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How to start drinking wine

I'm a complete wine noob, but I love food and love cooking new and exciting this. I want to take my love for food and cooking to the next level by learning how to pair wine with certain types of foods.

Does anyone have a wine guide they could recommend that would help me get into it more?

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  1. Nothing will beat the experience of tasting it yourself. That said, I'd look at Andrea Immer Robinson's books -- "Great Wine Made Simple: Straight Talk from a Master Sommelier" and "Great Tastes Made Simple" (which is about wine-and-food pairings).

    Also, depending upon where you live, there may be wineries with tasting rooms nearby, wine retailers who offer in-store tastings, and community college or university extension wine tasting classes . . . .

    7 Replies
    1. re: zin1953

      I love the community college classes for beginners because they introduce the basic principles of food and wine pairing (about 4), and the class provides lots of wine and food combos so that you can taste and learn what works and *why*.

      Lots of articles online about this, as well as books, but printed materials are very limited because you have to taste to discover synergy. What to Drink with What to Eat by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg is one of my favorite books on this, but it's only to learn the basic principles and to give ideas for things to try with various dishes.

      1. re: zin1953

        Thanks for the suggestions. I'm going to check them out.

        I live in New York and there are always wine tastings, but like anything else in the city they can get rather expensive, so I was hoping to have a bit of a background and knowledge base first before spending my time and money.

        Thanks against for the suggestions.

        Btw, know of any moderately priced online wine clubs that deliver decent products at decent prices?

        1. re: pkhemmerich

          >>> Btw, know of any moderately priced online wine clubs that deliver decent products at decent prices? <<<

          My advice? DON'T!!!!!

          I understand that you're just starting, but I think -- especially for people in your situation -- this is the WORST possible thing you can do.

          Now, in all fairness, let me quickly say that many people subscribe to these sorts of wine clubs and are very happy. But I spent 35+ years in the wine trade, and clubs such as the ones you are referring to (i.e.: non-winery based clubs that send you an assortment of wines at select intervals) strike me as "wine for people who don't want to learn" OR like instant pudding/soup, rather than making it for yourself.

          /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

          Suggestion No. 1:

          If, by saying you live in New York, you mean that you live in New York City, then you have open to you some of the top retailers in the US. Go, for example, to Chambers St. Wines -- or any other "serious" wine retailer -- and TALK to them. Introduce yourself, and

          -- tell the sales person that you want to learn more about wine:
          -- tell him/her what you've had so far that you've liked AND didn't like; and,
          -- tell him/her how much you are comfortable spending on a per bottle basis.

          Listen to their descriptions and recommendations. Pick out, say, 3-4 bottles to try. THEN, go back to the same store, talk with the same person, and tell that person what you thought of the wines -- whether or not you liked them. Remember one key thing: the more they get to know YOUR taste, the more accurate and "on target" their recommendations will be.

          /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

          Suggestion No. 2:

          Go back to high school. Get yourself a 3-ring binder and some notebook paper.

          Every time you open/try a bottle of wine, write down the key information from the label (most labels, these days, are hard to remove, but if you can soak it off and tape it to the page so much the better). So, for instance, in the upper left-hand corner, write down:

          Chateau Cache Phloe
          Cabernet Sauvignon
          Napa Valley
          2015

          In the upper right-hand corner, write down when and where you bought the wine, and how much you paid for it.

          On the rest of the page, write down the date you drank it, and what you thought about the wine -- whether or not you liked it! (It doesn't matter what words you use; this is only for you.) The most important think you can ever say about a wine is "Yum" or "Yuck," but try to be more specific than that. Try to describe what you liked (and didn't like) about the wine.

          Then, you can take it with you when you buy wine . . . you may discover over time that (for example) you tend to prefer wines from Sonoma County over Napa, or the red wines of the Languedoc over the red wines of the Loire. You may figure out that you like the wines from Chateau Cache Phloe more than the wines from Domaine Jean Deaux. And so on and so on.

          /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

          And THAT is how you wake up one day and realize you know a lot more than you thought you did . . .

          1. re: zin1953

            Agree with this. I found concentrating on a region and varietal at a time helpful. Asking an employee at a good wine store for example can you find me 3 reds for under $30 from one region of France. Then writing basic sensations like "sour" "bitter" :"fruity" and then reporting back to the clerk what worked.

            You can use cellartracker to keep track of your tasting notes if you want to be super organized and collect data on it.

            If you want to have a more accelerated appreciation then community college courses, or finding tastings in wine stores or wine bars are the best way (for example some wine shops will have 5 German Rieslings to taste for $20 on a saturday afternoon).

            I would try to stick to wine stores over wine bars if possible. Some wine bars just buy obscure wine they found on a steep discount and then mark up absurdly. You can find decent wine this way - but it also can be a real disappointment.

            1. re: zin1953

              I'm not writing a long post because Jason (zin1953) did the job for me. ;) I agree with everything he said.

              I would also recommend getting 2 books for your own library (not library books!): The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil and What to Drink with What You Eat by Karen Page & Andrew Dornenburg. You will use these books for reference for the rest of your life. They are so informative and interesting.

              <And THAT is how you wake up one day and realize you know a lot more than you thought you did . . .>

              1. re: zin1953

                Super +1! Finding a good wine merchant is key. See how much her/his advice corresponds with your taste. Meanwhile, a subscription to The Wine Spectator is useful. Yes, they spend gallons of ink on stuff that you and I can't afford. But they also cover "Wines under $20/$25" frequently. Try one or two, then read the description. See how much you agree. Again, _your_ taste is the decider. Happy tasting/guzzling! P.S. At this point, I wouldn't worry too much about pairings---just about any reasonable match with a wine you like will do just fine. I would rather drink a favorite wine with a favorite dish, than any 'expert' match that I have heard of.

            2. re: zin1953

              OK, should have read the entire thread, before commenting. Should have known that you would have already mentioned "Great Wines Made Simple." You beat me to the punch.

              Hunt

            3. PK: First of all I applaud you approaching this from the POV of wine and food pairings. I focused on wine in isolation for almost 10 years. It wasn't until I met an older and much more knowledgeable wine collector who introduced my wife and I to what an impact properly paired wine can have on a meal. And I remember the meal to this day: it was a Thai spread and he brought a nice bottle of Alsatian gewurztraminer... just an ethereal combination, and in such contrast to the ill-fitting varietals we brought.... I've never really looked at wine in isolation since.

              Anyway after that I had the same question you have: where can I get some good info, what books can I read on pairings? I parked at the local B&N and Borders for weeks pouring through book after book writing down the reccos for this wine with that cuisine...

              And what I found was there is both agreement but also quite alot of distribution around the mean. I wouldn't call those wine books wasted time by any means but you absolutely have to read several if not a dozen or more b/c while you'll get good reccos on one cuisine they often will be quite off on another. Now, my info is dated b/c this was in the mid-90's so there may be some really great books out now but back then the info was hit or miss.

              What always works is to take it one cuisine at a time, and one dish at a time.... Do some google searches, post a pairing request on here, then just get the recommended wines and start tasting them with each dish.

              The best friends a budding food & wine taster can have are BYOB friendly restaurants. Call around, find those places that have liberal corkage charges. Get a group of friends together, buy 4 or 5 different wines, do the BYOB and compare your tasting notes. Lastly there's a website called meetup.com that has local food and wine clubs where groups get together and do tastings. There might be somethign like that on Chow in the cities category... that's a really economical way to try alot of pairings. If there's no wine tasting meetup near you then you might think of starting one. Hope this helps.

              78 Replies
              1. re: TombstoneShadow

                I'll have to get some people together for a BYOB dining party. That sounds like a really good idea.

