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Archive for January, 2009

BookEnds – The Wine Trials: 100 Everyday Wines…

wine-trialsThe WineLife365 crew is always looking for books that we think that you will enjoy and find useful.  WAIT, don’t stop reading this entry!  While some wine books can be boring and pedantic, we found at least one that might actually surprise you.


A book by Robin Goldstein (founder of the “Fearless Critic” series of restaurant guides) that has received a lot of controversy and noise from the wine industry is called :

The Wine Trials: 100 Everyday Wines Under $15 that Beat $50 to $150 Wines in Brown-Bag Blind Tastings

The title of this book pretty much sums up what this book is all about and why the wine industry is hot under the collar with Mr. Goldstein.


The tasters for Mr. Goldstein’s book were 507 folks who are friends of Mr. Goldstein and his editor. Some of the tasters were sommeliers and winemakers from France.  The rest of the group was comprised of a broad cross section of “regular” people – bartenders, doctors, lawyers, young people, old people.  Mr. Goldstein and his friends conducted a blind tasting of hundreds of different priced wines and make some startling discoveries that have made him public enemy #1 with wine industry folks.

The results of his experiment are rather amusing and eye opening. For example, he found that on the whole, his blind tasters preferred the taste of a $9 Beringer Founders’ Estate Cabernet Sauvignon versus the same producer’s $120 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. They also preferred a bottle of Domaine Ste. Michelle Cuvee Brut, a sparkling wine produced in Washington State that sells for about $12, to Dom Perignon Champagne, which sells for about $150.

What this book proved to us is that people should do blind tastings of their own and find out what they like. It also goes back to what we’ve always said; don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. And finally, don’t believe the hype that if it costs more that it must be better. The wine world is full of outstanding values. You just have to be willing to find them.

We think that you’ll enjoy this book and the wine recommendations contained in it. We also love the fact that none of the recommended wines are obscure or hard to find.

Have fun and enjoy.

Reaching New Heights of Wine Dorkdom

Here’s a tip that will have your friends and family laughing and looking at you like you’re some sort of mad wine scientist. When we get together with family and friends and we know that lots of different varietals or types of wines will be opened, we place a number on each wine bottle using a magic marker. That’s right; we get a black Sharpie out of the kitchen drawer and number each bottle from 1 to whatever amount of total number of bottles we intend to serve.


We have a friend who to this day still laughs about the “Numbering System” aka “The Progression”.  But she loves it.


So what is this “Numbering System” or “The Progression” all about?

1.)    First, we determine the total number bottles of wine that we plan on serving.

2.)    Next we number each bottle from 1 to whatever in sequential order (1,2,3,4,5…). The reason for numbering each bottle is now known to our friends as “The Progression”.

3.)    Each bottle gets numbered to tell your guests which wine you suggest that they drink first and which one you recommend that they should drink next and so on.


So you may ask, “why do you do this oh wine dork”?  Well, we run with a crowd that typically prefers whites before reds and light before heavy.  Sort of like eating a seven course meal – you start out with lighter foods before the entrée and make your way to dessert.


It’s a good way to help guide your guests so that they can enjoy each wine if there are lots of different types of wine to choose from. And it will allow you to enjoy the party too.    

White Before Red? Light Before Dark? I before E Except After C?

I’m personally not such a big “rules” person when it comes to wine. My sense is that this is a big reason that many people are turned off from trying different wines in the first place. I mean come on, who am I to tell you not to drink chardonnay with your steak or a Merlot with your fish. What ultimately matters is that your taste buds enjoy the flavor combinations. It’s your decision and no one should have the right to tell you what is right or what is wrong. I know a bunch of people that only drink white wines and others that only drink red wines. In my opinion, wine etiquette should be merely a rule of thumb rather than the Holy Grail to food and wine pairing.

Wine is a social drink meant to be enjoyed with family, friends, and colleagues. It’s meant to bring people closer together, not to single people out because they are not drinking what they’re “supposed” to drink with steak or fish. Stop being a snob! No one likes to be around snobs who think that they know every to know about wine.

Remember, the idea is to have fun and enjoy yourself, especially among good friends and family. Life is too short to deliberate over what is the correct wine to drink or in what order you should be drinking.  Enjoy the time that you have together.


Authors Confession: Now, having said all that, I must come clean…I have been known to be what is commonly called “a fish” – flip flopping around like a big old trout.  So, given my official “fish status”, I will say that having good wine etiquette at formal functions (especially work functions) can score you big points.  People will view you as being “worldly” or “smart” even if you haven’t ventured beyond your county lines.  Funny, among some crowds wine is seemingly such an intimidating subject that even small nuggets of knowledge can bowl people over.

Getting Down to Brass Tacks

Hey, the WineLife365 crew is a pretty simple bunch of folk.  Folk like you…and you…and yes, even you.  There are many misconceptions about the proper way to conduct wine tastings.  Chief amongst these are that tastings must accompany a fancy schmancy dinner and that tastings must be done in a platinum encased, dust free wine chamber. Rubbish! WineLife365 follows these simple steps to complete our daily wine review and you can do the same, just follow along with us…


  • Make every night a special night and reward yourself for a hard days work.
  • Grab a bottle of white or red priced below $15.00 or cheaper.

Heck, much cheaper for that matter. For our budget, we prefer to spend $10 or less per bottle. Disclaimer: Unfortunately, with wine you don’t always get what you pay for. Expensive doesn’t always equate to good.  So before you turn your nose up at any wine, taste it first.  You may stumble upon a great $3 bottle.

  • Sit down and relax. You’re at home now. It’s time to make to dinner and enjoy your evening.
  • Uncork it and taste it.

I know that for many serious wine drinkers, they want to discuss color and how it smells… blah blah blah. Let’s face it; your sense of taste is what matters here!  Enough said.  Besides, most wines produced today will not have a nasty odor because most wineries do not have barefooted men and woman crushing the grapes with their feet anymore. I’m joking of course. But in my opinion, most wines made today should not and will not have an offensive odor.  If it does, use your brain “Don’t drink it”!

  • Determine if you have (in your humble opinion) a great bottle of wine.  Ask yourself three simple questions:

Would you buy this again? 

Would you recommend this wine to every wine drinker that you know? 

Would you give it or recommend it to your boss?

If you answered yes to all three, congratulations, you found yourself a great wine! “General Rating Principles”

  • Primary driver of each wine rating is taste.
  • We will only comment about a wine’s color and/or smell if we feel that the wine is offensive and could make you ill.
  • We use a 4 star rating system.  Why?  Because everyone else uses 5 stars and we also like even numbers.
  • Rating is to determine whether or not it’s worth buying again and/or whether its “recommendation worthy”. “Wine Rating System”


1 Star:             Are you SURE this is wine?  Someone wants me to pay money for this?

2 Stars:            It’s ok, nothing to write home about.  Try it, you could be like that kid in the Life cereal commercials – “He LIKES it, hey Mikey!”

3 Stars:            Wow, this wine is awesome.  If there were a wine Olympics, this wine would be a silver medalist.

4 Stars:            Eureka, you’ve struck gold!  Buy it until it runs out.  Save a bottle or two to keep for a year or so and enjoy it on a special occasion.  Incidentally, this is a great way to build your personal wine cellar.


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