Big Favor ... Calling all the "Experienced" and "Professional" wine NUTS ...
I meant wine connoisseur . Let me just start out by saying I am a novice in the wine department. I just know what I like when I taste it. I like all reds. However, my wife likes white esp. chardonnays. I probably sound like a child in my likes and dislikes. LOL . And yes that is where I am at this point. This is the reason I am asking people like Jason or Bill or whoever wants to chime in if they can list the top 25... 50 ... 75 or 100 wines that "they" think I should taste and experience on my journey. I think I can get a group together so the price can range up to about $300. I have the pleasure of tasting some expensive wines, but truthfully I could not tell the difference between the $600 bottle and the $200. My go to wine are usually Chappellet, Jordan, or Caymus for a nice cab. Wife likes Conundrum.
I know there are books galore on this subject, but I thought I pick some of your tongues for info. Thanks.
No one has answered you, so I'll give it a try.
The first thing you need to do is sample a broad range of wines to figure out what you like. And you need to do this at a good wine store. I haven't been to Chicago, but using another review site one I can recommend as a place to start is Fine wine Brokers at 4621 N Lincoln Ave. You want to go for tastings. Like a dozen or more. Try as broad as range as possible and keep notes of what you like and what you don't like.
Regions I suggest include California, Oregon, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, Rhone, the Loire Valley, Alsace, the many regions of Spain and Italy, Germany and Austria. From the Rhone on you will find your best values.
Hart Davis Wine Co. has a good reputation, but I don't see that they do that many tastings.
The Knightsbridge Wine Shoppe in Northbrook has a nice, broad selection like Hart Davis but they also seldom do tastings.
After you figure out what regions you like and what wines you like in those regions, others can give you recommendations.
to add to Steve's excellent advice -- look around, do some googling, and sign up for emails -- sometimes tastings aren't widely advertised, because they fill up so quickly
Also check with some of the gourmet shops around -- sometimes they'll have wine tastings or wine and cheese pairings, which would give you a chance to try two things at once (careful, though, this exhausts your palate *very* quickly)
Sometimes even better groceries will do tastings....
We used the book 'wine for dummies' as the book for the wine class I took (seems like ages ago) at Cornell. It sounds ridiculous, but it's a good place to start if the categories you're working with now are just 'red' and 'white'.
Also, I don't know where you are located (oops! I just saw it's Chicago - - maybe some wine tasting vacations are in order), but visiting wineries is also a great way to start. Often the people in the tasting room are really helpful to talk to about the different grape varietals and how the wines were made. They can pour you two different wines from the same vineyard and explain in detail what the differences in their production were. In the beginning when you're at a winery, focus on tasting the wines that are 'typical' of the region (e.g., don't focus on the riesling when you are in Oregon).
In my humble opinion, you don't need to spend so much when you are just getting started. It's better to learn a bit about a certain wine and then work up to tasting a really nice one.
Also, I will be very interested to hear what the top 25 wines for a learning journey should be, according to the true connoisseurs.
Hello Chicago Kid:
"but truthfully I could not tell the difference between the $600 bottle and the $200."
I have been tasting a long time, and I can't tell the difference. I'm not sure there are very many people who can. I know that sounds crazy, but after some tasting you will possibly agree. My advice for you is :
1. taste by grape varieties: taste some cabernets, taste some pinots, taste some malbecs, etc.
2. Taste these wines blind as often as you can. Get your wife or a friend to help you taste without any notion of what you are tasting.
3. Either cancel your subscription to the Wine Spectator, or develop enough discipline to only read it for the gossip and the news. Pay no attention to their vintage ratings nor to their individual wine ratings.
4. Whether it's WS or Parker or Tanzer or someone else, eventually you will reach a point where you don't need them, unless you are looking for a clue, and only a clue, to a wine that for some reason you can't taste yourself.
I envy you all the fun you are going to have as you discover your palate.
The idea of randomly listing some 100 -- even "only" 25 -- random wines seems a bit useless to me without knowing a good deal more information from you . . .
>>> truthfully I could not tell the difference between the $600 bottle and the $200. <<<
There is, generally, NO difference between the two -- presuming, of course, we are speaking of new releases. At that point, it's mostly all reputation and hype, not about wine quality . . .
>> I just know what I like when I taste it. <<<
There is NOTHING more important than tasting something and being able to say "Yum" or "Yuck"!
>>> I like all reds . . . My go to wine are usually Chappellet, Jordan, or Caymus for a nice cab. <<<
Are you looking for California Cabernets, or for suggestions for ALL red wines from ANY country?
>>> However, my wife likes white esp. chardonnays . . . Wife likes Conundrum. <<<
. . . which has some Chardonnay, but is mostly other grapes and has a significant level of residual sugar -- any whites? dry and sweet? any country?
Types to avoid? Do you want to include Ports, Sherries, Madeiras, Champagnes? Or just table wines?
Let me just start by thanking all of those who took a look and gave suggestions. I know as a newbie, some of the questions sound ludicrous for seasoned wine drinkers. But already many of the suggestions gave me insight as to my own question. As many of you have already stated, I need to expand my scope of wine; not only by region, but the type. As a typical American consumer, my exposure has been limited to mostly American wines, esp. Californian. Again my ring of knowledge has been limited by what is typically thrust upon the American consumer. I look forward to drinking and learning more.
Jason...Again, your question tells me how little I know. Please bear with me. I am trying to limit my question to "table wines." I did not realize how open ended this question was when I posted.
Steve... the regions you have mentioned. Can you name couple wines from each area that you think would e great.
Chef June...Like Bin 36 for fish for many years. I did not realize they had a great wine list.
