Before we get too far into the new year, I must say something about resolutions. Oh, I can hear the groans. But don't worry, I have one resolution you won't be able to resist trying. Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal ran a column outlining 20 new things to try this year – all with wine at the center of each task.
I’m planning to tack this list to my fridge and cross off every one before December 31, 2009. As I do, I’ll post my results throughout the year, and invite you join in. Today I triumphantly crossed out #18: Buy a new corkscrew. Turns out the one I have is less than a year old, and not worn enough to warrant finding a replacement.
For 2009, a To-Do List for Wine
Taste a flight, find a new store and lose that old corkscrew. A checklist of 20 things to try this year.
By DOROTHY J. GAITER AND JOHN BRECHER
Happy new year! Here's a checklist of 20 things to do this year that will make wine more fun, whether you are just beginning your wine journey or are far along the road.
1) Try a Wine From a Different Country (4/14/09)
A country whose wines are new to you. Have you ever had a wine from Croatia? Uruguay? Georgia? Next time you see one, grab it. They're out there.
2) Go to a Wine Bar and Have a Flight of Wine (5/28/09)
If you have been to some wine bars before, try a wine bar you haven't visited.
3) Order the Cheapest Wine on a Restaurant's Wine List (9/29/09)
Really, just screw up your courage and do it. Restaurateurs know that many people won't order the cheapest wine on the list for fear of appearing miserly, which is why the second-cheapest wine on the list is often the worst deal. The cheapest wine can sometimes be a pretty good deal.
4) Open a Sparkler at Home for No Reason at All (12/27/09)
There are so many reasonably priced bubblies these days that they can be cheaper than ordinary Merlot or Chardonnay. Put a bottle in the fridge and open it for dinner. Yes, then it will seem like a special occasion, but that's the point.
5) Take Notes on a Fine Wine From Beginning to End (2/26/09)
Make a notation of the time when you open it, then drink slowly and take notes throughout. Whether it's a fine white Burgundy or a good Cabernet, the wine will change with time, air and warmth. When you go back over your notes, you might be amazed at the changes. It's like pictures of children: You know they've grown up, but it's only when you look at the old pictures that you realize just how much.
6) Have a Sauternes (12/27/09)
This -- the real thing, from France's Bordeaux region -- is the classic sweet wine. Yes, it will most likely cost you some real money, but, fortunately, they do come in half bottles. Still, Sauternes is underappreciated and therefore, in its own way, a good deal. There are few more life-affirming wines, especially with some age, and even that half bottle could last several nights, making it more cost-effective.
7) Have a Blind Tasting (12/27/09)
Maybe you want to go whole-hog and invite over a few friends and ask everyone to bring, say, a 2005 Bordeaux under $20 in a brown-paper lunch bag. But doing that at home with your significant other and just two bottles of the same kind of wine is also fun and instructive. See our column about doing this.
8) Organize Your Labels (12/27/09)
We've heard from many people over the years who have saved wine labels, but just keep them in a big pile somewhere. Get a photo album and put them in. Maybe jot a little note for the special ones about where you drank it or why you liked it. Looking at them will bring back savory memories.
9) Visit the Closest Winery to Your Home (12/29/09)
It's amazing to us how many people haven't visited the winery next-door. Now that there are commercial wineries in all 50 states, there is likely to be a winery near you. If you have visited the closest winery, drop in to the second-closest, and so on. You'll be amazed at the diversity of wines and styles in your own neck of the woods.
10) Attend a Winemaker’s Dinner at a Restaurant (12/27/09)
Keep your eyes open and you will find plenty. They are not only fun, but often can be a very good value. Sometimes wine stores sponsor these, too.
11) Have Fun With Stemware (12/27/09)
Experiment. Try a good sparkling wine in a regular wine glass. Pour the same fine wine into two different kinds or sizes of glasses. We all have our “everyday” glasses, but they can get boring if you don’t watch out. Engage all of your senses when you drink wine.
12) Find a New Wine Store (10/30/09)
Buy a bottle at a wine store where you have never shopped before. With all of the good shops these days, there’s no reason not to find a caring, patient, knowledgeable merchant. Even if you have a great merchant, every store is different, so give another store a try.
13) Try a Varietal You’ve Never Had From a U.S. Winery (4/27/09)
American wineries make all sorts of interesting wines that are hidden among the Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Maybe you’ve never tried Norton, or a Melon made in the U.S. Now’s the time.
14) Either: Have 12 Different Bottles in the House at Once (4/27/09)
Even now, most Americans don’t have a single bottle of wine in the house. Buying a mixed case is cost-effective (because you will likely get a discount) and fun. And, if you are going to do this, think about getting one of those little wine coolers, which are widely available for $150 and less.
Or: Drink Up
If you already have a wine collection, mark those bottles that really need to be drunk and then actually drink them. OK, we know you won’t drink all of them, but if you drink just five of them this year, you can check this one off. (No, we’re not sure we can do this one, either, but we’ll give it a good try.)
15) Go Crazy on a Wine Pairing for Dinner Some Night (12/27/09)
Try a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with steak, a Ripasso from Italy with Southern fried chicken, a sparkling Shiraz with barbecue. Just smash outside that box and see what happens.
16) Try an Older White (12/27/09)
Many fine whites age beautifully, from white Burgundy to Riesling. Well-cared-for Muscadet can be beautiful for more than a decade. At a restaurant two weeks ago, we had a 1991 Gewürztraminer from Alsace (Domaine Zind Humbrecht “Clos Windsbuhl” Hunawihr) that was so effortlessly rich, well-balanced and satisfying that at one point we called it “the essence of wine.” If you have a merchant who offers well-tended older whites, or know of a restaurant that offers them, try one. If not, buy a good white and hide it somewhere for a while. (You can check this off if you’ve put a good white away somewhere and haven’t touched it by Dec. 31.)
17) Try a Type of Wine You Think You Don’t Like (2/14/09)
Are you sure you don’t like German wine? Have you tried today’s Rioja? If there’s any type of wine you haven’t tasted for at least two years, get a bottle. Things change, including your taste.
18) Get a New Corkscrew (1/20/09)
C’mon, we know that old corkscrew still kind of works and you’ve been through so much with it. We, too, hold on to corkscrews way too long. But give in and get a new one.
19) Serve a Dessert Wine to Guests (12/27/09)
Maybe your friends don’t think they like dessert wines and maybe you don’t, either. But try an Icewine from Canada or a Muscat from the U.S. or something else along those lines (serve with fruit, nuts or cookies) and watch the wine disappear.
20) Shatter Your Price Limit (2/26/09)
At least once this year, whether at a store or a restaurant, go above your usual limit for wine if there is a bottle that looks especially interesting to you. And the opposite applies as well: If you really believe there are no good wines under a certain price, try one.
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Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page W4