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How to start drinking wine

p
pkhemmerich Jan 21, 2013 08:52 PM

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?

  1. z
    zin1953 Jan 21, 2013 09:41 PM

    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
      maria lorraine Jan 21, 2013 11:39 PM

      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
        p
        pkhemmerich Jan 22, 2013 05:17 AM

        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
          z
          zin1953 Jan 22, 2013 07:06 AM

          >>> 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
            g
            goldangl95 Jan 22, 2013 08:37 AM

            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
              ChefJune Jan 22, 2013 12:58 PM

              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
                m
                mwhitmore Jan 22, 2013 07:57 PM

                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
              Bill Hunt Jan 22, 2013 07:36 PM

              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. t
              TombstoneShadow Jan 21, 2013 10:29 PM

              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
                p
                pkhemmerich Jan 22, 2013 05:19 AM

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

                1. re: pkhemmerich
                  t
                  TombstoneShadow Jan 23, 2013 01:11 PM

                  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.aspx/Membership-State 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
                    r
                    RicRios Jan 27, 2013 05:18 PM

                    "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
                      PolarBear Jan 27, 2013 06:09 PM

                      My thoughts exactly. Might as well use Yelp!

                      1. re: RicRios
                        z
                        zin1953 Jan 27, 2013 08:31 PM

                        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
                          t
                          TombstoneShadow Jan 27, 2013 08:47 PM

                          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
                            z
                            zin1953 Jan 27, 2013 09:47 PM

                            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/887297#7844124 and, with even more specific suggestions, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/887297#7844520 -- this would seem to be supported (IMHO) by http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/887297#7857145 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
                              t
                              TombstoneShadow Jan 27, 2013 10:10 PM

                              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
                                z
                                zin1953 Jan 28, 2013 07:03 AM

                                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
                                  Bill Hunt Jan 29, 2013 06:13 PM

                                  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
                                    t
                                    TombstoneShadow Jan 29, 2013 06:36 PM

                                    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
                                      Bill Hunt Feb 1, 2013 05:30 PM

                                      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
                                      maria lorraine Jan 30, 2013 03:12 AM

                                      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
                                        z
                                        zin1953 Jan 30, 2013 06:56 AM

                                        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
                                          maria lorraine Jan 30, 2013 10:53 PM

                                          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
                                            z
                                            zin1953 Jan 31, 2013 07:20 AM

                                            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
                                              t
                                              TombstoneShadow Jan 31, 2013 07:57 AM

                                              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
                                                z
                                                zin1953 Jan 31, 2013 03:32 PM

                                                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
                                                  r
                                                  RicRios Jan 31, 2013 06:42 PM

                                                  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
                                                    Robert Lauriston Feb 1, 2013 08:12 AM

                                                    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
                                                      Bill Hunt Feb 1, 2013 06:34 PM

                                                      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
                                                      Bill Hunt Feb 1, 2013 06:30 PM

                                                      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
                                                      Bill Hunt Feb 1, 2013 06:15 PM

                                                      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
                                                        t
                                                        TombstoneShadow Feb 1, 2013 10:46 PM

                                                        "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
                                                          z
                                                          zin1953 Feb 2, 2013 08:24 AM

                                                          >>> 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
                                                            t
                                                            TombstoneShadow Feb 2, 2013 01:03 PM

                                                            "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
                                                              z
                                                              zin1953 Feb 2, 2013 02:42 PM

                                                              >>> 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
                                                                t
                                                                TombstoneShadow Feb 2, 2013 03:38 PM

                                                                ">>> 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
                                                                  maria lorraine Feb 2, 2013 10:16 PM

                                                                  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
                                                                    t
                                                                    TombstoneShadow Feb 3, 2013 06:47 AM

                                                                    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
                                                                      maria lorraine Feb 3, 2013 02:20 PM

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

                                                                  2. re: TombstoneShadow
                                                                    maria lorraine Feb 3, 2013 12:07 AM

                                                                    <<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
                                                                      t
                                                                      TombstoneShadow Feb 3, 2013 06:48 AM

                                                                      $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
                                                                    maria lorraine Feb 2, 2013 10:18 PM

                                                                    <<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
                                                                      t
                                                                      TombstoneShadow Feb 3, 2013 06:54 AM

                                                                      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
                                                                        h
                                                                        HillJ Feb 3, 2013 07:24 AM

                                                                        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
                                                                          z
                                                                          zin1953 Feb 3, 2013 09:38 AM

                                                                          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
                                                                            maria lorraine Feb 3, 2013 02:22 PM

                                                                            <<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
                                                                              t
                                                                              TombstoneShadow Feb 3, 2013 02:57 PM

                                                                              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
                                                                                maria lorraine Feb 3, 2013 03:04 PM

                                                                                <<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
                                                                                  t
                                                                                  TombstoneShadow Feb 3, 2013 03:11 PM

                                                                                  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
                                                                                    z
                                                                                    zin1953 Feb 3, 2013 03:41 PM

                                                                                    >>> 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
                                                                                  z
                                                                                  zin1953 Feb 3, 2013 03:52 PM

                                                                                  >>> 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
                                                                                    t
                                                                                    TombstoneShadow Feb 3, 2013 06:19 PM

                                                                                    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
                                                                                      z
                                                                                      zin1953 Feb 3, 2013 06:35 PM

                                                                                      >>> 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: maria lorraine
                                                                            z
                                                                            zin1953 Feb 3, 2013 10:06 AM

                                                                            Well, ML, I try . . . ;^)

                                                                        2. re: TombstoneShadow
                                                                          Bill Hunt Feb 2, 2013 07:56 PM

                                                                          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
                                                                            z
                                                                            zin1953 Feb 2, 2013 08:16 PM

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

                                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                              t
                                                                              TombstoneShadow Feb 2, 2013 08:49 PM

                                                                              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
                                                                  Bill Hunt Feb 1, 2013 06:09 PM

                                                                  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
                                                                  Bill Hunt Feb 1, 2013 05:57 PM

                                                                  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
                                                                  Bill Hunt Feb 1, 2013 05:43 PM

                                                                  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: Bill Hunt
                                                                    z
                                                                    zin1953 Feb 1, 2013 05:56 PM

                                                                    Check your email . . .

                                                                    1. re: zin1953
                                                                      Bill Hunt Feb 1, 2013 08:02 PM

                                                                      Got it, and will look at schedules.

                                                                      Thank you,

                                                                      Hunt

                                                          2. re: TombstoneShadow
                                                            PolarBear Jan 28, 2013 07:49 AM

                                                            For your reading pleasure:

                                                            http://blindtaste.com/2008/08/15/what-does-it-take-to-get-a-wine-spectator-award-of-excellence/

                                                            and the blog comments are interesting:

                                                            http://www.vinography.com/archives/2008/08/wine_spectator_restaurant_awar.html

                                                            http://www.drvino.com/2008/08/19/fict...

