Intimidated by Wine Tasting

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.

Wine tasting back in the day was a simple affair
Wine tasting back in the day was a simple affair. Photo: Rodrigo Abreu

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.

So many choices! Clearly, I'm partial to California Wines.
So many choices! Obviously, I’m partial to California Wines. Kendall-Jackson, MacMurray, Imagery, Schug, La Crema, Benziger, Cline, Rodney Strong, Luna Vineyards, Decoy Wines, Coppola, Nicholson Ranch and Sonoma Landing.


Red wines suggested by Sonoma's Best wine shop in Sonoma, CA.
Red wines suggested by Sonoma’s Best wine shop in Sonoma, CA. Bucklin, Enkidu and Bedrock.


Sonoma and Napa County White Wines
Giving equal time to Sonoma and Napa Valley white wines. Highway 12, Proxy and Muscardini.

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.

Corner 103 wine tasting experience in Sonoma, California
Corner 103 wine tasting experience in Sonoma, California

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.




8 thoughts on “Intimidated by Wine Tasting

  1. Hey Julia,
    I just sip it and like it or don’t. The proper lingo is lost on me but the tase isn’t.
    Call me and we could make a plan to meet and sip🥂

  2. I agree with Patti! I love wine and know what I like but am always at a loss for how to describe it. And my intimidation goes off in another direction — I often feel as if I have to buy a bottle at the winery even if I don’t like any of the wines, and then I kick myself later for wasting my money! I loved this blog and that you felt free to admit your vinicultural fears, and I think the wine-tasting course for beginners sounds perfect. As you said, then you can trust your taste buds to make your decisions! Julie and I have a favorite winery in Healdsburg, both for the consistency of its (moderately-priced) wines and for the friendliness and beauty of the surrounding area. Oh, and also that they pair Sonoma County cheeses with their tastings; we’ve learned a lot about cheese this way. The winery is Medlock Ames (, and the tasting room is in the Alexander Valley. Julie and I belong to their wine club and go up every three months to pick up our shipment because we prefer being up there to getting the wine delivered to us. We’ll be going up on May 12 or 13; let us know if you’d like to meet us there!

    1. Hi Paula (and Julie!),
      With all the wineries in Sonoma County I admit that I haven’t been to Medlock Ames but I will look at the link you sent. I have several friends who have joined wine clubs and they pick up the wine in person and make a day of it – what a great idea and I might have to try it myself. I am off and up in Sonoma the 12th and 13th so let’s talk about logistics and see if we can make it work!

    1. Hi Maureen,
      Thanks for reading! The blog has been great fun and I figured before anyone had any expectations about my wine tasting abilities I would fess up and set the bar at a realistic level! I’m enjoying seeing the photos of your grandchildren – you have a basketball team now!

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