your favorite Wiens wine pairings on social media—We’d love to see what you crave!
Bailey Morris, Marketing/ Gift Shop