K on wine: I’m not a wine expert by any stretch of the imagination and I don’t pretend to be.  However, I do love to drink wine.  I love the ritual of wine and how wine teases all my senses.  For me wine comes with great expectations. For beer my expectation is simple, beer should quench.  I expect wine to do more.  Wine has to sweet talk me, give me a peck on the cheek, and take me for a nice dinner.  I think everything to do with wine is sexy.  I’m drawn to the moist and musty smell in the barrel room, the dirt in the vineyard, sweet and sticky scent in the air right after the press.  And that’s just before it gets in the bottle.  I love pouring the wine from the bottle to the glass (or decanter), using the the right wine glass, the swirl, the sniff, the color.  I love everything about wine. Enough about me getting excited, let’s talk about wine.

The age old question “Can you recommend any good wine?” And the age old answer (another question), “Have you had wine you liked?” “Why yes I have.” “If it tastes good to you, it’s good wine.”   There is a lot of truth in that statement.  If it tastes good to you, we are on the right track.  Start with that as a basis for your “experimentation”.  Unlike most beers, wine isn’t so inexpensive (at least to me) that if we don’t like the first sip we can throw it out and open another.  A bottle of wine is a bit of a commitment.  Dance with the one who brung ya!  Dance at least for a glass or two.

In the vines: When it comes to wine, I am fortunate on many levels.  First, I live in Northern California, the wine epicenter of the US.  Here, wine is legal to sell in the grocery stores.  Most of the larger chain stores have hundreds of labels to choose from.  Add to those wine superstores with thousands of labels to choose from.  In “wine country” everybody that drinks wine speaks “wine”.  So information about “wine” is readily available, current, and relevant.  Wine tastings can pop up anywhere. At the farmer’s markets, clothing stores, every bar, even the bus station.  Okay, the last place I made up but you get the idea. Wine is a large part of the food culture here. The opportunity to taste many wines presents itself on a regular basis.  Where do you start?  Ask someone you think knows about wine and hopefully they share.  Or get lucky, like me. 

Catch more wine fly fishing: One August, at a lodge just outside of Jackson Hole, WY, I was checking in for a week long fly fishing/horseback riding trip.  Part of my luggage contained my traditional 12 bottle styro wine shipper box full of (what I considered) some of my finest bottles.  After all, fly fishing is hard work and I needed a reward for behavior reinforcement.  Also checking in, was another guest with his 12 bottle styro shipper, except, one of his bottles had broken.  From this box he pulled his broken bottle of wine. The air was filled with the scent of pepper, spice and gooeyness of the likes I had never experienced.  It turned out the bottle was the flagship Shiraz of one of the oldest and most regarded wineries in Australia.  It was broken.  So I got lucky. 

I met AT and his family.  Not only was AT an avid fly fisherman but AT was also a wine junkie. Lucky for me AT shared his addiction.  And the way AT shared his addiction was the best part.  He never told me what to taste, never acted pretentious about the wine, its label or pedigree. He just let me enjoy.  And when I did share my perspective about the wine, he absorbed it with respect and grace.  He never passed judgment on my selections and drank them in stride.  So for many years AT and I would visit each other’s families, squeeze in some fly fishing, cook and drink some wine.  AT and his family on the East Coast, me near the West Coast.  We caught a lot of fish.  We ate a lot of food.  We drink a bunch of wine.  We caught some big fish and some little fish.  We ate some good food and not such good food.  We drank some good wine and we drank some world class, off the charts, glad to meet you wine.  So let’s get lucky.

A tale of two wines:  In the wine world, like all other aspects of life, is made up of varying degrees of involvement, participation, expertise and appreciation.  One of these “wine drinking” groups can take it or leave it, it’s no big deal if you have it or don’t.  They drink it because it’s served and aren’t overly concerned about quality or content.  When asked “red or white?”, “either or” is a common answer. That is perfectly ok and I’m a firm believer in knowing where you stand.  At the far end of the spectrum is the guest that may ask “what do you have” and when you answer, they politely say “no thank you”.   So here’s my formula.  Look to serve a wine to your guests that is, not so expensive that it won’t be wasted on the “take it or leave it” crowd, but good enough for the “what do you have?” crowd.  My test is this: If it’s left over will I drink it? Is the answer to the “left over” question yes? If so, then you are on the right track. 

To the table:  As we prepare some great food we’ll share some great wine ideas.  Look for suggestions, try them out, let us know what you think and share what you might recommend.  Some of the selections may surprise you and lead you to try different combinations of food and wine.  Remember, no rules!