                                                            1. re: TombstoneShadow
                                                              Bill Hunt Jan 29, 2013 05:51 PM

                                                              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
                                                              Bill Hunt Jan 29, 2013 05:44 PM

                                                              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
                                                                z
                                                                zin1953 Jan 29, 2013 09:23 PM

                                                                >>> 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
                                                                  t
                                                                  TombstoneShadow Jan 29, 2013 10:03 PM

                                                                  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
                                                                    j
                                                                    JeremyEG Jan 29, 2013 10:22 PM

                                                                    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
                                                                      t
                                                                      TombstoneShadow Jan 29, 2013 10:32 PM

                                                                      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
                                                                        z
                                                                        zin1953 Jan 29, 2013 10:47 PM

                                                                        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
                                                                          Bill Hunt Feb 1, 2013 06:51 PM

                                                                          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
                                                                          Bill Hunt Feb 1, 2013 06:48 PM

                                                                          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
                                                                          z
                                                                          zin1953 Jan 29, 2013 10:34 PM

                                                                          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
                                                                            t
                                                                            TombstoneShadow Jan 29, 2013 10:42 PM

                                                                            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
                                                                              z
                                                                              zin1953 Jan 29, 2013 11:04 PM

                                                                              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
                                                                                t
                                                                                TombstoneShadow Jan 29, 2013 11:21 PM

                                                                                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
                                                                                  z
                                                                                  zin1953 Jan 30, 2013 07:19 AM

                                                                                  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
                                                                                    t
                                                                                    TombstoneShadow Jan 30, 2013 09:47 AM

                                                                                    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
                                                                                      z
                                                                                      zin1953 Jan 30, 2013 01:05 PM

                                                                                      >>> 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
                                                                                        t
                                                                                        TombstoneShadow Jan 30, 2013 03:44 PM

                                                                                        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
                                                                                          Bill Hunt Feb 1, 2013 07:09 PM

                                                                                          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
                                                                                            t
                                                                                            TombstoneShadow Feb 1, 2013 10:57 PM

                                                                                            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
                                                                                              z
                                                                                              zin1953 Feb 2, 2013 08:40 AM

                                                                                              >>> ... 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
                                                                                  Bill Hunt Feb 1, 2013 06:55 PM

                                                                                  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
                                                                              Bill Hunt Feb 1, 2013 06:44 PM

                                                                              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
                                                                  Bill Hunt Jan 22, 2013 07:48 PM

                                                                  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. porker Jan 22, 2013 05:57 AM

                                                                  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. m
                                                                    Maximilien Jan 22, 2013 06:44 AM

                                                                    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. Bill Hunt Jan 22, 2013 07:35 PM

                                                                      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

                                                                      1. h
                                                                        HillJ Jan 27, 2013 06:35 PM

                                                                        Such great advice given here and this board is one of the best places for current info and excellent comparison shopping.

                                                                        My wine buying began with finding one shop I really liked and wanted to buy from. What I looked for was a friendly staff willing to talk to me, price ranges I could work with and a sampling room. As time went on, I asked to meet the Wine Manager. He was extremely helpful and today we email each other with all sorts of Q&A's. Books are helpful for understanding what you're looking at on a shelf by region but making contact with the wine (as mentioned here) and with wine sellers has been the best way to learn not only what to drink but how to find what you'll enjoy drinking.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: HillJ
                                                                          Bill Hunt Jan 27, 2013 08:13 PM

                                                                          <<My wine buying began with finding one shop I really liked and wanted to buy from.>>

                                                                          While books, DVD's, articles, etc., can be fine, you cite the one resource, that I think is most valuable.

                                                                          A great relationship, with a good wine shop, will yield dividends. A good retailer will come to know your likes and dislikes, if you communicate those with them. In fairly short time, they can help one navigate the wonderful, though complex world of wine.

                                                                          Hunt

                                                                        2. h
                                                                          HillJ Jan 28, 2013 07:10 AM

                                                                          Another tip, staying local in your wine guiding, is to see if your community/state offers an Edible Communities publication. Wine and food are covered extensively in the magazines and in my case (New Jersey) led to some terrific local experiences with "wine trails," state vineyards, free wine events and how to incorporate more wine in my home cooking. This is a free publication if your local Whole Foods market, farm, green grocer carries it.

                                                                          http://www.ediblecommunities.com/cont...

                                                                          1. t
                                                                            TombstoneShadow Jan 28, 2013 12:47 PM

                                                                            PK: by now you have quite a few recommendations.

                                                                            Since you're in New York and on a budget, and you have a few friends you can get together with in a group, let me start you out with your first 4 wine and food pairing experiences "on the cheap" that you can have this weekend at a delicious BYOB-friendly thai restaurant.

                                                                            STEP ONE: Get your group of 6 of together. Pool your money and agree to get 4 bottles of wine: An Alsatian Gewurztraminer, and one each of a Mosel riesling kabinett, a spatlese, and an auslese. Budget at most $75 plus tax for the 4 bottles. (25-30 for the gewurz and 15-20 each for the rieslings). These won't be the very top shelf bottlings but any of the better wineshops in New York will be able to fill this order with good examples of these wines.

                                                                            STEP TWO: Head to SriPraPhai in Queens. They have a $10 per bottle corkage and some of the most authentic thai dishes in the metro area. Order a variety off the menu, family style, and ask the waitstaff to bring you each 4 glasses so you can have a glass of each of the wines in front of you. Arrange the glasses left to right: kab > spat > aus > gewurz, and keep your glasses in that order through the night so you don't get confused which is which.

                                                                            STEP THREE: Order a variety of dishes off the menu family style so you can each have 3 or 4 food courses.... mix it up with some chicken, some pork, some seafood, some sausages, etc... Your total food costs will run around $15 - 18+ tax per person.

                                                                            STEP FOUR: As you're having your meal, try sipping each wine with each dish. Note the differences in riesling as you go from kabinett to auslese. Then notice the similarities and differences between the riesling and gewurz and how each matches somewhat differently, each in it's own great way, with the meal you're having.

                                                                            So, total cost to sample 4 different wines in a great pairing experience, not to mention a really fun night out:

                                                                            $75 (wine) + $40 (corkage) = $115 / 6 = $19 + 18 (food) = $37 per person.

                                                                            For $37 bucks you can sample 3 very different versions of riesling plus it's "alsatian cousin", gewurztraminer plus have all the food, the camaraderie and a great night out. You could easily blow $37 just buying a bottle or two at a wine shop and popping the corks at home with no real rhyme or reason as to accompanying food pairings.

                                                                            You can also cut out the corkage, and have the food brought in, dropping it down to $30 pp. If you have it brought in, then you can also do a cheese course with Gruyere and Emmental cheese, two awesome matches with these wines and start building your wine and cheese palates as well, and you're still under $33 per person for the whole thing.

                                                                            I don't think there's anything you can do with 33 dollars that's going to take you further and faster along this pursuit. It's that easy and enjoyable delving into this passion while avoiding confusion from winespeak.

                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                            1. re: TombstoneShadow
                                                                              z
                                                                              zin1953 Jan 28, 2013 04:02 PM

                                                                              I'm puzzled. Might I ask what has prompted you to suggest the world's two most unpopular grape varieties (but thoroughly deserving of much more popularity than they presently enjoy), and suggest them? Indeed, why not an Alsatian Riesling and Rieslings from the Mosel, the Saar, and the Rheingau? What prompted the *specific* Thai restaurant, versus ANY restaurant specializing in Thai food?

                                                                              Why not four bottles of ANY red/white wine, and ANY restaurant? Indeed, for a self-confessed "wine noob," why not suggest -- for illustrative purposes only -- a Chardonnay, a Sauvignon Blanc, a Riesling and a Gewürztraminer, and dinner at a seafood restaurant?

                                                                              It's not your suggestion is a bad one, but the specificity leaves me a bit baffled.

