Wine 101 in the Heights

I am often asked how to educate oneelf about wine. My answer is to drink as much as you can as often as possible. Although this usually meets with a few chuckles, it is the truth. I get this question a lot, I thought I would outline a few strategies for those of us living in the Heights. 

First, pay attention. If you like a wine, jot down the name and as much information about the wine as you know. Chances are, you will like other wines that have something in common with this one, e.g. grape variety, origin, style. 

Second, make friends with your local wine merchants. In our area, we have a couple of shops, The Grapevine and Cedar Green Wines. Our local grocers, including Zagara’s, Dave’s and Heinen’s, also have very good wine sections operated by people who know and understand wine. Talk to these people. Let them know your price range, as well as the wines you liked and disliked. They should be able to direct you to other wines that may suit your palate.

Third, don’t be afraid to experiment. There are so many wines out there; the best way is to open a few bottles. That can, however, be problematic. Get a group of friends together when you do this. An easy way is to pick a theme based on grape, origin or price range. Have the host put all the bottles in plain brown paper bags so no one will know which winesis which. Taste the wines and, before the wines are identified, have everyone tell which was his or her favorite and, hopefully, why.  

Fourth, order wines in restaurants. Although you pay more in this setting, it can be a great way to try wines that match the food.

In this column I have talked about Turkish wines at Anatolia Café and Greek wines at Mad Greek. Most restaurants have at least a couple of reasonably priced selections on the list. In most of the world, wine is meant for food. Only in America has it become a cocktail.

The right wine can enhance the food. Some quick suggestions include Champagne with sushi; Riesling with Thai food; Syrah with Lebanese food; Cabernet with steak; and Pinot Noir with salmon.

The best thing is that there are no wrong choices. When you find a wine you like, no one can tell you it’s not a good wine for you. Not only will you be supporting our local stores and restaurants, you also will be having fun. 

Loren Sonkin lives in Cleveland Heights. He is the winemaker for in California and writes for

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Volume 3, Issue 2, Posted 9:47 AM, 01.20.2010