                1. re: pkhemmerich

                  PK: Another approach you can take is to contact a sommelier in your area... if you live in or near any large city there's likely to be one or more near you. Here's a list sorted by state:

                  http://www.mastersommeliers.org/Pages... Just contact them and express your interest in learning more about food and wine pairings. Especially if you have a group of friends who are also interested, they can help you arrange some really great tasting events.

                  Also you can do a search of restaurants in your area that have a Wine Spectator award... If they don't have a sommelier there's probably still someone there with wine & food pairing knowledge... Put in a city b/c the zip code function doesn't work well:

                  http://www.winespectator.com/restaura...

                  Note in the listings there is a "Corkage" field... oftentimes these aren't up to date. Always confirm the corkage fee over the phone and get the name of the person who took your reservation.

                  1. re: TombstoneShadow

                    "do a search of restaurants in your area that have a Wine Spectator award"

                    And why would that be relevant, if I may ask?

                    1. re: RicRios

                      My thoughts exactly. Might as well use Yelp!

                      1. re: RicRios

                        Yes. Well. I wasn't going to go there myself, but since you did -- well, WTF?!?!?! I can't see any relevance whatsoever, but -- heck, what do I know?

                        1. re: zin1953

                          RE: "wtf" and "what do I know". Restaurants that have been recognized for excellence in their wine lists are just ONE MORE RESOURCE for someone trying to make sense out of food and wine pairings.

                          For the same reason I suggested the OP contact any sommelliers that might be in his area; or to make contact with any local food and wine tasting groups (like meetup), or start his own.

                          Here's another: contact the leading wine shops in your area, they often conduct tasting events or might arrange one for a group...

                          Bear: Thumbing through the yelp or tripadvisor reports on venues is fine too, I've just never used them to find a wine-specific venue, have you used them and found them to be useful? If so that sounds like, again, yet another resource the OP can use to network in his area.

                          1. re: TombstoneShadow

                            I often find myself thinking that when reading some people's posts. On the other hand, I am confident that some people think that very thing when they read some of mine. I find it of little serious or lasting consequence. My parents would, no doubt, be horrified by my use of the "f-word," while my kids have a difficult time completely an entire paragraph without using it at least once or twice.

                            But, alas, I digress.

                            The OP wanted (and presumably still wants) to know "How to start drinking wine." Now, the obvious answer is "pop cork" (or "twist and remove top"), "pour into glass" (let's not be uncouth), "and drink." But this is hardly useful information, nor is it relevant for the *intent* of the OP's inquiry. Thus, the posts of a more informative nature, and of concrete nature. To wit, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8872... and, with even more specific suggestions, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8872... -- this would seem to be supported (IMHO) by http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8872... and http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8872... among others.

                            1. The PROBLEM with seeking out a restaurant with "do(ing) a search of restaurants in your area that have a Wine Spectator award" is that such awards are meaningless, and often worse than meaningless, in that there are any number of restaurants which have seriously crappy wine lists with such awards -- lists that fail to meet the "Speculator"'s stated criteria on so many levels and STILL end up with such awards. Thus -- IMHO -- the suggestion to seek out such a restaurant can have a negative effect on the OP's stated goal.

                            2. Someone with an MS will in all likelihood charge for providing advice, indeed charge for their time, in amounts that something like a university wine appreciation class never could -- not to mention which that much of the information is available at no charge from a knowledgable retailer(s).

                            I could go on, but I suspect there'd be little point.

                            1. re: zin1953

                              Zin... as I read the OP, it clearly states "learning how to PAIR WINE with certain types of foods...", not just popping corks and tasting the wine by itself.

                              Restaurants are venues that serve food. Restaurants with extensive wine lists give the diner an opportunity to pair their food with their wine....

                              The JOB of a sommellier is to pair food and wine.

                              You seem to be saying that restaurants that have received awards and accolades for their wine lists in reality have "crappy wine lists" and that sommelliers are not good resources for learning about how to pair food and wine because you might have to pay them (imagine that).

                              I'm fine with taking the opposite view. An award or a sommellier on staff is by no means a guarantee that a venue has a great list, but from my experience, much more often than not they do. Also, some restaurants will offer special discount nights on wine, or special rates on corkage on given nights... not to mention special pairing dinners from time to time... how are you going to know unless you contact them?

                              It's also interesting that you quote a sommellier in your initial post and then you find the idea of contacting one, or a venue that employs one to be inadvisable. Lastly to the specific subject of WINE PAIRINGS, from my experience knowledgeable restaurant staff on average are going to be alot better at that than wine shop personnel although I'd still contact well-stocked shops to see how they might help my search.

                              And I'm fine with your idea of a university wine course too, if available, not every city has one... I'm just not going to close any avenues.

                              1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                I'm sorry, when did I say that *every* restaurant with an award has a crappy list? Could you point that out to me? The expression "any number" means "many," "multiple," several," "a lot," but in no way does it mean "all," "100 percent," etc., etc. But this isn't an English class, and we need not get side-tracked into the OED, despite its usefulness upon occasion.

                                I am a firm believer in learning to walk before flying; I am a firm believer in receiving personalized attention, personalized information, personalized assistance.

                                I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had a career in the wine trade that stretched across five decades. I know a good number of retailers and sommeliers, winemakers and importers, and any number of individuals who hold Masters of Wine and/or Master Sommeliers diplomas, as well as WSET degrees. Were I starting from scratch, or with very little knowledge, and were choosing a source for information and knowledge -- between the knowledgable retail store employee and the knowledgable restaurant's sommelier, I'd choose the retailer every time.

                                YMM -- and apparently does - V. That's fine; there's more than one way to skin the proverbial cat. But, as I said above, many wine list awards are BS signifying nothing, and many sommeliers will charge an individual for information and advice that one can get for free from a knowledgable retailer.

                                BTW, the #1 question a retailer gets -- year in, year out -- is "I'm having ____________ with dinner tonight; what wine should I serve?" I've been answering that question since 1969.

                                Cheers,
                                Jason

                                1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                  When a restaurant has:

                                  A good wine service
                                  A good wine cellar
                                  A good sommelier
                                  Cares about food and wine

                                  Then, I agree completely. However, finding such a restaurant can be dicey, and also expensive.

                                  We LOVE to do Chef's Tastings, along with the Sommelier's Pairings, and seek those out often. When done correctly, they are wonderful, and can be great learning experiences, for both the neophyte, or for the experienced food/wine paring "expert." A good sommelier knows (or should know) the chef and the kitchen. They should also know their wines, and the ones in the cellar, plus have a good idea of what will pair with what.

                                  OTOH, we have had too many such pairings, where either the chef made major changes, or the sommelier "phoned it in." One such debacle was at Chef John Besh's Restaurant August, in New Orleans. The meal was great, but the wines? Well, the pairings were not even close. "Sometimes, the magic works, but sometimes, it doesn't." [Chief Dan George]

                                  Personally, I find that establishing a relationship with a good wine shop, and then discussing one of MY meals, regarding wine selections, to be a better course of action, than going to a restaurant, even with a glowing rating from WS, and trying to pair there, to be a better option.

                                  First, one is at home, with their dishes, and can then taste from a mixed-case of wines. Something that most restaurants cannot offer, unless they have a wonderful B-T-G offering.

                                  Food and wine pairings is a bit of art, a bit of science, some luck, and then a great database of flavor profiles, mouth-feels, and textures.

                                  There are myriad books on the subject, but in the end, it is about one's personal palate.

                                  I rely on a well-trained sommelier to "take me on a journey." I hope to experience pairings that I would never have thought of, from regions, with which I was unfamiliar, or producers, that I do not know. I do not mind daring, and only ask that the synergy between wine and food are there. When that all comes together, I am a happy camper.

