Wino Wally's 






December 30, 2000

At a party last night, a friend of mine introduced me to someone and said, “Wally is a wine expert, he’ll help you out.”  His friend wanted to begin the process of buying and storing wines and said that he didn’t know where to start.  I gave him a few suggestions and promised to send him some magazines and catalogs that I had accumulated.  The conversation began a thought process, “how do you learn enough about wines to feel comfortable discussing them with others?”

My personal odyssey with wines began when my high school football coach bought a gourmet wine and cheese shop.  I started shopping there because I figured he needed customers.  I had graduated from college and was more interested in getting discounts on beer than buying wines.  However, on those occasions when I had a date where bringing a bottle of wine was appropriate, I asked my old coach, the proprietor, for suggestions.  Knowing my lack of expertise, he used to joke around and ask if she was a blonde or a redhead and then suggest a wine based on the answer.  After a while, though, I learned the difference between sweeter, fruitier wines and dry wines.  I started asking questions and retained the answers along with the memories of the wine that I had just purchased.  I could buy wines fairly confidently, but only bought them for gifts, special occasions, or special dinners.

An invitation to a wine tasting hosted by a liquor store frequented by another friend of mine in the Fall of 1985 changed my entire perspective.  Representatives of Robert Mondavi were conducting the tasting and introduced Opus One to the group as well as the 1981, 1982, 1983, and 1984 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet’s.  I couldn’t taste the benefit of buying Opus One at $60 per bottle, but enjoyed the Robert Mondavi Reserves.  I purchased three cases of Cabernet after that tasting; the first time I purchased wine in case quantities.  From that purchase, I have a bottle of the 1981 and a bottle of the 1984 in my cellar waiting for that special occasion or for Wino John to visit.

You might be inclined to ask, “how did you know that those wines would be classics and keep so long?”  I didn’t know at all.  All I knew was that I liked the taste.  I figured I would consume the wines eventually.  I consumed them so slowly, that by 1990 I still had almost a dozen bottles remaining from the original 36.  At one of our family outings, Wino John tipped me off that I was serving him a bottle that his local retailer sold for $79/bottle (I think I paid $14/bottle).  After that, I made sure that I served those wines on special occasions only.

It doesn’t take a genius to become a Wino (even though Wino John and Wino Bob are techno geeks and may be members of Mensa).  My recommendation is to find a retailer who you like and trust (ask a friend for a recommendation) and buy some wines.  If you’re a regular, your retailer will set aside something for you to try, call you regarding specials, and invite you to tastings.  After a while, you will also find out which of your friends are game for the Wino appellation.  My wife and I have a group of friends who have rotated a semi-annual wine dinner where each of the four couples brings a dish (appetizer, hors d’ouerves, entre, dessert) and two bottles of wine to go with the course.  We set themes and generally cap the price per bottle that you can spend.  If you like the friends, the wines, and the food, those outings can become memorable occasions.  If you can’t think of four couples, invite your retailer and his/her spouse.  The point is:  Winos are made, not born.  Go for it!

Next up:  Equipment needed by every Wino.



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