LabLady... I get it. Baby steps. I have to stop drinking out of this sippy cup. It is very depressing >;-)
Okay, Hart Davis puts it into a spreadsheet and makes it easy. Here are some quick recommendations of wines I would like to drink. All of them should be drinking well now:
2001 Walter Hansel Winery Pinot Noir, Three Rows $45
2006 Holdredge Wines Pinot Noir, Wren Hop Vineyard $40
2004 Dehlinger Winery Pinot Noir, Goldridge Vineyard $40
2001 Brick House Vineyards Pinot Noir $28 (might be over the hill)
2002 Copain Wine Cellars Syrah, Eaglepoint Ranch $28
2006 Dehlinger Winery Syrah, Estate, $48
2005 Lagier-Meredith Vineyard Syrah $50
1999 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Le Vieux Donjon (Michel Lucien) $60
2004 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Domaine Charvin $50
1989 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Château de Beaucastel Slightly damp stained label $190 (legendary bottle)
France Loire white
2001 Vouvray Huet $25 (bubbles)
2007 Savennières Domaine des Baumard $25
1995 Vouvray, Le Mont Huet $45 (aged sweet wine)
Start with this as an idea . . .
Is the idea to learn about wine in general, or to find a tasty wine you can buy over and over? The latter is akin to giving you a fish, while the former is akin to teaching you to fish instead -- the former will suit you for a lifetime of discovery and enjoyment; the latter is akin to throwing pasta against the wall and seeing what sticks -- you'll find a few new wines, but that's it.
Try Cabernets from various parts of California -- but you'll want to use "classics" to start with, and those don't cost very much money, relative to the $200-300 figure you mentioned in your initial post. For example, for the cost of Caymus ($55-60), you can find a series of excellent Cabernet wines . . .
Example #1: get together some friends and 6-8 bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon, one from each appellation as follows:
Napa Valley floor -- Beaulieu (Rutherford designation), Franciscan, Frog's Leap, Honig, Joseph Phelps (regular), Rombauer, Whitehall Lane, etc.
Napa Mountain areas -- Arns, Chappellet, Dunn, Dyer, Hess Collection (not Hess Select), Mayacamas, Mount Veeder, von Strasser, etc.
Napa Stags Leap Dist. -- Clos du Val, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, Steltzner, etc.
Alexander Valley, Sonoma -- Clos du Bois "Briarcrest," Jordan, Silver Oak, Stonestreet, etc.
Sonoma Valley, Sonoma -- Arrowood, Benziger, Kenwood, etc.
Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma -- Laurel Glen, Louis M. Martini "Monte Rosso" bottling only (or any bottling from the Monte Rosso vineyard, regardless of winery)
Santa Cruz Mtns. -- Ahlgren "Bates Ranch," Cinnabar, Mount Eden, Ridge (not Monte Bello), Soquel Vineyards, etc.
Paso Robles -- J.Lohr, Justin
Washington State -- Andrake, Canoe Ridge, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Dunham, Isenhower, Januik, L'Ecole No. 41, Reininger, Seven Hills, Waterbrook, etc.
REMEMBER: the goal is NOT to pick out the best winery from each region, but a wine that is of high quality AND TYPICAL of the region.
IF it is possible, have one person buy all the wines. Then, have that person go into (e.g.) the kitchen alone -- remove the capsules, uncork them (hiding the corks), and place them in identical brown paper bags. Then have a second person enter the kitchen and label the paper bags A through F (or A through H).
Make sure each of the tasters has one glass for each wine (i.e.: have them bring 6-8 wine glasses with them).
In this way, no one will know what wines are in front of them or in what order, and only one person will even know what the 6 (8) wines are!
As long as the wines you get are all (hopefully) from the same vintage, you *should* get a great idea of the character of each region.
The next time you do this, get only four different Cabernet Sauvignon wines, but get four Merlots from the exact same wineries (thus, same winemaker) and from the same vintages -- you'll know what the differences between the two grape varieties are . . .
Then, you can try -- for example -- four Cabernets and four RESERVE Cabernets -- same wineries, same vintages; or four Cabernets and for "Bordeaux-styled" blends, same wineries, same vintages . . . .
And so on and so on and so on . . .
I certainly wouldn't ignore Binny's. If you check their events calendar you will find numerous tastings devoted to regions, varietals, etc. Make friends with the most knowledgeable sales person at your local Binny's...and do not be shy about asking for recommendations. And maybe learn more about new world vs. old world...develop your palate and explore. When you know WHAT you're drinking, it will be easier to begin acquiring your own finds.
I'd agree with Jason 100% that it's really not of much use to give you a list of the X number of wines that someone else would suggest. Whenever I get into a conversation with someone about wine reviewers (Parker, Tanzer, Wine Spectator's people, etc.) I always caution them that they must find a way to calibrate their own likes and dislikes to those of the reviewer. Unfortunately almost every reviewer's 'scoring' is colored by their own preferences. Even when a review attempts to place a specific wine in the context of that specific grape or winemaking
style or region, I find that you have to have your own frame of reference to know if you would like the wine.
I suppose you could teach yourself to like the wines that Parker (or Jason) likes, but I don't believe that's the point of enjoying wine. The reason all the responses here are not giving you lists is that you need to figure out what YOU like!!! The best way to do that is to taste a lot of wine, and it helps to do it with someone who can educate you about what you're drinking and how to describe it (like a good shop owner). Once you have a good sense of your own preferences others can help you find more wines you will like, and your tastes will evolve as you have more experience.
As an example, two of the wines you mention, Jordan and Caymus, are (to me) very different styles of Cabernet. So that tells me you probably like good quality Northern California Cabernet. That's a beginning, but that info probably just doubled your potential suggestion list of only one grape variety. The more input you can give, and the more specific and refined your likes become, the easier this will get.