                                                                              1. re: zin1953
                                                                                t
                                                                                TombstoneShadow Jan 28, 2013 05:17 PM

                                                                                So, the pairing of thai food, riesling, and gewurztraminer puzzles you...;. I'm really surprised that in your 3 decades of wine experience you've never tried this combination.

                                                                                I'm fine with comparing an alsatian riesling and german rieslings with this meal... but if I would prefer to do the riesling and gewurz to get two varietals rather than one. Is that so puzzling?

                                                                                I'm also fine with chardonnay, SB, riesling and gewurz at a seafood restaurant... no problem.

                                                                                The fact is ALL of these are do-able... I spelled out a specific set of 4 bottles, the specific restaurant, the specific price tag,... rather than continuing to talk in generalities.

                                                                                1. re: TombstoneShadow
                                                                                  z
                                                                                  zin1953 Jan 28, 2013 08:03 PM

                                                                                  OK, so . . . since your first paragraph completely mis-represents my original post (and point) once again, I think I'll just stop now.

                                                                                  1. re: zin1953
                                                                                    t
                                                                                    TombstoneShadow Jan 28, 2013 09:21 PM

                                                                                    Best to look at your post item-by-item then, literally, so there's no "mis-representation".

                                                                                    "why not compare a riesling from alsace, mosel, rheingau"...

                                                                                    Not a bad idea at all. IMO that's not what I'd do first, because to a wine noob I think the distinctions between a kab, spat, and aus are going to be more dramatic and immediately apparent. Ditto for the distinction btw riesling and gewurztraminer. As the palate develops, then I'd go with your suggestion. But I'm fine starting with it too.

                                                                                    "What prompted the specific thai restaurant"

                                                                                    Several answers: 1) Very solid authentic thai food, not ameri-thai; 2) Very reasonably priced food; 3) Low corkage fee; 4) The entire experience is a PROTO-TYPE for what a low corkage fee/high quality food pairings night out should be. I want to show this student just how far he can go on $30. Once the "student" learns how to do this once, the right way, from the get-go, he can find similar experiences on his own.

                                                                                    The last two questions illustrate something about my method of teaching. I want to show someone the right way from the get go. Show them the basics, not all the minutiae details. If I help you set your foundation you can begin to navigate on your own. If I start you out with chaos then the outcome is less certain.

                                                                                    And bottom line, from their first experience, I want the student to know what a GOOD pairing tastes like, so he has a benchmark when he wades into the deep end and starts encountering marginal and plain bad pairings.

                                                                                    "Why not 4 bottles of ANY red/white wine and ANY restaurant"?

                                                                                    That's the chaos approach. Send them in with 4 different varieties, some may work, some may not. Also: 1) Student will not have appropriate pairing experience his first time out; 2) This method will cost more money; 3) If this approach isn't corrected it can lead to the erroneous "any wine with any food" camp which is teacher failure.

                                                                                    "For illustration: chard, SB, riesling, and Gewurz at a seafood restaurant".

                                                                                    That's a great suggestion. I'm fine with it for a beginner. I like it better for one of his earliest experiences than your initial suggestion of 4 terroir of riesling because I think that is at least advanced beginner if not intermediate level. I would say that this poster says he's on a budget. Seafood in general will run more expensive than the thai option so that might be one consideration. If however he likes seafood better, then this would be a great start too.

                                                                                    I just don't want: 1) A new wine guy to have to wade through the chaos of bad pairings to find the good ones initially... I want to hook him with some easily understood great pairings; and 2) I want to show him how to use the low corkage / great food angle to best advantage.

                                                                            2. Robert Lauriston Jan 28, 2013 01:00 PM

                                                                              I think one of the most educational things for newbies is to have a few different bottles on the table through a multi-course dinner and try them all with different dishes.

                                                                              31 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                h
                                                                                HillJ Jan 28, 2013 05:23 PM

                                                                                When I was just beginning to learn a bit about wine/food pairings my husband and I did exactly what you are suggesting and we found it difficult for us to cleanse our over worked taste buds to really gather a good idea of what we liked. Too many food and wine flavors hitting us at once confused our newbie wine brains.

                                                                                Even on a few cruises we've taken this approach while popular in some of the dining rooms, left us in overload.

                                                                                We found wine and cheese pairings a bit easier to decipher...and a bit more leisurely in the undertaking.

                                                                                And, today we never select more than two, three different wines for a large (home) party and only one bottle or just a glass in a restaurant.

                                                                                1. re: HillJ
                                                                                  Robert Lauriston Jan 29, 2013 08:58 AM

                                                                                  Huh, I guess at some point I learned how to reset my palate.

                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                    h
                                                                                    HillJ Jan 29, 2013 09:02 AM

                                                                                    I left myself wide open for that jab. Ha!
                                                                                    We all learn differently....I suppose you know that too.

                                                                                    1. re: HillJ
                                                                                      Robert Lauriston Jan 29, 2013 09:16 AM

                                                                                      I didn't intend that as a jab, I think that's just something to put on the list of things for a newbie to learn. Drink water, eat something tart and then some water, eat a plain piece of bread or cracker, take a break for a few minutes.

                                                                                      But to some extent, reducing palate fatigue is probably a matter of practice. The more you understand what you're tasting, the less tiring it is.

                                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                        h
                                                                                        HillJ Jan 29, 2013 09:22 AM

                                                                                        Sorry if I misunderstood. Palate fatigue is exactly what I was imagining and what we experienced. It didn't take long for us to ditch that idea and go slowly with selecting a wine for dinner.

                                                                                        When you were originally suggesting: a few different bottles on the table through a multi-course dinner...

                                                                                        I'd also have to consider how many visits to the restroom I was willing to make with all of that wine/water/cleansing I'd be taking on. A relaxing wine with dinner, a less tiring experience for my husband & I meant taking it slow and keeping the 'multiples' down.

                                                                                        1. re: HillJ
                                                                                          Bill Hunt Jan 29, 2013 06:46 PM

                                                                                          With a bit of practice, one can definitely learn to pace themselves. Robert mentions a couple of techniques, to help.

                                                                                          We often have many wines to taste with each dish. Small tastes and small sips work well. Even with food and wine pairing dinners, we try to retain much of each wine, to try with each course. Once one gets into the courses, that are traditionally paired with red wines, the whites may no longer be viable, but we try to keep a few around, and try, but also for a cheese-course, that will likely come.

                                                                                          For us, a little goes a long way, and bread and water can easily extend that.

                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                            Robert Lauriston Jan 29, 2013 06:54 PM

                                                                                            I wasn't talking about pacing, just refreshing my palate.

                                                                                            I'm more of a lot-goes-a-long-way guy.

                                                                                        2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                          t
                                                                                          TombstoneShadow Jan 29, 2013 11:05 AM

                                                                                          Also taking smaller sips. It doesn't take a full "drink" of wine to identify it's connection to the food (or clash with it). Better to take smaller bites and smaller sips of the wine to get a sense of what the flavor combo is...

                                                                                          That way you have less risk of fatigue and you can accomodate more glasses on the table. I wish I could locate pictures of some of our pairing feasts... 6 of us a big table with sometimes two rows deep of wine glasses.... kind of like Neil Peart's drum set. Honestly must be at least 40 wine glasses on that table all total.

