We invited Ben Hammer, a passionate wine drinker and foodie, to contribute this guest post on how to think about wine choices. Ben is a strategic communications advisor for technology, media and entertainment companies. His firm, Hammer Strategies, is based in Washington, D.C.
By Ben Hammer
In Vino Veritas: In wine there is truth. They say alcohol is a form of social lubrication. Behind closed doors or in a front of a bar, with a trusted confidante, a nice glass of our favorite elixir poured by a friendly bartender can help us ease into our personal time and space. The one we own, not the one most of us rent out for the day when we work for someone else.
To see, smell and taste is to believe. Reading a description of a wine is a bit like reading a greeting card. It’s either funny (and it should not be if received as intended), or it’s too flowery to understand. No, the only way to really know what a wine tastes like is to try it. Ideally, try it with another human being with whom you have a real live connection. One never truly experiences something unless with another human being.
For me, wine is about opening up a time capsule that encompasses soil, dirty fingernails, hard work, families, reputation, and the new discovery of a particular vintage, grape and combination of wine, food, palate and conversation.
Some wine snobs will pontificate what you should and should not drink when it comes to wine. I’m not one of those people. If you ask, I’ll tell you what I’ve heard about what to pair with duck (Pinot Noir, preferably from Willamette, OR, for my taste Patricia Green Ribbon Ridge; or if you like yours with a bit of spice, from France); or shellfish or fresh fish (something white, not too sweet, possibly a Riesling or Gruner Veltiner).
But I would rather arm you with the tools to make your own decisions.
Want to buy a serviceable $5 pinot noir from Trader Joe’s? Look for the blue bottle with the fish on the front [Blue Fin Pinot Noir]. Want a case of a white blend for a party? Go with the Eichinger Gruner Veltiner for about $12-15 per bottle or the Edmund St. John Hearts of Gold blend for about $22 a bottle if for a special occasion.
Don’t let anyone tell you what you should or should not do. That said, here are a few things you might enjoy.
The 5: Tips for sure bets.
- Decoy red blend, Duckhorn Vineyards, Napa, CA ~$20 bottle
- Heart of Gold white blend, Edmunds St. John, El Dorado, CA ~$20 bottle
- Birgit Eichinger, Hasel Gruner Veltiner, Kamptal, Austria ~$13 bottle
- Schramsberg, blanc de blancs, Brut, CA (Champagne style) $~40 bottle
- Anything from Willamette, OR; Mallorca, Spain; or Stellenbosch, S. Africa.
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