Raising the Bar on Wine Speak


What do the “experts” really talk about when they ramble on about the qualities of a wine varietal.You’ve heard the drill on the language of wine-speak: “crispy, grassy, okay, velvety, smooth, tannic, spicy,” etc. etc.

In the effort to de-mystify wine, a lot of nouveau riche wine “experts” spew garbage descriptions that really have no place in the lexicon of wine.

Rather than get creative and cute in voicing a sipping description, the taster is far better off learning the basic terms of what wine is all about.

To start out, most of the labels on wine bottles will contain some basic notes from the winemaker and other required information to give the taster a running start in the understanding of wine.

I give great credit for my start-up knowledge to Karen MacNeil (pictured here), the author of the Wine Bible.My copy that I purchased in 2002, has taken on dog-ears and is filled with post-its of my notes as I was inspired by and returned to what I had learned.The publisher, when he read the original 4,000 page manuscript, excitedly declared “Oh my God, this is the Wine Bible”!And the name stuck, even as it has gone through a number of editions.MacNeil is an easy to understand translator.Her biggest challenge, she says is to “stand between the producer and consumer of wine and have it all make sense.”Her advise is to “taste as many wines as you can, with as many groups as you can where thoughts can be exchanged.”

A more focused, much smaller book is How to Talk about Wine, by Bernard Klem.The first part of his book gets into what wine is, where and how it is made and a primer on the Four S’s: sight, smell, sip and swallow. The 2nd part helps the reader in getting the words and basic terms together on how to compare the wines to distinguish quality. It’s less than 100 pages and a quick and concise read.

So relax, you don’t’ have to be eloquent and exact.If you’re getting tongue-tied, just say you like it.Don’t complicate your wine experience.

Morgan’s Rises in the Desert

La Quinta Resort has always been quiet, private and with the ambience of a sophisticated hacienda .Nestled against the Santa Rosa Mountains near Palm Desert, its casitas bring guests back to the spirit of a storiedpast. The resort’s guest villages encourage strolling through gardens, several pool patios and the pampering spa.

Jimmy Schmidt (pictured here) is Executive Chef of the resort’s Morgan’s in the Desert, the quintessential farm-to-table fresh cuisine menu that is all the rage in restaurants today.

Jimmy is an award winningchef and pioneer of the healthy dining trend that embraces flavor in his technique.

He has several books on this subject.His 30 year career is impressive and evident in the Morgan’s menu.I build my choices around my selection of wine and this night it was the Grgich “Miljenko’s” Old Vine Zinfandel 2007.($85. at Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar (The) – Tustin)

This wine is a tribute to the winemaker who lives at La Quinta Resort and Club in the winter, Mike Grgich himself.Taste it with the hand cut pasta and the generous array of steak choices. All are Certified Angus Beef.Access more information at www.laquintaresort.com.

Wine Bytes

  • A big Orange County night with big wines is planned at the Balboa Bay Club Fri Nov. 2 from 6 to 9pm.Trinitas Cellar Wines plus dinner and Valet parking for $100. pp. RSVP at 949-474-7368 x 213.
  • Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas pours the World of Pinot Noir Wines Fri. Nov. 9 from 6 to 8pm.Cost is $20.Call 760-479-2500.
  • Holiday Wine Cellar of Escondido presents German and Austrian wines Mon. Nov. 12 5:30 to 7:30pm.$5. charge.Call 760-745-1200.
  • The Westgate Hotel downtown San Diego celebrates the annual French Beaujolais Nouveau wine tasting Thurs. Nov. 15 from 6 to 9pm.It’s a 3 course French dinner plus 2 glasses of Beaujolais.RSVP at 619-557-3655.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.View his columns at www.tasteofwinetv.com. Reach him at [email protected].

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