                                                                                          1. re: TombstoneShadow
                                                                                            h
                                                                                            HillJ Jan 29, 2013 11:54 AM

                                                                                            Tombstone are you describing a wine tasting (40 wines/6 people) or a full dinner with wine courses? Is this typical for wine newcomers or what professional wine buyers, experienced wine lovers experience? What exactly should be the goal for a newbie? For me, it was learning about what I was drinking well enough to pair it with a meal or offer to guests at a party. My goal was never to consume (even small sips) xx amount of wines at one time.

                                                                                            1. re: HillJ
                                                                                              Robert Lauriston Jan 29, 2013 12:31 PM

                                                                                              40 glasses with six people would probably be six or seven wines. That's not a particularly large number for pros or hardcore wine geeks.

                                                                                              Comparing wines directly can be very educational. For example, if you taste Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec wines in one sitting, you'll probably end up with a clearer idea of what each tastes like than if you taste them at different times.

                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                t
                                                                                                TombstoneShadow Jan 29, 2013 12:52 PM

                                                                                                Hill: no, a wine and food dinner for 6. Usually have +/- 6 wines for the sequence of main dishes and then 1 or 2 wines with dessert.

                                                                                                Typical for... I'd say we fit the "experienced wine lovers" (or "hardcore wine geeks") profile. Common denominator is that most have a fairly extensive home cellar and like to emphasize food pairings over just drinking the wine by itself.

                                                                                                Goal for a newbie. From my POV the goal should be to start off on the right track, start with some common varietals and simple appropriate pairings. IMO you do need a few different varietals at one time to get a sense of the contrasts (and sometimes clashes), so I'd say at least 3 different varietals at a setting, with food matches that are promising. During the tasting you might find that you like some matches more than others and that some you thought would work really don't, but at least you're setting out for success.

                                                                                                "And the newbie goal should be":

                                                                                                My advice is to establish some BENCHMARKS of what a good pairing is, I think that's critical. So you have some references when you move on to more complicated food, some of the less common varietals, etc.

                                                                                                Hills goal: "to learn about the wines" (excellenet point, and about their geographical origin)... "and how to pair with a meal"... sounds right-on to me.

                                                                                                "Goal was never to consume xx amount of wines at one time":

                                                                                                all things eating and drinking are 100% subjective. I would just suggest have at least several different varietals so you can do some comparison and contrast, but even that is subjective. That's usually how it works out anyway, at a minimum, if you have several friends over and each one brings a bottle.

                                                                                                1. re: TombstoneShadow
                                                                                                  h
                                                                                                  HillJ Jan 29, 2013 01:01 PM

                                                                                                  My thanks to both of you answering, this is so helpful!

                                                                                                  1. re: TombstoneShadow
                                                                                                    Robert Lauriston Jan 29, 2013 01:31 PM

                                                                                                    Note that starting with common grape varieties is missing a significant fraction of the world of wines. Many wines from France and Italy are based on traditional blends of multiple varieties and are named after their place of origin.

                                                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                      b
                                                                                                      budnball Jan 29, 2013 02:57 PM

                                                                                                      This is true but as one who is not that far removed from total newbieness, I get there are way too many choices and it is easy to be overwhelmed. Starting with a small subset is also a way learning the language.

                                                                                                      1. re: budnball
                                                                                                        Robert Lauriston Jan 29, 2013 03:41 PM

                                                                                                        On the other hand, the distinction between varietal wines and place-denominated blends is pretty basic, so something to learn sooner rather than later. Plus, at least in New York, the best values tend to be among the latter group.

                                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                          z
                                                                                                          zin1953 Jan 29, 2013 04:26 PM

                                                                                                          In California, too.

                                                                                                        2. re: budnball
                                                                                                          Bill Hunt Jan 29, 2013 06:52 PM

                                                                                                          This is one reason that I often mention Andrea Immer's (Robinson now) book, "Great Wines Made Simple."

                                                                                                          It exposes the reader/taster to many varietals, and also to Old World vs New World treatments of those varietals.

                                                                                                          Though one might have to change the wines/producers, that she mentions, to fit today, the concept is still valid. Plus the "homework" is fun.

                                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                                2. re: TombstoneShadow
                                                                                                  Bill Hunt Jan 29, 2013 06:47 PM

                                                                                                  <<Also taking smaller sips. It doesn't take a full "drink" of wine to identify it's connection to the food (or clash with it). Better to take smaller bites and smaller sips of the wine to get a sense of what the flavor combo is...>>

                                                                                                  Exactly!

                                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                                        3. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                          Bill Hunt Jan 29, 2013 06:31 PM

                                                                                          Exactly, and why I usually recommend a mixed-wine dinner with a particular dish, with the wines being suggested by a local wine merchant.

                                                                                          Little suffices better, IMHO.

                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                            t
                                                                                            TombstoneShadow Jan 29, 2013 06:44 PM

                                                                                            Now, the problem, for example, in Chicago the biggest wine merchant is Binnys (formerly Sam's)... you walk into Sam's and you're going to run into what seem like high school kids (they must be 21, but barely), answering customer's questions in the aisles...

                                                                                            "Oh yeah, this wine is big and chewy"
                                                                                            "Oh yeah, this wine has a silky body"
                                                                                            "Oh yeah, this one's mellow and full-bodied"... they don't have a clue what they're talking about yet the store is fantastic if you know what you're looking for

                                                                                            If a wine noob walks into one of these giant mega-stores and asks the "merchant" for pairing advice, or advice on a particular bottle... it's a total dice-roll.

                                                                                            That's part of the problem, the wine noob isn't going to be able to distinguish between a competent clerk and someone who started there last week.

                                                                                            Thinking back to my early days, I recall there was a little wine shop in North Palm Beach called the Wine Cask, a Google search shows it's still there.... smallish place but there wasn't any varietal I asked for they didn't have. I can't recall getting a bad recco from them. Bought my first red burgundy there on the owner's advice... So maybe that still works, seek out a smaller well-stocked shop instead of a wine supermarket...

                                                                                            .... even though the wine supermarket is more likely to have what you want IF you know what you're looking for...

                                                                                            1. re: TombstoneShadow
                                                                                              z
                                                                                              zin1953 Jan 29, 2013 09:29 PM

                                                                                              >>> If a wine noob walks into one of these giant mega-stores and asks the "merchant" for pairing advice, or advice on a particular bottle... it's a total dice-roll. <<<

                                                                                              Yes, well, that's the point, isn't it? You don't go to a "merchant." You go to merchant -- a REAL one -- one who knows what their doing, hand-piicks the wines they carry, and has KNOWLEDGABLE employees that actually help you, the consumer.

                                                                                              If you want to buy a set of kitchen knives, are you going to go to Wal-Mart and ask someone there the advantages of this brand over that one? Or, at a minimum, are you going to go to a place like Sur la Table / Williams-Sonoma, if not a store that specializes exclusively in culinary knives of all types and manufacture?

                                                                                              Why is wine any different?

                                                                                              1. re: zin1953
                                                                                                t
                                                                                                TombstoneShadow Jan 29, 2013 10:27 PM

                                                                                                So, begs the question... how is the wine noob to know the difference between a knowledgeable winestaff and a casual employee? The wine noob sees this huge nationally-known wine mecca and figures the staff must be knowledgeable...