SO....... get out there are try more wine. :o)))))
For white, I would put a Condrieu (white Viognier grape from Rhone Valley -- also grown in California) on the list. It is just so different from other whites. The 2008 Domaine Yves Cuilleron Condrieu Les Chaillets is one of the best white wines I have had in my life. Unfortunately, it's no longer available in the U.S., although you can find the 2007, 2009 and 2010 (and they say Condrieu should be drunk young).
But life's a crapshoot. At the same time I picked up the Yves Cuilleron I also picked up a 2007 André Perret Condrieu Coteau du Chery, which was about the same price, and which was meh. (And I got both from the same vendor, Flickenger's in Chicago, so presumably it wasn't a storage issue).
On the cheap white side, I would recommend picking up a Vermentino from Italy. Very food friendly and hard to pay more than $25. I recently enjoyed a 2009 Vigne Surrau "Sciala" Vermentino di Gallura Superiore for $23. At those prices, you can afford to experiment and expand your horizons.
Why not peruse the Wine Spectator Top 100 list, and go off of that for a few and see what you like?
I know a lot of people have recommended Cali, but I'd recommend you check out some Old World stuff. Some of my favorites are Rioja and Priorat from Spain; Barolo, Barbaresco, Chianti Classico, Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino, and Super Tuscans (particularly if you're a cab fan) from Italy; Chateneuf du Pape and Northern Rhone wines along with Burgundy, (whites and reds) Alsace, (great whites) and Bordeaux (don't forget Sauternes) from France; and finally Rieslings from Germany and Austria. (and if you can get your hands on Kracher for a good price and like dessert wines...mama!)
>>> I know a lot of people have recommended Cali(fornia). <<<
Well, it could be because the OP *only* mentioned wines that were from California. That said, I absolutely agree with exploring wines OTHER than from the USA, but STRONGLY disagree with "persu(ing) the Wine Spectator Top 100."
Why the avoidance of the Top 100? They mention good availability wines at a number of price points including the $10 - $20 range, (so OP doesn't have to drop a lot of money to taste some experiments) they have a good amount of different varietals and regions, and the wines are decent to good.
Oh, gee -- where to start. OK . . . .
First of all, by the time the annual issue listing the "Top 100" hits the stands, approximately 80% of the wines (or more!) are sold out. Seriously!
I ran into this problem EVERY year I worked retail . . . Some of the wines on that list will have been reviewed in October; some will have been reviewed in July; and still others will have originally been written up as early as February.
Secondly, keep in mind that many (if not most) of the wines are also on allocation, and/or of such limited production, that not all wine shops in all major markets even have access to the wines in February, let alone after they've been on the market for 3, 4, 6, or 9 months . . . .
Third, the problem with relying on ANY publication's list is that you are relying on someone else's taste. This is an inherent problem. Contrast this to working with a top retailer -- one who actually listens to YOUR tastes, YOUR preferences -- and makes suggestions based on that information . . . rather than wines that are chosen by someone else, according to someone else's tastes, and having (you) conform to THEIR likes/dislikes . . . .
In my experience, the idea of "good availability" and low price points has been much more lip service than reality . . . .
I don't actively search out wines from the Top 100 when the article comes out, but know I have found wines that were on the llist at a larger store. Regardless, I'll take your word for that.
I looked over last year's list here: http://assets.winespectator.com/wso/p.... Outside of the top 35, I don't see anything that is allocation only. I also see a lot of bargains, many of which probably have higher production and would thus still be available.
I say relying on someone else's tast is not a problem when you're still trying to determine what your taste is, which the OP is definitely trying to do. If anyone drinks a wine based on a rating they see and disagree with the rating, that isn't conforming to the likes/dislikes of the rater, it's disagreeing. I don't see how following a publication for ideas on different wines to try is now conforming to their likes/dislikes.
I stand by my iniital post that the Top 100 list will give the OP a number of wines of which to try to branch out at reasonable prices if they can be found. I agree that finding a reputable retailer with knowledgable staff will help as well, but I see no reason why multiple resources can't be used instead of retailer only.
Keep in mind that I'm biased, having worked retail for so long, but ask *any* retailer and they will tell you that -- at best -- the Wine Spectator's "Top 100" list is a mixed blessing, and at worst, it is a ROYAL PITA! People come out of the woodwork -- people you've never seen before! -- demanding you sell them the #1 wine on the list, and when you tell them you don't have it, they'll say, "Well, this isn't much of a wine store is it?" and then demand that you sell them the #2 wine, #3, etc. -- NEVER asking for anything lower than #10 (often nothing lower than #5!).
It's happened EVERY year since that list came out. And, keep in mind, there IS a reason why many in the trade refer to it as the Wine "Speculator," or worse . . .
I agree, Terry, that you probably can find *some* (but by no means all) of the wines that were on that list ranked 51-100, but I have never been asked for those wines and -- fortunately -- no longer work retail and don't have to deal with it! However, where we disagree -- and it;s fine to disagree, to have our own opinions on the subject -- is here:
>>> I say relying on someone else's tast is not a problem when you're still trying to determine what your taste is, which the OP is definitely trying to do. If anyone drinks a wine based on a rating they see and disagree with the rating, that isn't conforming to the likes/dislikes of the rater, it's disagreeing. I don't see how following a publication for ideas on different wines to try is now conforming to their likes/dislikes. <<<
1) The problem with the above is that far too many people, mostly beginners but NOT always, see a list like the Top 100 and think "These are good wines, I should like them" -- however subtle that psychological pressure may be -- and find their palate confirming to the publication's lists.
Every good retail store has a story similar to the one Steve Wallace (Wally's in West LA) tells of the guy who came in and bought a case of ______________, only to come in the next week and return 11.5 bottles saying he hated it! Then, the next month, he comes back and buys a case of the exact same wine! Steve stopped him, and reminded him that he'd already bought -- and returned -- a case of this same wine. The customer replied that Parker had just given the wine a ____ (I forget, but it was over 90), and "that was before I knew I was supposed to like it."