                                  Hunt

                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    Love that report on the John Besh fail... pairings aren't cavalier, if the chef or sommellier aren't focused, and the kitchen is putting out food that's not properly brought to the wine... fails happen.

                                    That's why the budding wine aficionado needs benchmarks early in their pursuit... to experience some home run pairings so they can tell when a match is mediocre despite the wine-babble that might accompany it's presentation.

                                    1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                      Situations, similar to what we experienced, are one reason that I do not suggest food and wine pairings (at the start of a wine-appreciation career), to just anyone.

                                      As you say, "fails happen."

                                      That one, is probably the worst in my recent memory, but there have been "course/pairing failures" too.

                                      I like to recommend a grounded, but basic exploration of wines early on. Yes, food and wine DO matter, but I see that as maybe lesson # 2, or # 3. Food & wine pairings can be very involved, and often much more "art," than "science." I'd rather see folk get a solid foundation, and then "work up."

                                      Two of the things that I like about Adrea Immer's and Kevin Zraly's books, is that they do not go into a lot "wine speak," and just cover many bases well. From there, a newcomer to wine, can chart different paths, but with that foundation.

                                      Just MHO,

                                      Hunt

                                    2. re: Bill Hunt

                                      Hello, Bill,

                                      I'm sorry to hear that about John Besh's restaurant August. I know Besh; I've traveled with him, and have found him quite keen on food and wine. The restaurant August specializes in Burgundy, and I feel the restaurant must've had an off-night, or the sommelier may not have been on duty or otherwise had an off-night. I wonder how recently you dined there; I read this review and thought perhaps August has dialed in its pairings a bit more. http://www.winemag.com/Wine-Enthusias...

                                      In any case, Besh is an extremely bright man, one who sincerely wants to make things right, and who has the talent and hiring acumen to draw good sommeliers. I would have thought, with your love of Burgundy and of NOLA, that August would be a great restaurant choice for you. Perhaps the restaurant wine pairings have improved since you were there. Sorry to hear you were disappointed.

                                      ML

                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                        Thread Drift:

                                        To agree with Bill, the food at August is fine; it's the wine program -- or at least the sommelier -- that needs work.

                                        The last time I was there, I found the sommelier to be rather obsequious -- wanting to be helpful despite the fact that a) I didn't want/need it, and b) I found his suggestions "off." It wasn't as bad as "I don't like Cabernet" -- "Oh, well you should order a Bordeaux!" but it's wasn't exactly good, either.

                                        1. re: zin1953

                                          I get it. Too bad because Besh wants his places to be better than that. Yet another reason -- besides the expense -- to not rely upon a restaurant to learn food and wine pairing, as the degree of expertise varies so widely. And when the pairings can let you down in a place where you'd expect them to be exemplary.

                                          1. re: maria lorraine

                                            Exactly!

                                            It's one thing to develop a relationship with a wine merchant -- not a "wine megastore," but a *true* wine merchant -- with a knowledgable staff who a) will want to KEEP you as a customer, and b) will take the time to learn your likes and dislikes, makes suggestions, etc., etc.

                                            It's quite another to walk into a restaurant like Gary Danko, August, or Le Bernadin (presumably for the first time; it's another matter if you're a "regular" and dine there every couple of weeks) and ask/expect the sommelier to make wine pairings with each course that will completely and totally "blow you away."

                                            1. re: zin1953

                                              If the sommelier can't do that they should find another line of work.

                                              It's not unreasonable to expect the chef to prepare dishes that blow you away, and equally not unreasonable to expect the sommelier to pair them with wines that take the whole dinner to the next level.

                                              When they don't do that, it's a fail.

                                              1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                No argument here . . . in terms of it being "a fail" at August, but I'd be very surprised if a sommelier will select the very finest food-and-wine pairing possible on my first visit to a restaurant. Indeed, it's all but impossible -- he (or she) will, far more often than not, be recommending wines that he (or she) likes with the courses I've chosen. He (or she) has no clue about my likes and dislikes, and -- at best -- *might* ask about budget, *might* ask if I prefer domestic or imported, red or white, but very little else. Unless there are multiple sommeliers, he (or she) won't have the time for a 10-15 minute conversation -- it's generally two minutes and *poof!*

                                                It's a completely different picture if I am a "regular" at the restaurant, and the sommelier knows me, knows my preferences. At some restaurants, they do; at others, they don't. The suggestions I received where I am a "regular" patron are ALWAYS far more "accurate" than at the restaurants where I am a first-time customer . . .

                                                1. re: zin1953

                                                  Thanks, Jason. But this one is for Bill Hunt:
                                                  Bill, please re-read Jason's post above, then scroll down about 10 inches to my obnoxious post Jan 29, 2013 01:35 PM, then to your reply. See what I mean?

                                                  1. re: RicRios

                                                    That's a good example of why after posts get indented to the maximum four levels I prefer to reply to the top one.

                                                    1. re: RicRios

                                                      Ric,

                                                      Because of the layout of CH, not sure if this is the one, to which you are referring:

                                                      <<It just occurred to me that "How to start drinking wine" and "How to start having sex" are two questions that could have a lot of common answers. But, I guess, that prospective thread most probably lies way beyond the scope of this board,>>

                                                      Is that it?

                                                      Hunt

                                                    2. re: zin1953

                                                      Jason,

                                                      Great points.

                                                      Going back to the referenced Restaurant August Tasting & Pairing, I felt that the sommelier could NEVER have tasted the wines with the dishes. They were just OFF!

                                                      We like to keep our wines from previous courses (a reason that many restaurants will seat my wife and me at a large 4-top, or even an 8-top), and then taste each wine with each dish. In the case of August, on that evening, it was as though the sommelier was off by two courses, for the entire dinner. Also, we discussed even that offset pairing, and each came up with a half-dozen "better" wines, close to the price-point.

                                                      Here, I am not really talking about true "personal preferences," but wines that do a good job of pairing with the food courses.

                                                      As Chief Dan George said, "Sometimes the magic works, but sometimes it doesn't." I really like it (and expect it), when "the magic works."

                                                      Hunt

                                                    3. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                      I think that your statement would be correct for someone, like me. However, if the patron is totally new to wine, then I am a bit doubtful.

                                                      I tend to think of much of life, in terms of ME. When one is dealing with someone, who is brand new to ____, I feel that things can change.

                                                      We did a wonder Chef's Tasting and Sommelier's Pairing at Restaurant Daniel, a few years back. We loved it, and WERE "blown away." However, I feel that a neophyte, experiencing the same exact meal and wines, might have felt "ripped off," and then have posted here, asking "WTF?"

                                                      I also agree that a great pairing SHOULD take the whole meal to another level - that is what I pay my big $'s for, and why I rely on a good sommelier, so very often. However, I have been collecting fine, and great wines, for more than half of my life.

                                                      To start at that level, however comfortable you and I are with it, for a neophyte, I worry that they will miss most of the "lesson," and turn away.

                                                      Just my observations,

                                                      Hunt

                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                        "I feel that a neophyte, experiencing the same exact meal and wines, might have felt "ripped off," and then have posted here, asking "WTF?""

                                                        It's hard to link exactly which post you're referring to, but I think it has to do with expecting great food and wine pairings at a given venue...

                                                        For the neophyte I absolutely think they should take budget into consideration, and that tremendous pairings are available almost at every pricepoint, and certainly if they do their homework and find BYOB / low corkage venues.

                                                        For example, somewhere on these dozens of threads I posted a specific itinerary in New York, that would cost less than $35 per person and involve multi-courses of a delicious cuisine and the opportunity to taste at least 4 different wines (1 gewurz and 1 each of kab - spat -aus in riesling)... all very well matched.

                                                        If a neophyte feels ripped off at $35 there just isn't much hope they can make progress in wine, it doesn't have to be an expensive hobby but it's not free as we all know...

                                                        1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                          >>> For the neophyte I absolutely think they should take budget into consideration, and that tremendous pairings are available almost at every pricepoint, and certainly if they do their homework and find BYOB / low corkage venues. <<<

                                                          I understand you are wedded to the idea of having the self-confessed "wine noob," but this is EXACTLY why (IMHO) this idea doesn't work: budgetary concerns eliminates a great number of wines when purchased at a restaurant, far more than would be defined as "over-budget" compared to bottles purchased in a retail environment. Additionally, the budget now has to contend with the cost of a meal out, thus limiting to an even greater extent the available selection of wines.

                                                          >>> If a neophyte feels ripped off at $35 there just isn't much hope they can make progress in wine, it doesn't have to be an expensive hobby but it's not free as we all know... <<<

                                                          Yes, wine is not free. But there are LITERALLY hundreds, if not thousands, of selections in the $20-and-under range; obviously the number of choices increase exponentially if one raises the price ceiling to $25 or $30.

                                                          1. re: zin1953

                                                            "budgetary concerns eliminates a great number of wines when purchased at a restaurant, far more than would be defined as "over-budget" compared to bottles purchased in a retail environment."

                                                            There are easy work-arounds to this:

                                                            1) Buy the wines retail and take them to the BYOB or low-corkage destination to pair with the food...

                                                            2) Buy the wines by the glass instead of bottle at the restaurant.

                                                            3) Frequent restaurants that are within your budget, whatever that may be.

                                                            Ultimately you've got to work food into the picture somehow, at least for the OP who's really looking for pairings rather than wine by itself.

                                                            1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                              >>> There are easy work-arounds to this: <<<
                                                              Maybe for you. See below.

                                                              >>> 1) Buy the wines retail and take them to the BYOB or low-corkage destination to pair with the food... <<<
                                                              This presumes, does it not, that the purchaser already knows: a) the restaurant they are going to, b) that said restaurant permits corkage [some places do not, or it is forbidden by law], and c) what food they will order.

                                                              I don't know about you, but I often don't know those things that far in advance. Indeed, IF -- and it's a big "if," as I do not always BYOB -- I am going to bring wines to a restaurant and it is NOT a "pre-planned event" of some sort, I often bring multiple bottles, deciding only *after* ordering the food which of the wines I brought will be opened . . . .

                                                              >>> 2) Buy the wines by the glass instead of bottle at the restaurant. <<<
                                                              And thus, a) being severely limited -- in most restaurants -- to one's options, and b) often run the risk of being served old or oxidized wines, but not knowing enough yet about wine to realize it's NOT "supposed to taste that way."

                                                              >>> 3) Frequent restaurants that are within your budget, whatever that may be. <<<
                                                              And yet, the wine list at McDonald's is so restrictive! ;^) OK, serious answer (although they actually *do* serve wine at the McDonald's in Paris): while this is certainly the most sound option, IMHO, it does not eliminate the fact that your money will go much farther in an off-sale (retail) environment than in an on-sale (restaurant) one.

                                                              >>> Ultimately you've got to work food into the picture somehow, at least for the OP who's really looking for pairings rather than wine by itself. <<<
                                                              So, let me ask you: what is wrong with buying wines at retail and actually COOKING a meal? or two or three?

                                                              1. re: zin1953

                                                                ">>> 1) Buy the wines retail and take them to the BYOB or low-corkage destination to pair with the food... <<<
                                                                This presumes, does it not, that the purchaser already knows: the restaurant they are going to and the BYOB corkage policy,"

                                                                That's best, have the restaurant identified, know their cuisine fairly well, then go get your retail bottles.

                                                                >>> 2) Buy the wines by the glass instead of bottle at the restaurant. <<< And thus, a) being severely limited -- in most restaurants -- to one's options,

                                                                Well we're talking about a class of restaurants that have good to excellent wine lists. They won't be so limited. If they are too limited then that's not the right venue for the by-the-glass option.

                                                                ">>> 3) Frequent restaurants that are within your budget, whatever that may be. <<< it does not eliminate the fact that your money will go much farther in an off-sale (retail) environment than in an on-sale (restaurant) one."

                                                                But again, we're trying to pair the food with the wine, at least the OP is

                                                                "So, let me ask you: what is wrong with buying wines at retail and actually COOKING a meal? or two or three?"

                                                                Nothing if you're a good cook or have a good one in your party... but eventually noobs are going to have to find their way around the restaurant wine scene in their cities in order to really experiement and learn. Unlikely there's going to be a good cook of every target cuisine in your group of drinking pals.

                                                                1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                                  These restaurant ideas are not relevant to the OP's request. The OP wants to cook, and pair wines with her COOKING. She does not want to dine in a restaurant:

                                                                  "I love food and love cooking new and exciting [things]. I want to take my love for food and cooking to the next level by learning how to pair wine with certain types of foods."

                                                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                    When I read the entire OP; note the methodology the OP wants to try: "by learning how to pair wine with certain type of foods".

                                                                    Visiting restaurants that "pair wine with certain type of foods" is obviously relevant to his goal.

                                                                    ...And, believe it or not, cooks eat at restaurants also.

                                                                    1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                                      Much too attached to the idea of restaurants rather than actually asking what the OP requested, though.

                                                                  2. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                                    <<Unlikely there's going to be a good cook of every target cuisine in your group of drinking pals.>>

                                                                    The original poster is a GOOD COOK, and "loves COOKING new and exciting [things]," which means any cuisine she feels interested in trying. She's not asking how to pair wine to restaurant dishes. She wants to pair wine with what she cooks.

                                                                    <<eventually noobs are going to have to find their way around the restaurant wine scene in their cities in order to really experiement and learn>>

                                                                    This is a poor way to learn, and a very expensive way.

                                                                    1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                      $37 is expensive p.p. to try 4 varietals appropriately paired with great matching food?

                                                                      The OP is in New York, I gave precise instructions how to achieve that... or $30 pp having the food brought in.

                                                                  3. re: zin1953

                                                                    <<So, let me ask you: what is wrong with buying wines at retail and actually COOKING a meal? or two or three?>>

                                                                    Thank you for paying attention to the OP's request for how to pair to dishes she cooks.

                                                                    Just as one pairs wine to the food, cooking at home allows one to adjust the pair backwards from the wine, often as a last-minute adjustment and adding a little more of something to create a better pairing.

                                                                    1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                      Well I pay attention to the entirety of the request verbatim, not just one portion of it. Cooking aficionados actually patronize restaurants.

                                                                      My interpretation of your post is that visiting restaurants would be irrelevant to the task of "learning how to pair wine with food" or at best VERY expensive... and I'm 100% fine taking the opposite view that it's both relevant and can be structured to meet all but the most restricted budgets.

                                                                      It's a myth that all great restaurant food and wine experiences must necessarily be expensive. I provided the OP with a precise wine list and itinerary to achieve basic understanding of the pairing of 4 great wines with matching food at a very interesting restaurant in New York for $37 pp. eating at the restaurant, or $30 picking it up to go, $33 with a cheese course.

                                                                      If, as you propose, the OP should be restricted to only cooking at home that eliminates not only the option to visit restaurants that fit the budget, but also wine tasting events of all sorts, joining a food and wine meetup group, taking a university class, and any of the other options advised here...

                                                                      Why limit yourself to only meals prepped at home if your goal is to "learn how to pair wine with food"?

                                                                      1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                                        marial, granted there's a subthread stretched beyond the OP but I'm finding the read interesting and I didn't read any complaints from the original CH of this OP.

                                                                        What I'm reading is the exchange btwn Bill, Tomb & zin; great passion from individual experiences.

                                                                        Maybe it's all the wine drinking!! (jk).

                                                                        1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                                          I do find it rather astounding the degree to which you are wedded to the idea of doing this in the most expensive way possible.

                                                                          Which is better, to take (for example) Parker's recommendations as gospel? or to taste for yourself and let your OWN palate decide? OK, now substitute the restaurant's sommelier (if their is one) or waitstaff for Parker -- which is better?

                                                                          The OP loves to cook and yet your solution has been to go out to a restaurant. What's wrong with taking that original Alsatian Gewurztraminer, and three German Rieslings (let's presume for a moment that I think that's a fabulous first choice) and then COOKING AT HOME . . . much cheaper, and you can decide for yourself what's best! You can also afford to do this sort of meal+wine pairings far more frequently.

                                                                          I am not saying one should never dine out. Indeed, I've not said that. But purchasing wine in a retail store and cooking one's own recipes a) is more affordable, b) offers a wider array of options, c) gives to OP -- and presumably friends -- to experiment more frequently, thus learning more rapidly and gaining greater experience in a shorter amount of time.

                                                                          1. re: zin1953

                                                                            <<I do find it rather astounding the degree to which you are wedded to the idea of doing this in the most expensive way possible.>>

                                                                            You see, that's it. That's a problem.

                                                                            1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                              I keep returning to this myth that doing a BYOB/ low corkage outing with your friends within your budget is "the most expensive way possible" to learn about wine.

                                                                              The most expensive is to do an un-focused random pairing process where you take any food (cooked at home or otherwise) and pair it with any wine (whether you buy it yourself or pick it randomly off the wine list).

                                                                              THAT is the most expensive approach in the long run b/c you end up buying many more bottles of wine (at how much per bottle???), not having any direction as to how to pick them.... not to mention the time spent on this.... not to mention the real risk that you end up thinking "well any food with any wine"... how many times have I heard that expressed on threads....

                                                                              ....and the reason why, b/c that person didn't start out with some really focused successful pairings... they did a hit-or-miss approach, had no benchmarks of what good pairings are,... ended up spending ALOT more money and time...

                                                                              1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                                                <<The most expensive is to do an un-focused random pairing process where you take any food (cooked at home or otherwise) and pair it with any wine (whether you buy it yourself or pick it randomly off the wine list).>>

                                                                                No one has ever said to do this.

                                                                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                  Suggested or not, that, at least IMO is the most expensive approach and the least likely to bring success...

                                                                                  I'll give you an even more expensive approach: focus on "reserve bottlings" and "limited releases"... i.e. super prestige wines... buy those bottles (often without regard to vintage), then go out (or eat in), pairing them randomly with whatever you order off the menu. I see that alot... "well I'm really into vega-sicilia at the moment"... and they're pairing it with a creamy seafood pasta....

                                                                                  Or... I really love Silver Oak Cabernet, as they're pairing it with a tangine...

                                                                                  I see that among noobs alot.

                                                                                  1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                                                    >>> Suggested or not, that, at least IMO is the most expensive approach and the least likely to bring success... <<<

                                                                                    Oh. So let's talk about the best wine to drink out of a paper bag. That's ALSO completely off-the-topic.

                                                                                    >>> I'll give you an even more expensive approach: focus on "reserve bottlings" and "limited releases"... i.e. super prestige wines. <<<

                                                                                    Oh, yeah. Self-described "noobs" ONLY focus on these wines, and NEVER on affordable bottles.

                                                                                    OK, let me ask you a question . . . (though I think I may already know the answer).

                                                                                    >> I really love Silver Oak Cabernet, as they're pairing it with a tangine (sic) ... <<<

                                                                                    Let's presume this is true, that the self-described "noob" a) REALLY loves Silver Oak Cabernet, and b) REALLY loves Silver Oak Cabernet with a tagine. Could you explain to me what's wrong with that?

                                                                                    YOU may not like it. But guess what? The "noob" doesn't have your taste buds in their mouth; he/she has THEIR taste buds inside their mouths. And just as there are some people who -- for example -- love their steak cooked "Well Done" and cannot understand how people could eat it "Rare," there are ALSO people who order their steak "Blue" and cannot fathom how people can bear to eat their beef "Medium," let alone "Well Done."

                                                                                    Who is correct?

                                                                                    IS there a "correct"?

                                                                                    The point is: so what if someone likes Silver Oak with a tagine? If they truly enjoy it, more power to 'em! It's a damned sight better, IMHO, than feeling that they MUST enjoy the match of Entrée X with Wine Y because the sommelier suggested it when they really don't, and they end up doubting their own palate . . . .

                                                                                    Personally, I find it easier to make comments on suggestions that HAVE been made, rather than on ones that haven't. YMMV.

                                                                                2. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                                                  >>> I keep returning to this myth that doing a BYOB/ low corkage outing with your friends within your budget is "the most expensive way possible" to learn about wine. <<<

                                                                                  Not a myth.

                                                                                  >>> The most expensive is to do an un-focused random pairing process where you take any food (cooked at home or otherwise) and pair it with any wine (whether you buy it yourself or pick it randomly off the wine list). <<<

                                                                                  When has ANYONE suggested "an un-focused random pairing process"? You are the one who says you don't care is a store is staffed with robots. Everyone else has been suggesting to look at books like those from Andrea Immer Robinson, to going to a solid wine merchant with knowledgable sales people (i.e.: not a big box store staffed by robots), to talk with them about your likes and dislikes, and provide them with feedback . . .

                                                                                  I personally find that it honestly does help to stick with the topic at hand, rather than throwing in comments about things that have never been suggested.

                                                                                  1. re: zin1953

                                                                                    You know, zin, I'd love to answer your post but frankly I think the exchange would go on exactly the way it has from the start... and I've already answered at least 3 or 4 times already.

                                                                                    I've put down all the ideas I feel are necessary on this topic. You relentlessly disagree with everyone of them as far as I can tell, which I'm fine with... (and if I'm wrong about that, please tell me one thing I've posted in this thread that you do agree with)...

                                                                                    Wine noobs have plenty of ideas in this thread, I'm sure they can sort through it and find some worthwhile guidance.

                                                                                    1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                                                      >>> The fact is, the random approach is the most expensive approach.... <<<

                                                                                      Again, whoever suggested "random"?

                                                                                      >>> Just a fact... whether someone has suggested it or not is irrelevant. <<<

                                                                                      Well, it's irrelevant to the discussion who is sitting in the Governor's Mansion, the White House and the Elysée Palace to this discussion. But lobbing in wine-related comments that are off-topic is a) hardly productive to the discussion as a whole, b) muddies the "waters," so to speak, and c) is obfuscation at (close to) its best.

                                                                                      >>> Spending $$$ on well-paired wines at BYOB / corkages that are WITHIN YOUR BUDGET is NOT "very expensive" or "the most expensive way to learn wine" as have been suggested on this thread IMO... if you think it is, I respect your opinion, but disagree. <<<

                                                                                      And now -- I see -- you are careful to include "within your budget" at all times . . . it wasn't me that picked "Acquerello, Gary Danko, and RN 74." Then again, I see that you've now abandoned wine lists all together and are now advocating that the OP BYOB and pay corkage.

                                                                                      Like (shifting) sands through the hourglass?

                                                                        2. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                                          Your suggestions might work, if only one knew about wines, in the first place.

                                                                          If they do not, then what good will BYOW, or low-corkage fees offer them? They do not yet know.

                                                                          Sorry, but in the vein of the OP, I just do not see this as a viable alternative to learning about wines.

                                                                          Hunt

                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                            To paraphrase my former governor (and everyone's former President), Oh, there you go again -- bringing logic into it."