                                                                                                I'm not making this up, whatever city I'm in I usually end up shopping at the largest venues just for the widest selection, and it's way less than 50-50 odds that the average clerk walking up to you is going to have much of a clue about which bottles have better wine, let alone what to pair them with. Now I have enough sense to ask for the "US cab manager" or the "italian reds manager" if I really need an opinion, and I can tell real quick if the guy has a clue... but the noob starting out isn't going to know to do this.

                                                                                                The odds are far better than that with a wine steward at a restaurant with a good wine list... they're not 100% but I'd say 80-20 anyway.

                                                                                                1. re: TombstoneShadow
                                                                                                  z
                                                                                                  zin1953 Jan 29, 2013 10:39 PM

                                                                                                  >>> I'm not making this up, whatever city I'm in I usually end up shopping at the largest venues just for the widest selection ... <<<

                                                                                                  Well, that's not my fault.

                                                                                                  >>> ... and it's way less than 50-50 odds that the average clerk walking up to you is going to have much of a clue about which bottles have better wine, let alone what to pair them with. <<<

                                                                                                  Hmm. This runs completely opposite to my own personal experience.

                                                                                                  >>> Now I have enough sense to ask for the "US cab manager" or the "italian reds manager" if I really need an opinion, and I can tell real quick if the guy has a clue... <<<

                                                                                                  I guess I don't have enough sense to do that. I've never asked that in my life. Indeed, I don't think the phrase "US cab manager" has ever passed my lips.

                                                                                                  >>> The odds are far better than that with a wine steward at a restaurant with a good wine list... they're not 100% but I'd say 80-20 anyway. <<<

                                                                                                  Again, not in my experience, but clearly your experience is quite different than mine.

                                                                                                  1. re: zin1953
                                                                                                    t
                                                                                                    TombstoneShadow Jan 30, 2013 12:17 AM

                                                                                                    "Again, not in my experience, but clearly your experience is quite different than mine."

                                                                                                    Very different, for sure...

                                                                                                  2. re: TombstoneShadow
                                                                                                    Bill Hunt Feb 1, 2013 07:22 PM

                                                                                                    Well, the first thing that they should do is come here, and post their location. It is very likely that someone will have a worthwhile rec. for them, in their general area.

                                                                                                    Hunt

                                                                                                2. re: TombstoneShadow
                                                                                                  Bill Hunt Feb 1, 2013 07:19 PM

                                                                                                  I am not a fan of large wine stores, or big-box stores. While the former might have an astounding selection, the individual service can easily be lacking. Big-box stores, can also have many wines, but the help will likely just be "smurfs," who were selling TV's the day before.

                                                                                                  When I say "go to a good wine shop," I am talking about one, with individual treatment, and small enough to come to know the client. Big difference.

                                                                                                  I frequent three custom clothiers, plus Brooks Bros. The staff in each know me, and my tastes, plus the sizes that I require. Though Macy's might have more gentlemen's suits, they would be way, way down on my list. Same for wine shops.

                                                                                                  When I recommend a "wine shop," it is NOT something like BevMo, which claims to have 15K wines - though it appears that they acutally have 5K wines, but in three stacks, around the store.

                                                                                                  When you refer to:

                                                                                                  <<"Oh yeah, this wine is big and chewy"
                                                                                                  "Oh yeah, this wine has a silky body"
                                                                                                  "Oh yeah, this one's mellow and full-bodied"... they don't have a clue what they're talking about yet the store is fantastic if you know what you're looking for>>

                                                                                                  What you are referring to are retail employees, who only know what the distributor put on the shelf-talkers, and are never likely to have actually tried the wines.

                                                                                                  I just do not think that such stores are all that useful to neophyte wine buyers, and they are what this thread is about. You and I might use them, but I feel that they are NOT the place to start, if one does not yet know wine.

                                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                    t
                                                                                                    TombstoneShadow Feb 1, 2013 11:04 PM

                                                                                                    Well in Chicago you're really leaving out too many options if you don't at least partially patronize the Binnys, the (formerly, Sams), TCWC... the selection is just too vast to ignore.

                                                                                                    1. re: TombstoneShadow
                                                                                                      z
                                                                                                      zin1953 Feb 2, 2013 08:47 AM

                                                                                                      Personally, I find stores like that VERY EASY to ignore. I was born in Chicago, but don't get back there very often. Still, I've found some great wines -- and great prices -- at stores like Lush, Fox & Obel, and a couple of other places whose names I don't recall.

                                                                                                      1. re: TombstoneShadow
                                                                                                        z
                                                                                                        zin1953 Feb 3, 2013 10:05 AM

                                                                                                        Mike, I find that you are like a lot of people with some knowledge, but there are any number of things you (and others) can do to increase that and broaden your horizons.

                                                                                                        For example, you have said the selection in large stores "is too hard to ignore." I've worked in retail stores like Binny's/Sam's -- we *did* have some 15,000 SKUs -- and the approach was like throwing spaghetti against the wall: we had EVERYTHING, and the customer was bound to find something that "stuck."

                                                                                                        -- Those who knew very little about wine (stereotypically) found the selection too intimidating and were often scared to ask for assistance. Instead, they'd leave empty-handed and shop at Safeway.
                                                                                                        -- Those who knew some about wine (stereotypically) would look for certain labels and/or wines "endorsed" by Parker, the Speculator, etc., and would generally resist offers of assistance.
                                                                                                        -- Those who knew a lot about wine (stereotypically) would find our vast selection too limiting, in that we had lots of everything but very little depth of everything (e.g.: Guigal CdP, Beaucastel CdP, perhaps Château de la Gardine CdP, but not Grand Veneur, Pégau, Beaurenard, etc., and certainly none of the reserve bottlings). Ergo, the "serious" consumer would go to *this* retailer for their greater selection of Rhônes, *that* retailer for their specialization in Germans, and so on and so on -- as well as shopping online.

                                                                                                        I know you prefer the the large store with their "huge" selection. It can certainly work, as long as the employees there are knowledgable and can assist the consumer with accurate, in-depth knowledge. Otherwise, it's the smaller, independent retailer who has the knowledge to (IMHO) better assist the consumer -- not just in the short term (this one sale), but over the long haul. And by providing feedback to the retailer, his/her future recommendations will be more and more accurate, more and more "successful."

                                                                                                        The sommelier at a $$$$$ place like Gary Danko, Alinea, Le Bernadin, etc. never gets the frequency-of-opportunity that the retailer gets to, time-after-time, work with the consumer, get feedback based upon (shared) tasting experience.

                                                                                                        1. re: zin1953
                                                                                                          t
                                                                                                          TombstoneShadow Feb 3, 2013 10:48 AM

                                                                                                          1) "Ergo, the "serious" consumer would go to *this* retailer for Rhônes, *that* retailer for Germans, and so on -- as well as shopping online."

                                                                                                          I do that also, I get my list of target wines and hit every source to find the best... I invariably find the best available bottles of 1 varietal at one location, and the best of another varietal at another location... I do find that to be more of a vintage-driven thing; i.e. one location will have better YEARS of varietal 1 and the other place will have better years of varietal 2...

                                                                                                          I just don't IGNORE larger-box stores due to some predjudice against them... and, like it or not, they do in general have better selection AND they also have the depth...

                                                                                                          2) "I know you prefer the the large store with their "huge" selection. It can certainly work, as long as the employees there are knowledgable and can assist with accurate, in-depth knowledge."