It's happened over-and-over to every retailer I know . . .
>>> I stand by my iniital post that the Top 100 list will give the OP a number of wines of which to try to branch out at reasonable prices if they can be found. I agree that finding a reputable retailer with knowledgable staff will help as well, but I see no reason why multiple resources can't be used instead of retailer only. <<<
The MAJOR difference, for me (and YMMV) is that the Spectator (or Parker or Tanzer or _______) is a one-way street. You, the reader, have no interaction, no dialogue the way you do when speaking with retailers. You end up confirming to the publication's taste if only because you are limited to the wines they choose to review in their publication, and thereby eliminating 1000s of great wines. Additionally, without any input from your taste buds, you are grasping at straws (bottles) in the dark . . .
By all means, read publications, but then ASK your retailers -- and shop at more than one! -- for input based upon your OWN tastes . . . that has been a major key to success for my students, my customers, and my friends.
Now, my friend, I think we're speaking the same language. And I'm happy about that because based on your posts, I respect the hell out of your taste in wine.
I'll admit the top 10 and probabably top 20 of the Top 100 are sold out nearly immediately after publication. That's unfortunate, but I really believe that some of the lower ranked, although still solid wines are a great opportunity to try something that's decent, if not good. (if you can find them)
I guess I look at my own beginnings into the wine world. I'll try a wine some of my friends say is good, or is in the Top 100, or Parker rates 90+ and think, I'm not a fan. Perhaps I just trust my palate more than others. I think it's good to calibrate your palate vs. others where you'll see ratings because it shows you...Parker overrates Aussies according to my palate, so I'll deduct some points, or Miller rates Washington wines way higher than he should, so I know how many points to deduct from his ratings. The sad thing is, that's offen the only thing you'll get in a wine store. Employees there may say...well it's rated 92+ from Parker...it's a great wine, but you as the consumer need to find out where your palate lies vs. the critic or employee and rate it as such. I have a local wine shop where I trust the hell out of the owner, but if our palates don't align on a certain varietel or vintage, I need to find out. And once I've found out, I'll make my decisions based on my own palate, not his or heres. I agree with you that a wine seller needs to know what kind of things you like, but I also think you as the consumer needs to be 100% sure of what it is you like. If I like modern Super Tuscans, that's not a definite sign that a wine recommended to me as a Super Tuscan is going to be what I truly like. You as the consumer needs to be aware of your palate, and the best way IMO to find out what your palate likes is to taste as many wines as possible. Even then, your palate will change over time.
Your example, unfortunately, sounds more like a sheep. I've had many situations, tasting wines with ITB people who have said this is a great wine. I've disagreed on many occasions...sure it may be made well and a great wine for some, but to my palate...I don't care for it. (that's not to say it's not a good wine, just that I don't care for that particular style) It took me a long time to say with confidence, nope...not that wine. I don't care what you say. I don't like it, and I don't care what you say but it doesn't fit with my palate. In fact, I just went to a tasting where a man whose palate I respect a great deal, and who's said I'll let you pick any bottle for me to drink and he'll drink it. He picked a Piedmonte wine as one of his top 3, and he hates Piedmonte wines. In saying this, I'm just trying to say...you as a consumer need to pick the wines that you like. It doesn't matter what an "expert" says. Picking wines from the Top 100 of WS list or from a local wine seller doesn't mean anything if you don't like the wine. Trust your palate, more than anyone else, but do expand your horizons with suggestions from local wine sellers, WS Top 100, or even friends. If you like the wine, that's all that matters.
I agree with you in that it is a one-way street from Spectator, but I would argue that even your local retailer can suggest stuff that you think sucks. Trust your insticts and your palate, but try everything until you know what it is you like. Once you've reached that point, you're well on your way to becoming a wine expert, being more confident in the wines you like, and will have a much better relationship with your local wine retailer.
A few more comments, or perhaps "clarifications" is a better word . . .
>>> I agree with you in that it is a one-way street from Spectator, but I would argue that even your local retailer can suggest stuff that you think sucks. <<<
Of course! But it's also the difference between a retailer that is local and a retailer that is *good*! ;^) In other words -- to be obviously hyperbolic about it -- the difference between the corner mom-and-pop that sells lots half-pints and "tall boys" of malt liquor, and the retailer that not only focuses on carrying an array of fine wines that takes the time and effort to train their staff . . .
As a retailer, the last word I *always* said to someone was "Come back and tell me what you thought . . . " The point is that retailers can ALWAYS recommend a "great" wine that someone thinks is $#!+ . . . but the customer and I (probably) have never sat down and tasted wines together, and so my recommendations can only be based upon what he/she tells me in response to my questions -- questions like what's for dinner? how is it being prepared? what kind of wines do you like? name a specific wine you've enjoyed, and tell me what you liked about it (and didn't) -- the point being, of course, that the more a retailer knows the customer's taste, the better FUTURE recommendations can be . . .
OK, so I'm no longer a retailer, indeed no longer in the wine trade at all (after some 40 years), and now *I* am the customer. There are probably 4-5 retailers I frequently shop at (one more than the others), and another half a dozen that I regularly check in with, albeit more sporadically.
At some, there is a sales rep or two who can say, "You gotta try this," and I will -- no questions asked! And at least 95% of the time, they are spot on with their recommendation -- whether it's a <$10 bottle of white wine for the "house," or a wine from the Côte d'Or or the Rhône for my cellar. At the others, someone may say, "You gotta try this," and my response is "Why?" . . . I ask questions, I ask for (in a sense) "character references," as in "what other wine is this one like, what does it remind you of?" and if that works/sounds good, I'll try a bottle and see . . . .
>>> Your example, unfortunately, sounds more like a sheep. <<<
>>> Trust your instincts and your palate . . . <<<
Far too often, in my experience, beginners do not (cannot?) trust their instincts, and so -- for lack of a better term -- *do* behave, if not exactly like "sheep," per se, then at least are seeking for someone to listen to for advice, to weed through the 1000s of options out there . . . for *me*, I find that a retailer -- who can listen to your likes/dislikes, wants and needs -- is better suited to provide more appropriate and "accurate" recommendations than a publication.
One more little "tidbit", presented in the FWIW Dept.: become your own publication.
One thing I always tell my students is to "go back to high school" -- get a 3-ring binder, some dividers, and college-ruled notebook paper. Instead of "History," "English," and "Biology," label the dividers with names like "Cabernet," "Riesling," and "Rhône," etc., and then . . .
1) Every time you taste a wine, either soak off the label and tape it to the upper right-hand corner of the page, or else copy down *every* word from the label, (except descriptive prose).
2) On the top left-hand corner, write down to date you bought it, the date you drank it, the price you paid, and the name of the retailer (online or off-).
3) On the rest of the page, write down what you thought of the wine in as much detail as possible using words that make sense to you. (In other words, don't worry if they aren't the words Parker uses; don't worry if the words sound silly -- you're the only one whose going to be reading them, and you'll remember what you meant!) This is crucial whether you liked the wine or not!
4) Near the bottom of the page, write down in big letters the ultimate decision: "YUM" or "YUCK."
THEN, when you go shopping for a wine, take the notebook with you. Use it to help you decide what wine(s) to try next. If, for example, you realize that you have a preference for (e.g.) Sonoma Zinfandels over Zinfandels from Paso Robles, you may want to pass on that 94-point Paso Zin in favor of the 88-point one from Dry Creek . . . . Or if you find that you really like a number of different wines from Cache Phloe Vineyards, but have yet to try, say, their Sauvignon Blanc, maybe that's a good bet . . . . and so on and so on and so on.
In this way, not only do you have a personally developed tool to guide you, one that's based on YOUR taste buds rather than some self-appointed pontificator, but you also have something that will help your retailer zero in on some great wines . . .
Just my $0.02, and worth far less, I'm sure . . . .
I highly recommend www.drync.com , available for iPhone or Android (also on the Web). You can enter tasting notes and keep track of your cellar. You can sort your cellar by wines you have already drank (so you can remember which ones you liked), wines in your cellar and wines you would like to have in your cellar (handy when you are browsing in a wine store). You can also rate each of the wines in your cellar from 1 to 5.
Although I don't necessarily put a lot of stock in it, I like the Amazon-like feature where you can take any wine in your cellar and see what other wines people who liked that wine liked. For instance, people who liked the 2008 Domaine Yves Cuilleron Condrieu Les Chaillets (one of the wines in my cellar and a wine I adored) also liked
the 2005 Château de Saint-Cosme Gigondas Hominis Fides (now that's a wine that I'm not familiar with, but I might check it out because, in my mind, anyone who liked the Cuilleron Condrieu has good taste). I would suspect that as Drync gets more users worldwide, the suggestions will only improve, particularly with more obscure wines.
< The sad thing is, that's offen the only thing you'll get in a wine store. Employees there may say...well it's rated 92+ from Parker...it's a great wine>
Terry, if I get that from a wine store where I've not been before, I'll likely not be back. If I get it from a trusted source, my immediate response is always "but do YOU like it?" I've left places where I had traded regularly after getting too many stock answers. Good wine clerks/managers/store owners know their inventory.
And.............. for the retailer, trying to decide who to quote points to and who not can be very challenging. Customers come in all flavors. We'll post a score on the shelf talker, if we have one, but rarely quote the numbers unless the customer starts that track. I think part of this has to do with the customer mix of the shop. We're in a tourist spot, so this can get a bit difficult. I personally pay no attention to scores but have learned that many people do.
You know I understand that the word on Parker is that he likes fruit bombs, which I don't, so I would be inclined, like you say, to disregard any wine rated highly by him. However, Parker has rated my favorite wine (so far) - the 1990 Cheval Blanc a 100 on one occasion. That was why the wine was selected for a tasting and if it hadn't been selected and I hadn't tasted it, I would never know that it was the most divine wine I had ever imbibed. So what am I supposed to do-- disregard Parker, except when I'm not supposed to disregard him?
You sound like us -- we tend to not like the fruit bombs, either, and prefer our oak a little more subtle than many of the reviewers seem to enjoy...so we tend to not pay a huge amount of attention to scores, either.
Under the heading "even a stopped watch is right twice a day" -- there's always a chance you'll agree on a good one.
Serious response? You live in LA, where there are several GREAT retailers -- I know; that's where I started my career.
The problem with points, generally, is that it implies -- by its very nature -- that there is an OBJECTIVE method/reality when it comes to something you taste. I'm sorry, but that's impossible. AND YET we -- as human beings -- seek order, definition, precision. Let's face it: points are convenient shorthand.
But this is *not* a 100-point multiple choice test -- it's an essay test. And while we can ALL (well, OK, most of us) recognize a great essay, article, novel, and we can all recognize that that piece of writing really sucked, it's the vast amount of writing in the middle that we would/could debate.
If a wine is truly great, EVERYONE will agree on it -- Parker, Tanzer, Laube, Broadbent, Coates, Robinson, Gordon, Teague, McKay, Bonné, MacNeil, along with anyone else you care to add. Similarly, if a wine is truly gawd-awful, everyone will agree! It's the vast range in the middle that one writer will rave about, another will diss, a third will say it's quite good, and a fourth will completely ignore . . . .
ANY retailer you spoke to would have said, "if you're looking or a truly excellent red Bordeaux, this 1990 Château Cheval Blanc is OUTSTANDING!"
Jason, we certainly don't agree on the value of local wine stores.