                                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                              All the guy has got to do is ask: "Hey I'm a noob, and there's a seafood restaurant near me that offers a $10 corkage on Mondays and Tuesdays"....

                                                                              I really like their... calamari and grilled tuna...

                                                                              My girlfriend's gonna order ________________

                                                                              What wines would you rec we bring??

                                                                              It's just about that easy...

                                                                              And, about 1 or 2 days later he's going to have 20 reccos, mostly for whites... so he will end up getting 3 or 4 white varietals based on these reccos, maybe 1 red, buy 'em and take to the BYOB.... what can be easier?

                                                                2. re: maria lorraine

                                                                  ML,

                                                                  I agree completely. Though fodder for another thread (and has been mentioned in some), Chef Besh runs a great ship (or "fleet of ships," beyond Restaurant August), and has impressed me on many levels.

                                                                  What I encountered at THAT visit to Restaurant August, however, was just not what a newcomer would truly appreciate. Were it the only such incident, then I would feel differently, but we have had others, where we just looked across the table at each other, and asked "What were they thinking?" While in the minority of our dinners (we dine out about 150x per year, and always with wines), there have been enough "mis-steps," that I have caution.

                                                                  I will never forget a New Orleans (not sure why I keep coming back to that city?) Food & Wine event, some years back. They have some "grand tastings," and some "break-out sessions," but one night of the event is a "Vintner's Dinner." Unfortunately, it is but one night, so participants can only dine and drink at ONE restaurant. We chose a favorite restaurant and winemaker, only to find that that dinner had pre-sold out. OK, we chose a favorite restaurant, and winemaker, and got that. The first thing that Joel Peterson, of Ravenswood, said, was "What am I doing here? I really only make red wines, and one Chardonnay. I should have been paired with restaurant ___, as they specialize in beef. Unfortunately, the committee chose a winemaker, who ONLY does whites. They should have been here, and I should have been there. What's up with that?" He had a great point.

                                                                  OK, so I would not likely recommend that a wine newcomer head to New Orleans, for the Wine & Food Event, though many parts CAN be great, fun and informative. Heck, wife did the break-out session with Chef Besh, where he paired heirloom tomatoes with wines - I was dissecting Napa Cabs over the decades. Her session turned out to be better, than mine was, but such is life.

                                                                  As I am not in the "trade," but see things from many angles, I have developed my personal list of how I recommend that a newcomer start. A lot of my personal experiences DO prove helpful, but usually a bit further along the path - just not at the beginning.

                                                                  Hunt

                                                                3. re: zin1953

                                                                  Well, I am not so sure that the thread is drifting, at least THAT much.

                                                                  The rec. was made, that a newcomer to wines should seek out restaurants with pairings. While I love those, when things go well, I see that as a "next step," and not something that I would give a blanket, initial rec. for. Maybe it's a "walk, before you run" thing.

                                                                  I feel that a newcomer to wine, will benefit much more from a bit of "ground work." That serves several purposes: it introduces them to many wines, and types of wines, and then gives them something to relate to - fall back upon, if you will.

                                                                  Sommeliers are GREAT - no doubt about it. I rely on many, and have "traveled" to many lands, at their hands. When the room slows down, I have enjoyed interaction with many. Though I know my way around many wine lists, around the globe, they can take me to places, that I just might never visit, on my own, and should know the kitchen, even up to "that night." They should know their wine list, and what might be "hiding" in the cellar, better than I could possibly know. I rely on them extensively, and have seldom been let down - just a very few instances. Still, I have good background in wines, and in wine & food pairings, so it is different for me (and for many others), than for someone, who is just starting down the wondrous road to wine appreciation. THAT is what I *think* this thread is about.

                                                                  To me, the best road to learn about wine is via tasting. That can be backed up, or augmented by a few good books. While I have many 3000 page tomes on various aspects of wine, they fall far short for someone, who does not yet know wine. That is exactly why Immer and Zraly are at the top of MY list. Like I have said in many, similar threads, they offer great "homework" for the reader.

                                                                  While I do enjoy the International Wine & Food Society, again, I look upon such membership as a "next step." While each chapter is different, I think that one will likely get more out of such, if they have a foundation.

                                                                  Hunt

                                                                4. re: maria lorraine

                                                                  ML,

                                                                  My negative experience was just post-K, and the sommelier was changed, shortly after I did my review - though I do not think that it had anything to do with that change. There have been two other sommeliers (if I recall the press correctly), even since then.

                                                                  We are both fans of Chef Besh's foods, and have had the pleasure to dine with him on numerous occasions. My wife has also done several cooking classes with him, and enjoyed them all.

                                                                  We were just so disappointed to have a great Chef's Tasting, with such an awful Sommelier's Pairing. For us, food and wine go hand-in-hand, and that is what I rely on a good sommelier to do - interpret the chef's meals, though the cellar. Some do a better job, than others do.

                                                                  While we have dined at Restaurant August several times, since that evening, we have always been with guests, who did not wish to do the full Chef's Tasting. We need to get back, just the two of us, and have that again. Regardless, each dining event has been great, and I have just worked their wine list - scoring big points from our guests. Just turned a couple onto Restaurant August, and the wife took copious notes on every wine, that I paired with every dish.

                                                                  Only regret, so far, is that we have not made a Chef Besh dinner at Blackberry Farm. That is still on my radar. I believe that his visit was about 2009, but could be wrong. It takes a long time for a chef to get back into the rotation, as so many wish to cook there.

                                                                  However, we missed a recent event with Chefs Folse and Tromonto (Restaurant R'evolution, New Orleans), and will likely miss the Chef Emeril Lagasse event there too - since we are doing two other culinary events on the property already. Just did Chef Michael Mina's and Chef Alan Wong's Blackberry Farm events, last year.

                                                                  We are trying to plan a "Grand Dames Tour" back in New Orleans, and though Restaurant August does not yet fit into that particular scheme, as we love Chef Besh's cuisine, and, as we have not done his full Tasting Menu w/ Sommelier's Pairings, in so very long, we will gladly fit a visit into the mix - just for us.

                                                                  Yes, things changed almost immediately, and then have changed a few more times since. We DO need to get back - just the two of us.

                                                                  Hunt

                                                                    1. re: zin1953

                                                                      Got it, and will look at schedules.

                                                                      Thank you,

                                                                      Hunt

                                                            1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                              Maybe I have had "special needs," or have just not done things correctly (OE is always a potential part of the equation), but I find TripAdvisor and Yelp to be, well, how should I put this - next to useless. I find that CH, in general terms, does a better job, over the long haul. This from a person, who DOES post experiences on TripAdvisor, and also OpenTable.

                                                              Now, I am fortunate, in that I can gather a lot of info, from a wine list, well beyond just the bottles offered. There is often a "story" to be told, if one just looks carefully at the PDF.

                                                              Were I new to the "wine scene," then those wines lists would never tell much, beyond what is offered.

                                                              Hunt

                                                            2. re: zin1953

                                                              Actually, over the years, I have had some of my worst "wine experiences" at restaurants with a major WS rating. Once, I felt that they offered me something, but that opinion has changed.

                                                              I first look to CH, mainly for the food, and then, if available, pour over a PDF of the wine list. That tells me a great deal about many restaurants.

                                                              While I have not sworn them off completely, I feel similarly about DiRona and Zagat ratings. I often wonder "What WERE they thinking?"

                                                              Maybe I just have had very bad luck?

                                                              Hunt

                                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                >>> Actually, over the years, I have had some of my worst "wine experiences" at restaurants with a major WS rating. Once, I felt that they offered me something, but that opinion has changed. <<<

                                                                Exactly!

                                                                1. re: zin1953

                                                                  Interesting that the top 3 WS rated restaurants in the SF area are: Acquerello, Gary Danko, and RN74.

