I’ll be contributing to Bite Sip Repeat, usually on the topic of wine. My feeling about wine is similar to Scott and Dr. Steve’s on food: with just a little extra knowledge, ordinary can become something special. One area of wine appreciation that I find underrated is wine tasting. In the San Diego area, there are many opportunities to try before you buy. So many in fact that I can’t think of a good reason to buy several bottles of a wine one hasn’t tasted yet. The venues for tastings really vary: wine shops, wine bars, wine shop/restaurant combos, even many restaurants offer wine flights as a part of the menu. My postings will review all types of wine tastings, but I’ll start with ones at your neighborhood wine store.
Public store wine tastings are terrific ways not just to taste, but also to expand your horizons. No risky purchases on the advice of the store manager, who certainly is doing their best, but doesn’t have the same taste as you do. What better way to go than taste a few and then pick? The social aspect of these events is also an advantage. At a restaurant, who wants to admit they don’t like the wine they selected? You’re not sending it back just because it wasn’t what you expected. (This leads to everyone playing it safe and only ordering wine that they know, a topic for a future post.) At a tasting, there will be wines you like and don’t like so much. And there will be people around to discuss your opinions with.
Let’s start with one of my favorite places to taste in San Diego: Vintage Wines Limited at 6904 Miramar Road. http://shop.vintagewinessd.com Their Saturday 11-3 tasting is always a bargain: usually $5, although occasionally it’s $10. For your money, you get a seat at a table with a white tablecloth, a water glass, and a written list of the wines. This allows examination of the color of the wine, a chance to rinse your taste buds between wines, and something to take notes on. The wines all come out at once, so you can compare tastes directly. The staff, especially Jose the steward, are very attentive and just like hanging around the clients and discuss the wines with them.
There are eight tables, 3 large to accommodate groups of 6-8 and 5 small ones. It’s generally a friendly group so sitting with strangers is not uncommon. No food is provided, but guests are welcome (even encouraged) to bring in cheese, crackers, or a sandwich. Note that late arrivals may find that one or more of the wines were substituted. For example, at a recent red burgundy tasting, my 2:30pm arrival meant that 4 of the 9 wines were not the ones on the menu.
At Vintage, there is also a separate ala carte wine menu with wines (usually 6 whites and 6 reds) available by the taste, glass or bottle. Finally, there is also a $2 tasting of 5 wines all $15 or less. I find this tasting to be very hit or miss and generally stick with the main tasting.
I recommend giving Vintage a try for a Saturday tasting.