So, I like to think that I know a little something about wine, at least California wine. I drink a lot. Taste a lot. Read a lot and talk about wine a lot. That being said, there is SO MUCH out there that I don’t know! I often see wine lists and recognize nothing or very little (and, who wants to buy wine at a restaurant that you have at home!).
So, what can you do if you want to end up with delicious wine with dinner but don’t recognize anything on the list? You can do advance research – most restaurants have wine lists online. You can guess based on region/varietal/ year and will likely come up with something decent. Or, you can ask the Sommelier! I love Sommelier’s – who else knows more about the wine on the list than the person who picked the wine! They know what is always delicious, what is drinking perfectly now and secret gems (and values) on the list that you would probably never pick on your own. Sometimes there are even wines that aren’t on the list because of small supply or new wines that haven’t yet made the list.
Don’t be intimidated by the Sommelier – they love to talk about wine and have spent countless hours putting together a wine list! Even if you don’t know if you like your wine “dry” or “fruit forward” or some other wine-y word, you do know what grapes you favor and what price range you are looking for. That is enough! Sometimes I just ask what the Somm would drink if sitting down for a glass or for the most delicious or unusual thing on the menu right now. This strategy usually results in recommendation of a few different wines and a description of each wine – much more information than you started with and a good chance you will be drinking something you’ve never heard of and love!
I just discovered Greg Linn’s Gaps Crown Chardonnay* by asking a Sommelier for a Chardonnay that wasn’t “oaky” and was “delicious” and discovered two of my favorite wineries – Gargiulo Vineyards and Elyse Winery through Somm recommendations (Aprile* recommended at Ottimista Enoteca Café in SF and Jacob Franklin 2004 Hoffman Lane Cabernet* recommended at Mustards Grill in Napa).
*see tasting notes