First, I love Chinon, which is almost impossible to find in L.A. Take, for instance, one of my favorite producers -- Olga Raffault. Per Wine-Searcher, there is not a single store on the West Coast, much less in Los Angeles, that sells Olga Raffault. Thank goodness, I don't rely on my local wine stores or I never would have discovered that marvelous producer.
Second, my most convenient wine stores suck, to put it bluntly.
From one -- Wally's -- I have consistently gotten unimpressive recommendations and when I am searching for a particular wine on Wine Searcher, I see that if Wally's has it, they are usually selling it for at least 20% (at a minimum) over the competition. On a higher price wine, you can spent $60 to $100 or more than the competition just for the privilege of buying it from Wally's. No thanks.
My other local wine store -- the Wine House -- is unspeakable. I'll give you an example of the level of knowledge of the people who staff that store. I went in recently to pick up some bottles of a Lirac which I had previously gotten from another shop in Orange County and had had delivered to the my office. This time, I wanted the wines for the weekend and Wine Searcher showed the Wine House had it, so off I went. The store is a disorganized mess and I couldn't find the wine in the Rhone section. Went to ask for help in finding it and the sales guy looked at me puzzled and asked where a Lirac was from. (Yeah, I'll sure rely on him for my wine recommendations). We finally located the wine. Then, as I was leaving the store, I thought I might as well pick up some bottles of Vermintino -- my favorite new "cheap" white. Asked another sales clerk in the Italian area if they had any Vermintino's. She looked at me puzzled and said she thought so, but wasn't sure where they might be and wasn't able to locate any. Yeah, I'm sure she would have been a real treasure trove of information on the best Vermintino's in the store.
The best wine store, within a 35 minute drive, is K &L, but 35 minutes is too long a drive for me unless I happen to be in the neighborhood and I've also gotten clunky recommendations from the staff there as well.
So, I say bah humbug to local wine stores. Wine is just one area that I cannot get with the "buy local" movement.
P.S. The Lirac that I was searching at my local wine store where the gentleman asked me what region a Lirac was from was rated a 93 by Parker and is a great wine for $25. I bought it because a friend who is into Parker recommended it to me. I doubt the guy at the wine store who didn't know what region Lirac was from would have recommended it, so for the most part I'll stick with Parker (or my friends who follow Parker) over my local wine merchant.
Fair enough. I totally get that the local wine stores IN YOUR AREA suck...and I'm sorry.
But don't paint all independent wine stores with the same dirty brush, just because you're in a bad situation.
There are plenty of independent wine stores around the world that know their stock, know their products, and know their customers, and are well worth seeking out.
Hopefully you'll find one -- but in the meantime, don't throw out the barrel just because you found a few rotten apples.
>>> Jason, we certainly don't agree on the value of local wine stores. <<<
That's fine -- there is certainly room for LOTS of differing opinions on the planet. Wouldn't it be a dull world if everyone agreed with everybody?
>>> First, I love Chinon, which is almost impossible to find in L.A. Take, for instance, one of my favorite producers -- Olga Raffault. Per Wine-Searcher, there is not a single store on the West Coast, much less in Los Angeles, that sells Olga Raffault. Thank goodness, I don't rely on my local wine stores or I never would have discovered that marvelous producer. <<<
YOU, perhaps. But I know lots of people who have discovered Raffault's Chinon because it's sitting right on the retailer's shelves! The wines used to be imported, IIRC, by Martine Saunier of Martine's Wines in San Rafael (Marin County), or maybe it was North Berkeley. Either way, today, the wines are imported by my former employer, Adventures in Wine, which is located in Daly City, immediately south of San Francisco.
So to say that "there is not a single store on the West Coast, much less Los Angeles, tjat sells Olga Raffault" would be -- forgive me -- incorrect. You could call AIW, if you want, and they should be able to tell you who in SoCal they have sold the wine to, but there are several retailers up here who carry it.
As for relying on Wine-Searcher, while they can provide a useful guideline at times, I would caution you to never believe everything you read on the internet.
>>> Second, my most convenient wine stores suck, to put it bluntly. <<<
Depends upon where in LA you live, doesn't it?
>>> From one -- Wally's -- I have consistently gotten unimpressive recommendations and when I am searching for a particular wine on Wine Searcher, I see that if Wally's has it, they are usually selling it for at least 20% (at a minimum) over the competition. On a higher price wine, you can spent $60 to $100 or more than the competition just for the privilege of buying it from Wally's. No thanks. <<<
I have NEVER recommended Wally's, even though I've known Steve Wallace for nearly 40 years . . .
>>> My other local wine store -- the Wine House -- is unspeakable. I'll give you an example of the level of knowledge of the people who staff that store. I went in recently to pick up some bottles of a Lirac which I had previously gotten from another shop in Orange County and had had delivered to the my office. This time, I wanted the wines for the weekend and Wine Searcher showed the Wine House had it, so off I went. The store is a disorganized mess and I couldn't find the wine in the Rhone section. Went to ask for help in finding it and the sales guy looked at me puzzled and asked where a Lirac was from. (Yeah, I'll sure rely on him for my wine recommendations). We finally located the wine. Then, as I was leaving the store, I thought I might as well pick up some bottles of Vermintino -- my favorite new "cheap" white. Asked another sales clerk in the Italian area if they had any Vermintino's. She looked at me puzzled and said she thought so, but wasn't sure where they were and wasn't able to locate any. Yeah, I'm sure she would have been a real treasure trove of information on the best Vermintino's in the store. <<<
I can't comment on The Wine House. I certainly USED to get some great recommendations and service there, but a) I haven't lived in West La since 1976, and b) I last made a sales call on them back in 1999 or 2000.
>>> The best wine store, within a 35 minute drive, is K &L, but 35 minutes is too long a drive for me unless I happen to be in the neighborhood and I've also gotten clunky recommendations from the staff there as well. <<<
You know, when I was growing up in LA, we used to say that no matter where you wanted to go, it took 20 minutes. Didn't matter if it was surface streets or freeway; it always took 20 minutes to go to the airport, to go to the beach, to go to the Valley, Malibu, the South Bay -- 20 minutes. Now it takes me 45, so 35 minutes in a piece of cake! ;^) That said, it may not be a worthwhile drive for YOU, but that's a different matter entirely . . .
As for getting "clunky recommendations" -- well, I'm not 100% sure exactly what that means, but I'm presuming it means "less than stellar," how's that?
I would suggest that if you are looking for 100% guarantees in terms of recommendations that you train yourself to love what Parker or Tanzer or *whomever* loves, and then only buy their recommendations. But if you want to listen to YOUR taste buds, then every retailer is bound to make a misstep or two or three, but the more you (or rather, "a customer") can describe your likes and dislikes, the more you can provide feedback on prior recommendations, the better those recommendations will be. It's tough to bat 1.000 with little or no information to a first-time customer.
>>> So, I say bah humbug to local wine stores. Wine is just one area that I get get with the "buy local" movement. <<<
Look, the bottom line is that -- if it works for you, I think that's great! Honest. But there are a whole lot of great stores in LA, whether you admit it or not. No one is saying you have to shop at them, though; it's you money -- spend it where YOU want to! ;^)
Olga Raffault is imported by Louis/Dressner in New York. Adventures in Wine imports Jean-Maurice Raffault, which is a different producer, albeit also of Chinon. Jean-Maurice Raffault is available on the West Coast, including from K& L, but it's a totally different kettle of fish.
By the way, I don't know why a wine wouldn't show up on Wine Searcher Pro, unless it's from some very obscure neighborhood wine shop (in which case, I would doubt they would be carrying an Olga Raffault). All the local places from which I buy wine or have bought wine -- K&L, Wally's, L.A. Wine Co., Woodland Hills Wine, Vendome, Wine Exchange - routinely show up on Wine Searcher Pro, as well as dozens and dozens of local wine stores where I've never shopped. If stores that tend to have good selections of French wine like K&L (which doesn't sell Olga in either Northern or Southern California) and Woodland Hills Wine and a dozen others show no availability of Olga on their own websites or on Wine Searcher Pro, I just don't think the wine is available in Los Angeles (or frankly on the West Coast).
P.S. I think retailers cater to their markets or perceived markets and I don't think there is a huge market in Los Angeles for terroir driven wines from small producers. I think people here either want cheap or if they are going to spend more than $30 they want a "name" California wine or a Bordeaux or Burgundy. I once recall a clerk at Wally's looking down his nose at me when I asked for a Gruner, telling me "we don't get much call for that sort of thing." Now, some retailers here do sell Gruner (and I think even Wally's now has a bottle of two), but there is not a great selection available and certainly not the best stuff.
Just an aside here, but ......... "I don't know why a wine wouldn't show up on Wine Searcher Pro, unless it's from some very obscure neighborhood wine shop.." ??? Are you under the impression that only "obscure neighborhood wine shops" don't sell their wines on line? Kermit Lynch (Jason's favorite shop) doesn't seem to sell on line at this time. Beyond them, there are other very good neighborhood wine shops around this country that do not sell online (although I have no idea why not), so they won't show on W-S Pro either.
>>> Kermit Lynch (Jason's favorite shop) doesn't seem to sell on line at this time. <<<
Well, let's not go that far. I like Kermit's wines, but in all seriousness my favorite importers are Louis/Dresner, Terry Theise (Skurnik), Jorge Ordonez, Kysela Pere et Fils., North Berkeley, AND Kermit Lynch. Now, of those, Kermit and North Berkeley actually have retail stores 3.0 and 1.8 miles away from my house, respectively. But I buy more wine at Paul Marcus Wines than at either Kermit or North Berkeley . . . they are a whole 3.8 miles away from me!
As for Kermit, he just started sending out his newsletter in a PDF format about a year or so ago. Online ordering? Sure! You get on the telephone line and call them! ;^)
>>> Olga Raffault is imported by Louis/Dressner in New York. Adventures in Wine imports Jean-Maurice Raffault, which is a different producer, albeit also of Chinon. Jean-Maurice Raffault is available on the West Coast, including from K& L, but it's a totally different kettle of fish. <<<
My bad. You're absolutely correct. OTOH, Louis/Dresner wines are available wholesale in California from Farm Imports, so . . .
>>> By the way, I don't know why a wine wouldn't show up on Wine Searcher Pro . . . <<<
Not every retailer takes the time to either submit their wines to wine-searcher, or to maintain their inventory in such a way as to make that convenient. I don't think Kermit Lynch has his wines on there; does North Berkeley Wines? Paul Marcus Wines? I honestly don't know -- I don't subscribe . . .
Be that as it may, as I said before, as long as what you do works for you . . hey, that's great!
Do I think you're missing out on several great opportunities? Sure, but who cares what I think? ;^)
I've had good experiences in LA. I can find almost anything through K & L - I get stuff delivered from their warehouse in Redwood City all the time and just pick it up at the store. And I've had good luck with suggestions made by their staff although I usually don't rely too much on recommendations from wine store owners.
There's also Silverlake Wine which has great tastings three times a week and Colorado Wine Company in Eagle Rock - also some good tastings.
BTW, I love Lirac. Which one were you looking for?
A number of books list sample "starter" wine cellars that address this issue. However, they stop shy of listing individual producers.
There's also a difference in wines you should taste and experience on your journey (as you wrote) and wines you should own.
I suggest you find a tasting group. If your moniker (ChiKid) means you live in Chicago, there are plenty for you to join. You will also find other Chicagoans on various internet wine boards. Hook up with them. We have a group of us in the Twin Cities that gets together at least monthly where we all bring different wines along a theme (region, producer, grape variety, etc). If your goal is to taste and experience (rather than own), this will get your there quickly.