                                                                                                          I don't need any employee knowledge... the place can be run by robots for all I care... I just need the selection. Knowledge is a plus, of course, but very non-essential, at least for me....

                                                                                                          Back in the mid-80's when I started dabbling with wine the first store I went to had a great selection and BY LUCK, a great manager (Crown Liquors on US1 in Riviera Beach FL to be exact), I really did appreciate his knowledge. But over the years I've seen so many wine clerks who have very little understanding of the product, they're just there to stock it and move it... that their reccos usually go in one ear and out the other. If I have to bet on the appropriateness of a sommellier recco or a wine clerk, I'm going with the sommellier every time. That's not saying they are gospel by any means.

                                                                                                          Also your comments about very limited releases and reserve bottlings is interesting... That's not really something I seek out that much anymore. I'm 99% of the time shooting for the food and wine pairing these days. I'd far more prefer to have a very solid wine (a great example of the varietal) and a great food pairing than an ethereal wine and no food pairing (or worse a bad one). Also, I'd much prefer to have a solid release from an ethereal vintage than a super-reserve bottling from an off vintage... that said, all else equal, of course I want the "best" wine I can get within my target budget on any given occasion.

                                                                                                          Thanks for the comments, it is an interesting subject.

                                                                                                          1. re: TombstoneShadow
                                                                                                            z
                                                                                                            zin1953 Feb 3, 2013 03:44 PM

                                                                                                            >>> I don't need any employee knowledge... <<<

                                                                                                            Perhaps you don't, BUT THE NOOB WILL!

                                                                                              2. Robin Joy Jan 29, 2013 07:46 AM

                                                                                                Simple suggestion: Buy two bottles of white Burgundy. One a basic version from a big name producer, the other anything with the word Puligny on the label. Have a friend blind pour you a glass of each and make your own comparisons. You will now be a wino. Congratulations.

                                                                                                Pairing is for advanced winos. It won't take you long to get there.

                                                                                                1. j
                                                                                                  JonDough Jan 29, 2013 09:16 AM

                                                                                                  I asked this same question on this board when I turned 22 years ago. What helped me the most was taking classes. I found a local college that offered viticulture classes and here I made a few friends who I could explore the world of wines with.

                                                                                                  The book I really like is "The Wine Bible" by Karen MacNeil.

                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: JonDough
                                                                                                    maria lorraine Jan 29, 2013 11:58 PM

                                                                                                    I'm in agreement with JonDough that a class helps the most if one wants to learn food and wine pairing.

                                                                                                    The reason that I think it's better than a restaurant or a book is:

                                                                                                    1. You actually taste food and wine together rather than reading about it

                                                                                                    2. You taste a variety of wines with the same dish to learn what combinations work and don't work.

                                                                                                    3. You don't waste a lot of money in restaurants on bad pairings.

                                                                                                    4. You learn the basic five food and wine pairing guidelines, so you'll know the reason why a combination works or doesn't work.

                                                                                                    If you like, I can provide more specifics.

                                                                                                    1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                      j
                                                                                                      JonDough Jan 30, 2013 10:19 AM

                                                                                                      Even if you cannot find a wine pairing class, a Wines of the World or Sensory Analysis class would be just as helpful. You'll get to taste a lot of wines and as you are tasting you will start to think "this would be great with...". The class should also help you with the proper way to taste, etc.

                                                                                                  2. r
                                                                                                    RicRios Jan 29, 2013 01:35 PM

                                                                                                    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,

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: RicRios
                                                                                                      Bill Hunt Jan 29, 2013 07:00 PM

                                                                                                      RicRios,

                                                                                                      At least for the latter, I would agree.

                                                                                                      Hunt

                                                                                                    2. b
                                                                                                      bonefreakchef Jan 29, 2013 05:51 PM

                                                                                                      No one has suggested it so far, but a REALLY interesting book on the pairing of food and wine is "Tastebuds and Molecules: The Art and Science of Food and Wine" by Francois Chartier. It gets into the flavor and aromatic compounds found in various food and wines, and how they can work together in so surprising combinations. Anise flavours and Sauvignon Blanc? Rosemary and fino sherry? Amazing.

                                                                                                      But most important for someone just getting into wines - taste, taste, taste! The most important thing is what YOU like.

                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: bonefreakchef
                                                                                                        z
                                                                                                        zin1953 Jan 29, 2013 09:29 PM

                                                                                                        It's a VERY interesting book indeed, but not one I'd personally recommend for a beginner.

                                                                                                        1. re: zin1953
                                                                                                          maria lorraine Jan 30, 2013 12:05 AM

                                                                                                          Yes, agreed. Chemical mirroring is an advanced technique and discussed here in this thread:
                                                                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8791...

                                                                                                      2. j
                                                                                                        JeremyEG Jan 29, 2013 10:00 PM

                                                                                                        Hey there,
                                                                                                        As a fellow New Yorker, I can second or third the recommendation to head down to Chambers Street Wines. Although they carry wines in every price range, I have not once in my years of shopping there heard the least bit of pretension whether I'm looking for a simple Cava for $12 or a special bottle to serve at New Year's for far more. They are understanding and sincerely interested in helping customers find what they like.

                                                                                                        A friend of mine who has become somewhate well-known here for his cocktails, once asked me what I would normally spend on a bottle of wine in a good restaurant and then spend that amount at a good wine shop instead. And I do think that a good shop will be able to help you with pairings very well. There are several places in NYC that do this all the time. I've even gone into some of them with a list of dishes and asked for their advice. My favorite most recently was for my 'interfaith holiday party' where I make a spread of Christmas dishes on one side of the table and Hannukah dishes on the other. The employee thought for a second and said, "You need some of the higher-acid wines coming out of Germany and we have some great ones. They'll go with both sides of the table."

                                                                                                        Great pairing, not expensive, and really fun. Enjoy and do report back.
                                                                                                        JeremyEG
                                                                                                        HomeCookLocavore.com

                                                                                                        1. r
                                                                                                          rccola Feb 1, 2013 08:22 AM

                                                                                                          All my life I disliked wine--to me, any alcohol had a raw ethanol taste. The wine stocker at Costco recommended a bottle of Jadot Villages Beaujolais for my beef stew and I drank some and it was delicious--for the first time I could taste the fruitiness, etc.

                                                                                                          On the other hand, maybe the chemo I got burned out the "raw alcohol" tastebuds...

                                                                                                          Try it. (The wine, obviously)

                                                                                                          1. h
                                                                                                            HillJ Feb 3, 2013 10:01 AM

                                                                                                            Two more recommendations that come to mind pkh include Imbibe magazine where every issue describes in great detail and photograph how to pair wines, cook with wine and mix with wine.

                                                                                                            And, while meeting a pal for cocktails last night I was quickly reminded how valuable bartenders are! Ask and a few surprises come with your drink. Bartenders, especially those that work bars with light menus, are another often forgotten resource.

                                                                                                            1. r
                                                                                                              RicRios Feb 3, 2013 06:55 PM

                                                                                                              145 replies @ 2 inches ea average that means well over 300 inches in replies. At that point I must confess my e-metabolism clocks out. Enjoy, be happy, sei gesund!

                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                              1. re: RicRios
                                                                                                                PolarBear Feb 3, 2013 08:38 PM

                                                                                                                If I may add ....

