Introduce me to Wine
I am almost ashamed to say as much as I drink wine, I no not alot about it. I know what I like and what (kindof goes with what)...but I want to really know wine. Does anyone know of a way I can become more knowledgable on wine (the process it takes to make it, what really pairs up best with what dish, so on and so forth). Im thinking a class would give me the most "hands on" experience. I live in portland so somewhere in the vicinity would be nice. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thanks.
You are in luck. Take a drive south down the Willamette Valley and into some of the best Pinot Noir growing areas in the world. Stop in and tour the vineyards, this is the fun part. You will learn each vineyards techniques and possibly quirks which set them apart from others. I advise going with friends. Right now the vineyards should be ramping up for harvest, so a good time to venture out there to see some action.
Check in with Erin Ransom at The Wine Cellar or Vino Vixens. She does wine classes and check the foodday section of the Oregonian. They usually post wine classes. Erin has an upcoming How To Look Like a Wine Snob in Under Two Hours class coming up Sept 28th at the Wine Cellar, (503)643-5655 for info. I've taken it in the past and it's a lot of fun.
You're going to have to read some books.
There are a million "Wine 101 For Dummies" books out there, and while they all do a fairly decent job of explaining the basics -- grapes, regions, techniques -- they all pretty much suck as books. Try to find one that has a minimum of cutesy graphics and sidebars and "Gee, did you know?" intrusions, and a maximum of clear text. Pictures are a good thing only if they actually illustrate what various grapes, regions, and techniques look like, and are not marketing materials inserted to look pretty.
Be aware that wine literature has more pompous snobs and idiot marketers than any other field of human endeavor. My basic rule, when choosing a wine book OR a bottle of wine, is to try to avoid anything that appears to have been inserted with the sole thought in mind of displaying "classiness" or Olde Worlde Charme. That means elaborately scrolly fonts, big brass gates, silly French where it doesn't belong, etc.
A good place to begin is a tasting course, which can be found in book form. You'll probably start with the difference between two whites, say a California Chardonnay and a white Bordeaux or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or something, and progress through the different grapes and regions.
After that, I strongly recommend getting the hell out of the weeds of Wine 101 and diving into a more personal book, one that may be a bit over your head in some ways, but will teach you not so much what to think but what it means to have a relationship with wine. Books like <i>Real Wine</i> by Patrick Matthews, <i>The Accidental Connoisseur</i> by Lawrence Osborne, and the surprisingly good <i>Bacchus and Me</i> by Jay McInerney.
Then you need to get a good wine atlas and go over it cover to cover. Several times. There are several to choose from. I would NOT recommend any of the annual wine guides you see, from Robert Parker on down; they cover way to much stuff you'll never, ever see in a shop, unless you live in New York or Los Angeles and routinely pay $50 and up a bottle. The most important thing when you're starting out isn't the difference between all the different makers and vintages in Côte-Rôtie; it's the difference between Côte-Rôtie and Australian Shiraz and California Syrah. The way to learn these things on your own is to read and taste, read and taste, wine against wine. Trying to compare two wines tasted a month apart is a sucker's game.
Oh, and if you're not having fun you're doing it wrong.
Find a wine bar that has daily- or weekly-changing taste flights and spend a lot of time there drinking.