Friday, October 22, 2010

Cote de WHAT?

So I just started reading Windows of the World: Complete Wine Course by Kevin Zraly and I must say I am excited by what I've read so far.  I think I'm really going to learn a lot even though the first course was about the white wines of France, which is no easy task to learn.  Now let me preface by saying I never took French in school and am not familiar with how to pronounce any word that has more than 3 vowels in a row.  Thank goodness for the excellent pronunciation section in the back of the book.  I had to flip to that at least 50 times throughout this first lesson.  ANYWAY, I really do think that as far as learning the many regions where wine is produced, this book will be an excellent tool.  I will of course give a full review once I complete it. 

I've received the other books in the mail as well.  I am hoping to get through them sometime this century! :-)  Seriously though I think I'm going to get a lot of information out of them.  I am particularly excited to read about tasting wine.  This is after all what wine is here for anyway.  I can learn as many facts as I want, but ultimately the pleasure comes in the form of experience.  I am hoping to stick with the flow of learning and begin my tasting with French wines as well.  To be honest I have always made my wine selection based on the look of the label.  Does the wine have a colorful animal on it?  Done!  While this has gotten me through thus far I do realize that there's a lot more to picking out a good wine.  Picking out a French wine is a little mind numbing for many reason.  Mainly, the French wine labels are obviously not in English.  Secondly, they tend to look very plain.  But understanding what to look for is worth your while, or at least that's what I'm finding out. 

Another thing that makes selecting French wine very difficult for American consumers like me is that French wine is emphasized and labeled by the region (appellation) and not by the varietal (type of grape).  We are used to picking out a Cabernet Sauvignon for example or a Pinot Gris.  These are the actual types of grape for which the wine is made.  When selecting a French wine however, you may pick a Bordeaux.  A Bordeaux is not a type of grape but actually a region in France.  Other regions include Burgundy and Champagne.  The wines grown and produced in these regions are made from the various grapes grown locally to that area.  There are many other sub regions for which the wines may be named as well. 

Its a tricky business but I do hope to become more proficient.  And I will be coming to you and sharing as much as I can about my progress. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Maryland's Strict Distribution Laws Limiting for Newbies Like Me!

This is going to be a bit of a rant but I must say I am very frustrated with Maryland's strict laws on wine distribution.  I have been doing a lot of reading up on the wine blogs and have been interested in many of the recommended wines for tasting.  While in most states you could simply order most of these wines online from the distributer, in Maryland its considered a felony....a FELONY!  Why?  Well, of course teenagers will simply order wine online.  Now I was a teenager once and the last way I would have ever thought to buy my alcohol was from some fancy vineyard in Napa Valley.  Even if I had known that was an option I still would not have paid even $12.00 for one bottle of wine, paid for the shipping cost, and then waited a week.  Seriously, I'd do what most teenagers did and send someone who IS 21 to pick up a case of Natural Light.  If we really wanted wine then surely one of our parents had some box wine we could sneak.  Well, what about the other argument for the law in Maryland?  There are those that feel that buying wines online would decrease business for local retailers.  Fair enough, but if you ask me and most of my friends who don't have wine cellars there is still going to be business at the wine and liquor stores.  We are simply spontaneous people.  I don't often have the wherewithal to stock up on wine sometimes.  I would still have the need to drop in the store and would generally do that more often than not.  My gripe is that in learning about wine from different regions it would be nice to order from places directly at times.  Hell, I'd love to go to these various regions and be able to purchase wine from the vineyards and transport it back to Maryland with me, but guess what?  That's not happening either.

So what's the deal with this crazy law business?  Well its called the three-tier system of alcohol distribution
What can we do about it?  Write our representatives and tell them what you think.  I am including an easy formatted letter from "Free the Grapes" to make things simple below.

Thanks for hearing me out.  Now I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wine Meetups in Mount Airy, MD

I joined a wine meetup group in Mount Airy.  I hope this will give me a chance to do some regular tasting with others in the area.
In the past I have always purchased bottle after bottle for tasting, but it really can get to be an expensive hobby.  I'm hoping some group tastings will allow me to taste more wines at a time for comparison.  Fortunately, there are several wineries in the area that do regular tastings.  Black Ankle Vineyard is absolutely awesome.

Long road ahead

I have always loved the taste of wine and felt that there is something magical about the process of drinking it.  Unlike other beverages, wine seems to be more of a visceral experience.  The process of tasting wine requires you to use all of your senses from the visual inspection, the action of swirling, the smelling, and the tasting.  I must admit that though I can go through all these motions and do enjoy the process, I am still very much an amateur wine lover.  I have a general understanding of what I like and dislike.  But in selecting a wine I can still be tempted by a flashy looking label, which subsequently is a great marketing trick for people on my limited wine knowledge level.  My goal in starting this blog is to track my wine education process.  I am not trying to become the world's greatest sommelier or even the next Robert Parker.  I am simply trying to increase the pleasurable experience that is tasting wine.  My husband and I both have been experimenting with making homemade wine.  It's been a fun and interesting process which has really sparked our desire to do more.  We would love to consider starting our own vineyard some day.  But it would really help to have more of a grasp on the subject before we do.  I hope to be somewhat of a source for others going through the same process.  On the other end of the spectrum I do hope to gain advice from people who have a bit more of a sophisticated palate than I have.

So on that note I would like to share with you a few of the reference books I have ordered from Amazon to get started.

Great Wine Made Simple: Straight Talk From a Master Sommelier by Andrea Robinson
Wine Tasting Notebook by Steve De Long
Windows on the World Wine Course 2009 by Kevin Zraly
How to Taste: A Guide to Enjoying Wine by Jancis Robinson
The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil
 The Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting and Running a Winery by Thomas Pellechia