                                                                                                                sadoequinonecrophilia

                                                                                                              2. s
                                                                                                                sunshinetricia Nov 4, 2013 07:15 PM

                                                                                                                Have you considered joining a wine club? I am a member of a few of them and they always send recipes and pairing notes with each bottle. It's a great way to learn about new wines while also learning what pairs with them and broadening your recipe collection.

                                                                                                                11 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: sunshinetricia
                                                                                                                  maria lorraine Nov 4, 2013 07:17 PM

                                                                                                                  I agree with other posters who have previously replied that wine clubs are not the best way to learn.

                                                                                                                  1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                    s
                                                                                                                    sunshinetricia Nov 4, 2013 07:29 PM

                                                                                                                    Why do you say that? I only see one person that did not recommend them. Unless I am missing some of the replies. I am a member of some online clubs as well as a local club and have learned so much. Our local club does a tasting of 8 different wines every month plus a dinner where they pair 4 wines with 4 courses. They also have a wine of the month each month that comes with a recipe. Plus all of the educate in the newsletter, at the tasting seminar, and the dinners.

                                                                                                                    1. re: sunshinetricia
                                                                                                                      maria lorraine Nov 4, 2013 07:45 PM

                                                                                                                      Because it's an expensive way to learn, and the learning is unfocused, limited to the offerings offered by the Wine Club, which may or may not be representative of the varietal or style of wine.

                                                                                                                      It's best to learn by single varietal, sampling the same varietal made by many producers. The point is to learn the basic flavor profile of the varietal that shows up again and again.

                                                                                                                      Another way is to learn wine by single region, to learn the flavors that show up again and again if a wine is from a particular place. Very easy to then dine on foods or dishes from that same region.

                                                                                                                      Gatherings among friends are great for varietal wine tastings (each person brings a Syrah, or a Southern Rhone, or a Rioja, etc.). Community college classes are great for regional learning.

                                                                                                                      Just to make sure we're talking about the same thing, the term "Wine Club," as I'm using it, refers to periodic wine shipments from a winery or from wine retailers like Zagat or the one which published your chocolate pairing review. They are, unfortunately, not a good way to learn. You also mentioned a "local club," which may instead of a retailer be referring to a wine tasting group, which I'm all for, especially if the learning is focused each evening on a single varietal or region.

                                                                                                                      Read more here:
                                                                                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8872...

                                                                                                                      1. re: sunshinetricia
                                                                                                                        z
                                                                                                                        zin1953 Nov 5, 2013 08:04 AM

                                                                                                                        ML said it far better than I ever could, but -- for me -- it boils down to this: you will be MUCH BETTER SERVED by working directly with a retailer who gets to know your tastes, your likes and dislikes, and can work with you and within your price range to turn you on to new and different wines than you EVER could with a "prefabricated wine club," that all too often purchases wines on close-out, wines from wholesalers/importers dumping inventory, and so on and so on -- then charging you a higher than average markup for inferior wines, when you could often buy better quality wines for less . . .

                                                                                                                        I speak from years of personal experience supplying wine clubs with many of their wines . . .

                                                                                                                        1. re: zin1953
                                                                                                                          s
                                                                                                                          sunshinetricia Nov 5, 2013 08:24 AM

                                                                                                                          As I mentioned, I was talking about the local wine club. Not a prefabricated club. Unless I am reading the question wrong, it was less about learning about wine itself and more about learning recipes that pair with different wines. Our wine club dinners where we have every course paired by the sommelier with the perfect wine to go with it have been a huge inspiration for me.

                                                                                                                          I don't understand why people can't learn in different ways. Your comments seem to indicate that I am wrong and could not have possibly learned anything from my wine club. I didn't say that anyone else's way was wrong. Just that my own experience has worked.

                                                                                                                          1. re: sunshinetricia
                                                                                                                            b
                                                                                                                            budnball Nov 5, 2013 10:20 AM

                                                                                                                            People can and do learn in many ways and yours are as legitimate as anyones. There is no correct way and as long as you feel you are learning and progressing, good for you! People approach wine from many different angles and it is discouraging to be told that only one path is the right one. There may come a time when you feel you have outgrown the wine club and will be ready for another influence or tasting approach and you will know when that is. Until then, crack another bottle with your club members and enjoy!

                                                                                                                            1. re: sunshinetricia
                                                                                                                              z
                                                                                                                              zin1953 Nov 5, 2013 10:47 AM

                                                                                                                              Tricia,

                                                                                                                              NO ONE here has said "people can't learn in different ways." If you wish to presume that I said "you are wrong," I cannot stop you, but I would like to to point out where I said such a thing. (Indeed, in your post re: chocolate & wine, did I not say, "Glad red wine and chocolate works for you . . . personal preference is what it's all about; there are no 'right' or 'wrong' answers"???)

                                                                                                                              In forums such as this, people often offer their opinions. Opinions are just that: opinions, not facts. All we have had here is a difference of opinion; there is no right or wrong. True, I disagree with your opinion (i.e.: I think that, with very few exceptions*, wine clubs generally suck), but it's just my opinion. Period. It is based upon my experience, but so is (I presume) your opinion.

                                                                                                                              That said, people often come here asking questions, seeking advice, etc. And other people respond to those questions. The level of knowledge and experience varies from individual respondent to individual respondent -- some people started drinking wine for the first time a year ago; others may be in the 80s and have over a half-a-century of experience in tasting wines . . . who knows! Some may have never spend more than (e.g.) $15 on a bottle of wine in their lives, while others may have never spent less than $50 . . . who knows! And some may be casual drinkers who only have wine at Easter and/or Thanksgiving, while others may be professional winemakers . . . who knows!

                                                                                                                              EVERYONE is entitled not only to their own opinion, but to voice it. Again, there is no right or wrong.

                                                                                                                              / / / / /

                                                                                                                              * In my own experience, the type of wine club designed for people relatively new to the world of wine are designed to rip people off vis-a-vis the cost of the wine versus what the consumer pays. (Often, the wines are bottled under a private- or control-label, and thus difficult to verify what the actual retail is, for example.)

                                                                                                                              The ones that seem to work best -- again, in my experience -- are either a winery-based wine club, but only if and when you (the consumer) truly love everything the winery makes; or a retail store-based "club" that periodically ships (for example) new and rare bottlings of single malt, or Armagnac, or Champagne to the consumer, because said consumer is truly enamored of, and wants to explore, various unheard of whiskies, brandies, etc., etc.

                                                                                                                              Absent more detailed knowledge of the specific club to which you refer, I'll stick to my original stance that -- presuming one lives in a location where a rock-solid, knowledgable merchant is readily accessible -- one is best served by working *with* a knowledgable merchant who can assist you in your exploration and discovery. It is a system that has worked well for hundreds of years, and continues to be of significant benefit to this day.

                                                                                                                              1. re: zin1953
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                                                                                                                                budnball Nov 5, 2013 12:46 PM

                                                                                                                                Ok I'm gonna have to call you on that one. What System has worked for hundreds of years? What knowledgeble merchants were selling fine wines to middle class consumers in 1900, or 1800 or 1700. People bought what they had access to and most people made their own. The idea that K&L types were guiding consumers to the really good stuff in small batches in 1880's California or anywhere is just not realistic.

                                                                                                                                You may not understand, but often the feeling of people who post here that are not long time wine students, get is one of having their opinions put down and trivialized. When you say that their experience "sucks", that is what you are doing. It discourages new posters from staying and continues the "elitist" trope that many have about wine. I'm Just saying as one who has been there...

