Wednesday, December 17, 2014 · 10:59 p.m.

Uncorked: Let's start talking wine

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When I first started this wine column, I decided that I wanted to give practical “wine tools” to my readers to better understand wine. Since my first article, I have had an overwhelming number of questions about wine. So, I wanted to share with you some of those questions that I have received because, who knows, you may have the same ones.

Don't be intimated by wine labels—ask me for advice. (Photo: Staff)

Question 1
I love wine. It's typically at my right hand when enjoying a night of music at home, but I am perpetually mystified at how to pair it with food. I like wine with a little bit of a kick to it and have no idea what gives it that quality. When ordering wine at restaurants, I don't know how to branch out from my usual choices.

Response 1
Pairing food with wine is not as hard as you think. One trick for me is to see the flavors that are going to be in the dish and pair that with the wine. For example, if you like a wine that has some kick to it, zinfandel is the way to go, not white zinfandel but red zinfandel. My favorite pairing with zinfandel is barbecue, actually. Barbecue meat has bold flavors, and barbecue sauce can be peppery, sweet and smoky, just like a zinfandel. My favorite zinfandel is Seghesio from Sonoma, Calif. You can find this bottle at Riverside Wine and Spirits for approximately $22.99, or you can purchase it for $18.99 at Costco.

Question 2
My wife and I enjoy cooking and recently found a recipe for lamb kidneys to try. We found the lamb kidneys (took a little effort), then prepared ourselves to dirty every pot in the house making dinner. The confusion started when it came to picking the wine. We know there should be a wine choice that would add greatly to the experience. Some cookbooks were semi-helpful, but we still spent way too much time reading labels on wine bottles. We chose a wine that was OK but would love to avoid this frustration. The kidneys were great.

Response 2
Lamb kidneys? That's a new one for me. However, if I went with my first instinct, Bordeaux from France would be my choice. Kidneys have a bold flavor, and cabernet and merlot would stand up to such bold flavors. Also, kidneys have a distinct, earthy flavor, which is common in Bordeaux wine. Chateau Garderose 2006 or Chateau Tour Bayard 2007 would be nice for an inexpensive bottle of wine. If the meal was for a special occasion, Chateau Gazin is the way to go. The dominant grape in this bottle is merlot but does have cabernet sauvignon as well. It is expensive but worth it for a special night.

Question 3
We dined at a farm-to-table, very upscale restaurant. The wine we ordered was not what was delivered. It took three trips to get the right bottle!

Response 3
It can be frustrating to have a server not understand you completely. That is why I find wine education to be so important in the restaurant. If a restaurant's staff is not educated, then you have many instances like this. My advice is to make sure you point to the bottle on the wine list to make sure that they clearly see which one you are talking about. Also, make sure the server repeats back to you what you have ordered so that everyone is on the same page.

I hope some of these questions have given you some insight to wine. I will be posting more questions next week with the responses. Cheers!

Michelle Richards is a certified sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers. Along with hosting wine tastings for local organizations, she serves up wine goodness at St. John’s Restaurant. Your can contact her by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees. 

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