The best way to learn more about wine is of course to jump right in and taste different types and styles. There are several ways (not including by yourself) to accomplish this task:

  • At a (wine) bar
  • With Friends
  • At a wine shop or other purveyor of fine wines and spirits
  • At a winery

Four of the five listed above involve friends.  Yes, wine tasting is a very social activity – and the social aspect very much enables one’s growth of wine IQ.  But two of the above methods are hands down better options for learning than the rest:  Tasting events at a wine shop and/or at a winery.

There are clear benefits to both, but I prefer attending tastings given at local wine shops.  Why?  If it’s a good store with a knowledgeable staff, not only are you helping local merchants, but you’re also more likely to expose your noggin to a wider variety of wine styles.  Local wine shops will usually put together a theme for the evening. The local wine shop in my neighborhood, Ruby Wine, provides a different theme each week, be it a specific vertical tasting, region or specific for a holiday.  Most recently they produced a Thanksgiving theme:

We’ll begin with a sparkling Rosé from Sicily, and a Gros Menseng from Gascogne.  These wines will give you the wisdom and courage to complete your meal time discussion about the future of our economy and which party is more well-suited to turn things around.  We’ll then pour you the brand spanking new Sinister Hand by Owen-Roe and a Valpolicella by Novaia that smells just like the chestnuts that will be roasting in your oven.

Tasting at a winery (or two or three) may limit you to more of a vertical offering based on the region you’re at.   For instance, if you’re wine tasting in the Napa Valley, expect to see a lot of “Cabs and Chards”; if you happen to be visiting the Carneros region or the Russian River Valley, you can expect to see a lot of Pinot Noir.  And while you can learn a lot at wineries, you also have to be fully aware that they’re probably a little less than objective when it comes to their specific wine.  I’ll have another blog post that covers best practices at wineries.

Whichever you prefer, there is no doubt you will enjoy.

A couple of Local Wine Shops that offer tastings for you to check out:

1.       Ruby Wine – for San Francisco location, click here:

2.       K&L Wine – for locations, click here:

3.       The Jug Shop for SF location, click here: