Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wine Festival Survival Tips

Wine festivals are sprouting up all over southern California this spring. So now that you've finally brushed those blue stains off your teeth following last month's Palm Desert Food & Wine Festival, you can head south this Saturday to sip at Vindiego, a new event at San Diego's Broadway Pier.
Oregon's Domaine Serene poured the Evenstad Reserve
from the stellar 2008 vintage in Palm Desert.  

These five survival tips will help you get more out of your Vindiego food and wine tasting adventure, and other fests in your wine-loving future.

Make a winery hit list ahead of time. With nearly 80 wineries scheduled for Vindiego's main event, advance planning will put your lips on wines you really want to try before everyone else empties the bottles. Decide on must-try picks ahead of time and go to those wineries first, while your palate is fresh. Make it your mission to fulfill your wish list early. You can always go back to all those tempting distractions later.

Spit, spit, spit. Yes, you gotta do it. Train your palate to read a wine with a good sip followed by a reverse whistle to pull air into your wine-filled mouth. The aeration sends more wine aromas to your sensory organs. Bathe your taste buds by swirling and chewing on the wine to extract more layers and get a sense for the weight of the wine. After you spit, stay focused on those tastes and the finish. The pros do it, and so can you. It's the only way to taste your way through the entire fest – and remember it, too.

Decide between food and wine. Food exhibitors at wine festivals turn out tempting bites with heady aromas that can interfere with wine tasting. If you're focused on tasting wine, pass on dishes that will pummel your palate for wine tasting. Ditto for dishes that clash with a particular style of wine you're eager to experience. Lemon and shrimp risotto with that just-released Cabernet? Don't think so. Watch for notorious wine killers such as raw onion, heavy garlic and incendiary heat. Come back to them later, or risk numbing your palate.

Take your pour, and get out of the way. Once you've been poured, step back from the pouring table to allow other festival-goers to get their sips. While it's easy to get caught in the moment and begin your swirl-sniff-taste-comment routine at the tasting table, you don't want to be a linebacker. Be courteous, and move away with your pour to let more wine lovers in on the fun.

Snap pictures of wine labels. It happens to everyone: You fall in love with a wine, but when asked, you can't recall the varietal, producer or vintage. Lost, forever? No, instead put that phone to good use and snap away, front and back. Ask the winery representative for tasting notes. Even better, grab an order form, make notes and use it to get more of a winner you can enjoy over and over. It beats dreaming or blathering about a long-lost wine you may never find again.  

Check out this wine-tasting animation for a taste of wine science. Others might prefer jocular British wine writer Oz Clarke who demos the reverse whistle about halfway through this video, with a few chuckles along the way. 

See you at the Pier!

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