I have a confession. I have spent a great deal of my time in Sonoma County for the last 20 years and I’m still intimidated by wine tasting. I always have been – and I’ve never done anything to remedy the situation. When I told people I was starting a blog about living in Sonoma County everyone naturally assumed that it would focus on wine. Nope.
There’s no question that the wine industry is a significant part of the history and the allure of the Sonoma Valley and that the public has embraced California wines and propelled them to worldwide acclaim. There are many people with incredible expertise in Sonoma and Napa Valley wines and I defer to their skills when it comes to professional wine reviews.
I do find it fascinating to watch people who are knowledgeable about wine holding their glass up to the light to elegantly evaluate color and aroma, delicately and deliberately swirling sips of wine, and then providing a thoughtful and detailed assessment of quality. That said, while it’s mesmerizing to watch an expert maneuver a wine glass, it can also be baffling and more than a bit intimidating.
After I turned 21, I remember going to a winery in Sonoma County with my friends. How grown up and sophisticated we felt! In those days you were poured a smidge of red or white wine in a paper cup to help decide what appealed to you. Then you purchased a bottle or two to take home to remember how you chose your own wine right at the vineyard where it was grown and bottled. We would invite each other over for dinner (I distinctly remember Weight Watchers lasagna as one of the entrees, so gourmet food was definitely not a requirement!) and proudly serve our wine choices.
I still feel most comfortable with this approach and I freely admit that I have no idea if an aroma is spicy or fruity and I can’t assess if a wine is “balanced’ or “complex.” If anyone I’m socializing with comments that a wine is medium-bodied or has “nuances of blackberry” I usually just smile and nod – and secretly hope that I won’t be exposed as a wine fraud.
I enjoy the rituals surrounding wine choices, tasting, serving and pairings when other people take the lead, but I tend to keep it simple for myself. I’m working up the courage to try a brief wine tasting and education session at Corner 103’s “Sonoma Tasting Experience” on the Plaza. I admit I was initially drawn to them because they use the word “intimidated” right on the home page of their website.
Clearly, I must not be alone in having feelings of inadequacy in the wine department.
To ensure that I don’t embarrass myself, I called Corner 103 before scheduling a visit to ask if there was any basic knowledge needed for their wine tasting course? No! Are there any pre-requisites? No! Could just showing up be the only expectation? Yes! The website allows you to schedule groups of 1 to 4 people and even though I would prefer to go as part of a group, I asked if it would be “weird” if I decided to come on my own and go solo. I was patiently assured that I wouldn’t be considered a weirdo. Whew! Last hurdle cleared.
Once I complete my wine tasting tutorial I’ll report back on the experience but the likely outcome is that I will just keep having fun with it. I’m open to trying new offerings and learning more about the intricacies of wine, but it also feels perfectly Ok to simply take a sip and let my taste buds decide if it’s a winner.