Since yesterday's post, I've gotten a bunch of questions about wine and why I bother tasting it. Here are some highlights.

  • Q: Do you really know anything about wine?
  • A: A little. Not as much as some of my coworkers and friends like Nick Abbott, John Case, Geoff Shilling, and David Stutz. Enough to cause trouble.
  • Q: Where'd you learn about wine?
  • A: I learned a lot at wine tastings at Beltramo's in Menlo Park. I also read a few books and subscribed for a while to the Wine Spectator. I mostly spent time harassing friends and sommeliers in restaurants. I also host (and go to) wine tastings.
  • Q: Isn't wine tasting pretentious?
  • A: You can make anything pretentious if you try hard enough, and there's a definite snob-appeal to wine tasting (which certainly has its allure :-). But I taste wine for two reasons: first as a social event, second so that I can make sure I drink good wine. It's less about describing something as having a taste of lemongrass and a long finish and more about dividing wines into “things I like” and “things I don't like (at least right now).” It's like any other food: I want to be able to pick food I like over food I don't, so I try a lot of foods.
  • Q: What's the best wine you've ever had?
  • A: My current favorites are the Archery Summit Pinot Noirs and the Rex Hill Pinot Noirs. I just came off a long stint of drinking only Syrah and Shiraz.
  • Q: What's the worst wine you've ever had?
  • A: A corked bottle of Zinfindel. It came out of the bottle bubbling, which told me there was something wrong before we even tasted it. (“Corked” means that something went wrong, usually bacterial, with the wine after it went into the bottle, probably due to either a rotten cork or some bacteria on the cork or an incomplete seal at the cork.)
  • Q: Why should I bother learning about wine? Isn't a $5 box of wine just as good if I can't tell the difference?
  • A: It certainly cuts costs if you either can't taste the difference or just don't care. You probably can tell the difference, however. Generally, if you stack even a good $15 bottle of wine up against a box wine, you'll notice the difference. For me, having good wine (like having good food) just enhances the experience. I don't think many people would voluntarily eat bad food. I don't think people should voluntarily drink bad wine.
  • Q: What's the most expensive bottle you've ever had?
  • A: A $1,200 Chateau d'Yquem; it wasn't notably better than some $40 and $50 wines I've had, but it was good.
  • Q: How many wines do you have in your cellar?
  • A: As few as six, as many as 72. In other words, not many. I used to have more, but I didn't have great conditions, so many of the wines turned. After that, I kept inventory small.