                                                                                                                                1. re: budnball
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                                                                                                                                  zin1953 Nov 5, 2013 06:32 PM

                                                                                                                                  >>> What System has worked for hundreds of years? What knowledgeble merchants were selling fine wines to middle class consumers in 1900, or 1800 or 1700. <<<

                                                                                                                                  Wine merchant Berry Bros & Rudd was founded in 1698, and is still selling wines today. So, too, Justerini & Brooks -- founded in 1749. John Harvey & Sons started in 1796, but eventually stopped being wine merchants to the public and focused on first bottling and later making their own wines. O.E. Loeb & Sons -- OK, they don't count; they are newcomers, having started only in 1938.

                                                                                                                                  Lest you think this only applies to the British, the same is true for certain wine merchants in other countries like France, Spain, Germany, etc. It is America which has that "gap" known as Prohibition that lacks numerous merchants dating back farther than 80+ years.

                                                                                                                                  >>> "The idea that K&L types were guiding consumers to the really good stuff in small batches in 1880's California or anywhere is just not realistic." <<<

                                                                                                                                  In terms of K&L-like stores and the 1880s . . . California wineries were winning Gold Medals at International Expositions in Paris, London, Brussels, etc. They were being exported to Europe even 125+ years ago. But not too far from where you live is Beltramo's, which was founded, in fact, in 1882 and is one of the few wine merchants to have survived Prohibition and picked up where they left off!

                                                                                                                                  Far more are like Martin's Wine Cellar in New Orleans, founded in 1946, or stores like Morrell in NYC (1947), MacArthur's in DC (1957), Wally's in LA (1968), or The Wine Merchant of Beverley HIlls (1974).

                                                                                                                                  >>> "People bought what they had access to and most people made their own." <<<

                                                                                                                                  Let's start with the first half of that: "People bought what they had access to." Well, yeah -- how is that different than today? I can't buy what I don't have access to, can I? Modern technology has granted me access to checking out the inventory of a retailer in LA, or Manhattan, but I still can only buy what I have access to. What's changed? Or rather, what am I missing?

                                                                                                                                  As far as people making their own wines is concerned -- OK, sure -- Thomas Jefferson made, or rather tried to make his own wine at Monticello and pretty much failed miserably. Yet he had a sizable wine cellar filled with Madeira, Bordeaux, Burgundy, etc. Sorry -- it's a well-known fact. Indeed, the most popular wine in the United States at the time was Madeira -- see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madeira_... -- which came from the Portuguese islands of the same name. It wasn't something made down the street in someone's barn, nor was it something only bought by the 18th century's "rich and famous." Inns and public houses throughout the colonies sold Madeira to their customers. Not a lot of home winemakers in Colonial times or early America . . . home brewing and even home distilling was far more popular in the 1700s and for much of the 1800s; there simply was not a steady source of good grapes until then.

                                                                                                                                  Finally . . .

                                                                                                                                  >>> When you say that their experience "sucks" . . . <<<

                                                                                                                                  Uh. Again. Please show me where I said, (quote) sunshinetricia, your experience sucks (end quote) -- or anything of the sort.

                                                                                                                                  In my first post (starting with the words, "ML said it better..."), I don't think I used the word "sucks" at all. In my second post (which started with the word, "Tricia..."), what I said was this:

                                                                                                                                  "True, I disagree with your opinion (i.e.: I think that, with very few exceptions*, wine clubs generally suck), but it's just my opinion. Period. It is based upon my experience, but so is (I presume) your opinion."

                                                                                                                                  In my world, that remains a perfectly valid opinion. I *do* think most wine clubs suck -- as in they do not provide the best value for your money; that one will be better served spending one's limited financial resources (and I don't care if you're Bill Gates or the Sultan of Brunei -- everyone's finances do have a limit) elsewhere. But I also said -- quite clearly, IMHO -- that this is a) my opinion and based upon my experience; but that b) I also presumed that sunshinetricia's opinion was similarly based. In other words, "YMMV" -- the mantra of the Internet.

                                                                                                                              2. re: sunshinetricia
                                                                                                                                maria lorraine Nov 7, 2013 12:54 PM

                                                                                                                                <<Our wine club dinners where we have every course paired by the sommelier with the perfect wine to go with it have been a huge inspiration for me.

                                                                                                                                I don't understand why people can't learn in different ways. Your comments seem to indicate that I am wrong and could not have possibly learned anything from my wine club. I didn't say that anyone else's way was wrong. Just that my own experience has worked.>>

                                                                                                                                Sure, people can learn in a myriad of ways. But some ways offer higher-quality information or information that is more useful and universally applicable than other ways.

                                                                                                                                We've discussed why Wine Clubs are not a good way to learn about wine in general.

                                                                                                                                Now, turning to pairings, Wine Clubs don't really teach you how to pair wine. When you get a recipe to pair with a Wine Club wine, you learn a pairing for that wine only and not the underlying principles of why a pairing works. Moreover, Wine Club pairings are often not as honed as they should be.

                                                                                                                                Sure, you'll derive a little learning from that one pairing, but it won't be as useful to you as learning the principles of pairing.

                                                                                                                                My point is simply a variation on the old maxim: Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day; teach him how to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime.

                                                                                                                                Good pairing starts by learning the basic flavor profiles of the major varietals and the foods that work with those flavors. There are a few basic pairing principles: matching flavor intensity (the most basic), flavor commonality, geographic/regional commonality, and contrasting flavors that work. There are special strategies for pairing Asian food and for pairing desserts. And other synergies that have stood the test of time.

                                                                                                                                Once you learn those, you'll know *why* a certain dish will work well with a particular wine, and can apply the principles to any dish or any wine.
                                                                                                                                You can pair from the food forward and choose a wine to go with a particular dish. Or, you can pair from the wine backwards and develop or adapt a recipe to be a better pairing with a particular wine. Then, an entire world opens up.

                                                                                                                                1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                                  Bill Hunt Nov 7, 2013 06:26 PM

                                                                                                                                  ML,

                                                                                                                                  I agree completely, and especially about how folk learn. For me, the two best methods have been:

                                                                                                                                  Experience what the sommelier pairs with ___ from the kitchen, and then by preparing various dishes, and tasting the wines from my cellar.

                                                                                                                                  In the latter, my wife will often work up a recipe for ___, and then will prepare a test dish. I will bring up several bottles, that I think will pair perfectly. Sometimes, one, or more, will, but in a few cases, due to spices, or sauces, I will need a second go at it. By the time that our guests get to the dish, and the wine, there might be 2 - 4 tastings, to get us there.

                                                                                                                                  When dining out, we often go with a Chef's Tasting Menu, plus the Sommelier's Pairing for the various dishes. During that evening, we are making copious mental notes, and also tasting all wines, with most dishes, just to see what might be lurking. Sometimes, we find that "wine 4" goes better with "dish 5," but are always learning. It is not uncommon for us to have 10 wines on the table, by the end of the meal.

                                                                                                                                  Just OUR way of learning.

                                                                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                                                                      2. Robin Joy Nov 6, 2013 12:08 AM

                                                                                                                        Starting is easy. Stopping is the toughie.

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                                                                                                                          acssss Nov 7, 2013 01:15 PM

                                                                                                                          Rent the movie "Sideways" or better yet, take the trip they took.

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