Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How to Wine in Hawaiian

People ask me all the time about how I learned so much about wine (practice practice practice) and it's tough to boil it down into straightforward advice. Then I came across this article by Andre Lopez, owner of a wine shop in Honolulu, Hawaii.
I recently tried to recall the steps I took in my early wine-drinking days to help me better understand wine. The following basics are what I remember. Feel free to use them as a guide in your journey to develop and trust your own palate:

# Talk to people — simple, but powerful. I'm always amazed, initially embarrassed of course, at how much I've learned myself from speaking with customers.

# Experiment with price points, especially the cheap stuff. Buying various wines at different price points, however low and however high (I understand the high is not always possible) allows you to get an idea of quality to price. Eventually, you start to see where your perception of "value" lies, no matter the price point.

# E-mail wineries directly with questions. What better way to learn than getting it straight from the source?

# Spend some time in wine bars. This is a great way to learn. With multiple by-the-glass options at many of these hip new spots, you can hedge your investment in 1- to 2-ounce servings, rather than a full glass or entire bottle.

# Read books. I'm finally admitting that my first book on wine was "Wine for Dummies." It's a great primer for general wine knowledge and if you're familiar with the "For Dummies" publications, you already know they're entertaining reads that take you seamlessly from beginning to end.

# Pay attention a little more on a daily basis to what we eat and smell. A lot of wines' aromas and flavors are very familiar ones that come from things we encounter every day. Many times it's not necessarily things we always put in our mouths. Ever smelled your 13-year-old son's closet? How about Play-Doh? Raw cake batter, Pixi Stix, gas stations, you name it. The literal smells and flavors as well as the mere suggestion of smells and flavors are all around us.

I realize in this hectic day and age, all of this effort can be a little more involved than most people want to be. I often catch myself having this irrational expectation of consumers to have the same desire to employ the same process as I. Could it be that I have my own inner wine Nazi, not yet obvious to the casual observer? In the end I think we all just want to feel good about our purchases, no matter what the reasoning behind the selection process was.
Andre Lopez is owner and operator of The People's Wine Shop, 1136 S. King St. Reach him at 593-7887 or

Andre goes on to recommend several wines, including one of my favorites, Vignalta Sirio Dry Muscat from Italy. I discovered this gem when the wine maker himself was serving his wines at Monterey Street Wine Co. in San Luis Obispo.

# Vignalta Sirio Dry Muscat, Italy ($15.95). This is a bone-dry version of a wine normally experienced as a sweet dessert wine. Enchanting, floral aromas and a snappy mouth-feel. Cool stuff.


Anonymous said...

Which wines you suggest to be the perfect drinks for night parties?

Anonymous said...

I am dying to have a sip of Vignalta Sirio Dry Muscatbut I wonder if I have to go to Italy to fulfill my wish.

Anonymous said...

You don't have to go to Italy. I'm sure you can find in shops and restaurants in Monterey County, CA since the winemaker/owner lives there 6 months of the year. I found it for $14 at Monterey Street Wine Co. in San Luis Obispo, CA.