                                                                  So I'm a bit confused...A search of chowhound threads on these 3 restaurants finds several posts by persons on this thread who say that WS ratings are poor indicators of food and wine quality at the listed restaurants...

                                                                  Surprisingly, those posters spoke very highly of these 3 restaurants and specifically of their food and wine experiences and the wine staff. If WS was such a poor guide and resulted in some of the worst experiences then I would have expected negative comments on these 3 establishments...

                                                                  Are these 3 just outliers?

                                                                  1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                                    I would imagine most of the great restaurants have awards for their wine lists but I'm not sure most of the WS award winning places are great restaurants. There is a neat article and a Freakonomics story that goes along with it about a guy who created a fake restaurant in Italy along with a wine list of randomly chosen mediocre wines. His place was chosen by WS to receive an Award of Distinction provided he paid the fee even though it didn't exist .

                                                                    http://consumerist.com/2008/08/20/tot...

                                                                    It may be that WS does not scrutinize restaurant wine programs that thoroughly but again, I would imagine the great restaurants have awards for their wine lists. That's certainly the case here in NYC.
                                                                    JeremyEG
                                                                    HomeCookLocavore.com

                                                                    1. re: JeremyEG

                                                                      Jeremy: that is a great story, well worth reading. But I do believe it's the exception rather than the rule, and nobody's going to get a Grand Award that way. But no doubt there are losers on the WS list like everything else.

                                                                      1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                                        Well, yeah. CLEARLY the creation of a "fake" restaurant is an "exception rather than the rule." However, I have been to numerous restaurants with Grand Awards and Awards of Excellence -- more than I can count -- and, overall, I'm not favorably impressed. Regardless of what the Spectator claims, I've seen a significant number of lists that receive awards based (seemingly) solely upon the number of wines on the list, rather than a coherent selection based upon matching the cuisine of the restaurant in question.

                                                                        And the fake restaurant wasn't the only one which had bad/weak vintages of famous labels . . . I remember a Grand Award winner in Orange County with a wine list loaded with 1968, 1972 and 1974 first growth Bordeaux . . . .

                                                                        1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                                          Not so sure that the "results" ARE the exception. While I have not dined at every Grand Award winner, for every year, I have dined at many. The majority have failed to impress me, though some certainly have - THEY have been the "exception," at least to me.

                                                                          I have read many articles in the WS, regarding what it takes to garner an award. I assume that they do try, but too often, the results do not match up. Why? Maybe it is just me, and I should be happy to just dine at such restaurants? I cannot tell you the truth of the awards.

                                                                          Hunt

                                                                        2. re: JeremyEG

                                                                          While I cannot vouch for that story, and the details, I have felt the same way, all too often.

                                                                          We walk away, scratching our heads, and asking "what just happened?"

                                                                          Once, I relied on the WS and their ratings, when picking restaurants. However, after being "burned" so many times, I just forgot that source. I found it to be far too inconsistent, to be of use to me. I felt that I could do a much better job, just reading a restaurant's menu and then wine list, and putting 2+2 together.

                                                                          Hunt

                                                                        3. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                                          Are you really attempting to make this argument? REALLY???

                                                                          No one has ever said,
                                                                          >>> Bad wine lists sometimes get awards. Ergo, ALL wines lists which receive awards are $#|+. <<<

                                                                          But you want to counter by saying,
                                                                          >>> Ah, but I found three awarded wine lists that are GREAT, ergo ALL wines lists that receive are great, or are all three just exceptions to (your non-existent) rule? <<<

                                                                          Such a specious argument does not become Chowhound, nor this discussion.

                                                                          1. re: zin1953

                                                                            Am I attempting to make what argument? Here's what I'm saying, so it's clear to you:

                                                                            1) these "horrible" experiences are the exceptions, rather than the rule...

                                                                            2) in general, WS and other major wine awards, much more often than not, will lead you to an establishment where there's a good list and knowledgeable staff to help you pair food and wine, although I recognize fails can occur.

                                                                            As an EXAMPLE, check out the positive comments on food and wine experiences and the wine staff at the Top 3 WS-rated restaurants in SF: Acquerello, Gary Danko, and RN74.

                                                                            1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                                              1) I don't find them to be as rare of scarce as you do.

                                                                              2) I completely disagree with the use/value of Wine Spectator award, etc. I do NOT find them to be of consistent and reliable value. That said, yes -- IF there is a knowledgable staff, that staff can assist you (the patron) in selecting wines to go with the food . . . BUT, whether you like the match as well as the staff is an entirely different -- and unpredictable -- matter.

                                                                              I am more than happy to name for you a dozen, 15, 25 different restaurants with awards for their wine lists that are well-deserved. I find that a useless exercise, however, on a number of different fronts: a) if restaurants like these did NOT have good wine lists, they would have died long ago; b) few wines lists in San Francisco are as overpriced as Gary Danko -- though, in fairness, Michael Mina's places are generally worse; and c) sending someone to a restaurant the likes of Acquerello, Gary Danko or RN74 to learn about wine is a (IMHO) really quick way to lose a lot of money for very little return.

                                                                              1. re: zin1953

                                                                                Fine... What I'm hearing (correct if wrong), is that these 3 venues have good wine lists, good food, knowledgeable wine staff, and can provide very good pairing advice... however they are expensive and in that sense may not be great values, depending on your budget...

                                                                                To me that's where the research process comes in, and there aren't any shortcuts. A motivated noob has to research to find:

                                                                                1: Venues with the more reasonably-priced offerings for your budget. What is alot of money varies by the consumer.

                                                                                2: Venues willing to offer reasonable corkages

                                                                                3: Venues that offer special wine and food pairing events

                                                                                4: Venues where the wine staff is willing to put together a tasting experience for your group...

                                                                                5: Venues with off-night discounts on the wine list or corkage.

                                                                                Here's an example of an extremely wallet-friendly WS-award winner with phenomenal wine list FOR THE CUISINE and any number of accolades by diners on Chow and elsewhere: http://www.winespectator.com/restaura...

                                                                                Persons seriously interested in learning pairings have to just do a little research to find these jewels. What fits their budget and constitutes expensive is up to them. There's no question that there are numerous avenues to find these places besides WS and that not every place will be on the WS list and that some of the WS listings will be fails...

                                                                                I do believe that restaurants play an important role in wine and food pairing education; they certainly did in mine. You can't do it all at home.

                                                                                1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                                                  re: Acquerello, Gary Danko, RN74 . . .

                                                                                  1) Only a very few wines on their lists could easily be described as "reasonably-priced offerings." The last time I found a bargain at Gary Danko's (for example) -- and ordered several bottles over a number of vibists -- that wine was replaced by something quite similar, but at a much higher markup.

                                                                                  2) Yes, well, gone are the days when I offered $5 corkage. Are there bargains to be had in the corkage "arena"? Sure, but not at places like the three you've cited.

                                                                                  -- Acquerello: $45/btl., limit two 750ml bottles period.
                                                                                  -- Gary Danko: $40/btl., limit two 750ml bottles period.
                                                                                  -- RN74: $35/btl. for first two bottles; $75/btl. thereafter.

                                                                                  3) Certainly a possibility, but -- again -- the three venues you specifically cite will be very expensive. Wouldn't it be far better (and more affordable) to go to a more affordable/accessible restaurant for such an event (thing "winemaker dinner," etc., etc.)

                                                                                  4) Again, the restaurants you cite -- and others in the category -- will be more than happy to do what you're suggesting . . . usually in connection with the private dining room that seats 12 and has a minimum charge of $_______ and (often) a limited menu.

                                                                                  5) Great idea, but again -- not at the places you cite. OTOH, if you can find a place like, say, Dino in Washington DC -- http://www.dino-dc.com -- you can have a great time exploring: they offer:

                                                                                  -- "Wine Madness 33% off wines $50+ ~ Sunday & Mondays"
                                                                                  -- Free Corkage & $18 Wine Special ~ Monday 'til Wednesday {w/dinner

                                                                                  }

                                                                                  In other words, the places that you describe EXIST, just not at the places you name.

                                                                                  1. re: zin1953

                                                                                    Just to clarify: I didn't cite RN74, Acquerello, and Danko as economy food and wine locations....

                                                                                    I cited them because there was a cascade of posts which could be interpreted as saying "wine awards are of little or no merit in researching venues with good food and wine pairings". Obviously I respectfully disagree with this generalization so I simply picked the 3 highest-rated restaurants in SF by WS to illustrate that in fact wine awards are often quite accurate.

                                                                                    If someone is looking for ECONOMY, then I provided this example, also from a WS search:

                                                                                    "Here's an example of an extremely wallet-friendly WS-award winner with phenomenal wine list FOR THE CUISINE and any number of accolades by diners on Chow and elsewhere: http://www.winespectator.com/restaura..."

                                                                                    As to whether it would be far better to go to an "affordable" destination, that all depends on the diner's budget and interests. Great pairings can be had all along the budget spectrum. I absolutely appreciate value: you may recall the discussion thread about the recently auctioned bottle of wine that cost the equivalent of what... 30 full tasting meals with wine pairings at Le Bernardin, plus tax and tip? To me that was incomprehensible, but to other posters it made sense given the buyers preferences.

                                                                                    1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                                                      >>> I simply picked the 3 highest-rated restaurants in SF by WS to illustrate that in fact wine awards are often quite accurate. <<<

                                                                                      Yes, picking an example in top 0.001% ALWAYS proves the general point at hand.

                                                                                      1. re: zin1953

                                                                                        They were the top 3 that came up on the search. Type in SF, hit the button, and they come up, out of my control.

                                                                                        1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                                                          OK, try Phoenix, Indianapolis, Chicago, Washington, DC, New Orleans, Honolulu. What did you get?

                                                                                          I am not refuting those, though I only know two of the three, but trying to open a larger window on the Grand Award Winners, and the reality of the situation.

                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                            I'm fine with the Chicago list. I don't think it's exhaustive, leaves several great venues out...

                                                                                            ... and here is a pet peeve of mine... won't mention specific places but some of these locations strike me as "wine libraries", it's like they assemble their wine list as a "draw" rather than as something that they are going to aggressively turnover. I think this applies more to the venues in corporate locations, serving alot of out-of-towners who want to be whooed by the wine list... But undeniably they do have good lists...

                                                                                            Now here's a jewel... set the price field to "Inexpensive" and out pops the Kinzie Steakhouse... with $10 corkage. We once did a BYOB tasting of, must have been 6 or more great reds... cab, brunello, barolo, barbaresco, zinfandel, that I recall.... against nicely prepared steak... nothing super-fancy, just solid... remember the meal to this day, wasn't overly expensive, the wine was a steal considering we all brought it. The goal was to maybe identify once and for all, what THE red is to accompany a great steak...

                                                                                            This is the way I would use this list, it's not infallible but it's one more resource.

                                                                                            1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                                                              >>> ... and here is a pet peeve of mine... won't mention specific places but some of these locations strike me as "wine libraries", it's like they assemble their wine list as a "draw" rather than as something that they are going to aggressively turnover. I think this applies more to the venues in corporate locations, serving alot of out-of-towners who want to be whooed by the wine list... But undeniably they do have good lists... <<<

                                                                                              Oh. You mean places like Acquerello, Gary Danko, or RN74?

                                                                                              Yes, these are San Francisco restaurants, not Chicago ones, but do you honestly think they "aggressively" turn over that list? Perhaps 25-30% of the selections account for some 80-90% of the sales. So, too, in most high-end restaurants. Ever look at a wine list for a Michael Mina restaurant?

                                                                                              This doesn't change with the geography. It's the same at Charlie Palmer's, Alinea, Les Nomades, Tru . . . let alone places like Morton's, Smith & Wollensky's, and other national steakhouses . . . .

                                                                                              >>> This is the way I would use this list, it's not infallible but it's one more resource. <<<

                                                                                              I'm confused. You use the wine list by bringing in six or more great reds with a $10 corkage?

                                                                                2. re: zin1953

                                                                                  After many years of trying, I find the WS "Grand Award" winners to be about as good as a dart board - one might find the bullseye.

                                                                                  Of those three (only knowing two), I would be more likely to send someone, new to wines, to RN74, and then instruct them to "throw themselves to the mercy, of the wine server."

                                                                                  While great, and in most respects, I would not do so with Restaurant Gary Danko. I just do not know about Acquerello.

                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                            2. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                                              I am not referring to just the SF Area, but to the United States, as a whole (and possibly other countries, as well).

                                                                              To restate, some of my worst "wine experiences" have been [SIC] at restaurants with a major WS rating." I stand by that, regardless of what their ratings for particular restaurants, in some locales have been. I am speaking in general terms here.

                                                                              I mean, when a "Grand Award Winner" basically serves US $300 Cal-cabs in a "jelly jar," and refuses to decant it, what is one to expect?

                                                                              While I have not been to Acquerello, I have enjoyed Restaurant Gary Danko and also RN74 (did a culinary/wine even with Chef Berthoud a few months back, along with Chef Michael Mina). In each of those two cases, things were excellent and great fun. Each lived up to their awards. The same is not so for dozens of other restaurants, and some with the top award - IMHO. To issue a blanket statement that WS awarded restaurants are "the way to go," fails by my testing of oh, so very many. Some ARE great - no doubt, but some fall far, far short. Again, IMHO.

                                                                              As I am so very fortunate to dine at the upper-end of the spectrum, around the world, I see too many, that should not get even a hint of an award, though some do come through. It is not my "end-all - be-all," by any stretch.

                                                                              Just my observations,

                                                                              Hunt

                                                                2. re: TombstoneShadow

                                                                  I agree, as I find wine to BE "food." While I do many "sippers," pairing wines with my food is a great reward, and completes things, at least for me.

                                                                  Now, food and wine pairings are very personal, but there are some "starting guidelines," and I would head there first, and then break from popular convention, based on my personal palate.

                                                                  Hunt

                                                                3. Speaking for myself, it took some time to simply appreciate wine on its own, let alone pairing it with food.
                                                                  Knowledge goes a long way, but theres no replacement for experience.
                                                                  An expert might say wine X is the perfect pairing for food Y, but what if you don't appreciate (or even like) wine X?

                                                                  When I started drinking wine, I could not comprehend an oakey, dry red....I preferred sweetish whites (jug rhine-style was my choice :-0).
                                                                  As time went along, my preference ran to drier and drier whites, then to reds. Then to an appreciation of varietals.

                                                                  Do I have a recommended wine guide? No, but perhaps start with broad strokes, find what you like, learn about basic pairings (what type of foods with white, with reds, etc), and go from there.

                                                                  Your BYOB party sounds good, invite someone who can describe nuances of different wines, etc.
                                                                  Just my 2c.

                                                                  1. Start drinking, safely and don't drive...

                                                                    Go to a local wine bar where you can sample different kind of wines by the glass.

                                                                    Let them do the pairing and ask for something different to see how the pairing goes; it can be good and weird.

                                                                    1. Pick up a copy of Andrea Immer's (now Robinson) "Great Wines Made Simple." Do the "homework," and taste. As that book is a bit older now, you will need to work with your local wine shop, to update to NOW.

                                                                      When done, you will have a great grasp on things, relating to wines.

                                                                      Hunt