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Wine-tasting seems to be the latest buzzword. Americans, more than anyone, love to combine the practice with other activities. “Following the meeting, there will be a wine-tasting in the ballroom.” “Join us for a cheese- and wine-tasting.” “Thursdays are wine-tasting days in our retail store.”

What, exactly, is tasting? British author Matthew Jukes said it perfectly: Tasting is “slow drinking with your brain switched on.” But of course those tasting for their pleasure versus those who taste professionally approach the tasting experience much differently. Professionals use their nose rather than their palate as a judge of a wine’s qualities. Professionals have a lot of pressure during this process. They may be tasting a young wine to determine when it should be bottled, judging the crucial blending of a vintage or assessing wines for faults. So, those who are not tasting professionally should taste for the joy of exploring.

It’s interesting to hear people say: “I would love to drink wine if I just knew more about it.” This reflects the confusion that surrounds the wine industry. By contrast, it’s not often that the same person says: “I would love to eat more broccoli if I new more about it.”

The idea behind tasting events should be about getting to know wines, finding ways to describe them, and most importantly, letting go of the insecurities so many have about wine. No degree of knowledge is necessary to appreciate wine, so use “tasting” occasions as just that – to enjoy and explore.

The following are wines available for “tasting” opportunities at some local retail stores.


  • 2006 Meridian Pinot Grigio, California (about $9, retail)
  • 2005 Bonterra Mendocino Zinfandel, California (about $13, retail)
  • 2005 Bell Lake County Sauvignon Blanc, California (about $14, retail)
  • 2005 Ninth Island Pinot Noir, Tasmania (about $12, retail)


  • 2005 Sonoma-Cutrer Sonoma County Chardonnay, California (about $27, retail)
  • 2003 Gemtree Vineyards Cinnibar, Australia (about $29, retail)
  • 2005 Blackstone Sonoma Reserve Chardonnay, California (about $17, retail)
  • 2006 Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $17, retail)
  • 2006 King Estate Pinot Noir, California (about $28, retail)