You could take Wine 101 at an adult ed center. You'll get an overview of what's out there, taste a selection of wines, meet others who are interested, and have your own "professional" to ask questions of. It's a great way to get started.
Have you tried the Randolph Street Wine Tasting Room? They have many good wines by the glass. Also, there are many tasting groups in the Chicago area. You can make contacts on boards like Robin Garr's Winelovers Page or West Coast Wine Network just for example. Have fun!
Edit...Contact Binny's and ask that they notify you of upcoming free tastings. There are several locations in Chicagoland.
I will reiterate Fowler's suggestion to start with Binny's. They used to be Sam's Wine and were bought out a few years ago. When I lived in Chicago, I learned a lot about wine by reading their newsletter and going to their very reasonably-priced (sometimes free!) tastings.
There's a wines of Languedoc tasting this Saturday at all of their locations. I wish I could go :-)
Other thoughts - agree with celestialmundane that taking a basic class is a good way to start understanding wine - how it's made, how to taste, what's out there (a lot!), and most importantly what you like. People's wine lists I find less helpful - better to work on developing one yourself.
Have a happy journey!
In my personal opinion you should not 'avoid' dessert wines and/or fortified wines such as ports, sherries, madeiras, marsalas, etc. I also might be incorrect, but I think it is at least possible you do not have enough wine knowledge to know the difference between a table wine or dessert wine as examples. Case in point, you stated you liked all red wines. Well, just because something isn't your typical "table wine" by name or nickname, that doesn't mean you can't drink it at the dinner table. I like these fortified wines because they stand the test of time+won't spoil as quick and you can buy older bottles too(like all wines). Please don't be fooled by my name; I am not a fortifed wine junkie, and I love all wines. That being said, I also have an extreme amount I need to learn(I am not an expert). I just bought a Tokaji vintage 1993 Chateau Megyer, and that was a great purchase! I actually want to by some 2 buck chuck too...lol...as I have never tried it. I figure I'll just by one of each type they have when I can make a trip to trader joes...lol. I liked the recommendations given to you about just trying different types and getting a feel for your likes. California can have superb wines, but please try the imports too. I will list some: Tokaji from Hungary(might be a little out of your price range but 40something bucks sometime on the lower side), some ice wine known as "Heiswein" in Germany(I have heard wine novices LOVE this wine). Alaska also has an ice wine and every single state in America has state produced and bottled wine(of some form or another). Now some easier wines to find: port wines from Portugal for a True port and not over the top on price. Any wine person can show you where all of these wines I will mention are easily except maybe the 1st two examples(ice wine&tokaji). You can also buy generic port for maybe half price(only true, real port comes from Portugal). Sherry from Spain(again only true sherry is from Spain but you can buy other, cheaper ones from America as an example). Try the cream sherry and the amontillado sherry as only 2 examples. All of these wines that I will mention(the imports too) should be in your price range except maybe the 1st two mentioned:ice wine or tokaji). Madeira is from the island of Madeira and Marsala is from Sicily. I recommend you buy a bordeaux vintage maybe 2003 or 2008 as only two examples from france: the chateau bordeaux is nice. I also recommend a burgundy wine from france or america(show some tribute to edgar a. poe // little joke and jokes over the internet can be difficult!). Buy a chianti: you know those bottles that hang at pizza places with the straw rapped around(notice I am focusing on red wines mostly and many will last longer in your cellar or bedroom closet too). I believe port is the oldest wine Officially recognized, but chianti is actually the oldest from 1716 unofficially(please don't fully trust my history). Tokaji was 1730, but port was after these two and is sometimes listed officially as the oldest due to when lawfully recognized. Chianti from Italy should be easy to find at a good price. They mass produce the stuff. Lastly, go to the liquor store and buy some Grappa(imported from Italy//its white so this is for your wife or to showoff to her and/or your friends). It is stronger than wine so technically liquor. It is made up of the pomace and all the leftover s&%* after the wine is produced: stems, skins, seeds, etc. One story states the wine producers scrape the wine barrels: sounds like fun huh? LOL. Anyways, happy travels and I hope to keep learning myself. PS- I forgot the Shiraz(pronounced and spelled differently in America) which is good for spicey dinners of any type. Get the australian import as it is inexpensive in some brands and where the wine is from(you can buy it in other countires too). Don't forget a good Cava also(what Spain calls their champagnes and/or I should say their sparkling white wines). PPS- hard cider sold in wine bottles @ 14 proof(7% and sometimes more depending on the heat in summer are nice too): go to www.albemarleciderworks.com - they remake what jefferson drank in early 1800's. PPPSS!! - buy some saki and also some imported plum wine from japan...really good stuff and can be bought at a krogers grocery store!!
Some recommendations from down under.
Australia produces a lot of very good wine but am not sure how much is available in the USA. Shiraz is their best red and is produced all over the country although South Australia is recognised as the best producer (Barossa, McLaren Vale and others). Cab Sav from there can be good too (Coonawarra). I can also recommend wines from the Mornington Peninsula (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay), West Australia (Chardonnay, Cab Sav and Shiraz), Yarra Valley (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay) and Tasmania (Pinot Noir). My personal favourite is Heathcote Shiraz (from Victoria) which is where Wild Duck Creek Estate is produced.
If possible, try to get your hands on some New Zealand wines too. Central Otago Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris would come top of my list, swiftly followed by Hawke's Bay Bordeaux Blends (particularly from Gimblett Gravels), Pinot Noir from Marlborough and Martinborough. NZ Sauvignon Blanc has been a huge success over the last 10 years but is now suffering from overproduction. Good quality Sav Blanc from Marlborough or Central Otago is still worth trying though.