It’s hard to find someone with whom you agree 100%, 100% of the time. Seriously, do you know anyone who shares the exact tastes you have in TV shows, books, or John Hughes movies (though if it’s not “The Breakfast Club,” there’s something seriously wrong with you). So how do you know if your personal wine preferences lines up with that of a professional wine reviewer? And why would you take his or her word for what is a “90 point wine” versus an “85 point wine” (and what the hell do those numbers mean anyway?).
Because we all bring our own tastes and points of view to evaluating wine, I think it’s only fair for me to disclose my “taste profile.” Now mind you — this is all subject to change. As one professional wine writer noted: “Everyone’s palate … transforms over time. Partly it’s because of increasing knowledge and experience. What struck you as impressive, even compelling, at the beginning of your engagement with wine can often fail to persuade later in your wine life. And it might continue to change.” I’ve noticed that over time my taste preference have changed a fair amount, and I’ll try to update this page accordingly.
Red Wines: I think a lot of California Pinot Noir have gotten way too big and fruity, and that cooler climate juice (Sonoma Coast, Anderson Valley) seems to be better balanced and have a little more earth and dirt. Yes, I have a soft spot for Burgundy too, but the price point makes it somewhat difficult for me to have a ton of Nuits Saint Georges lying around.
I also have become a huge fan of Sicilian wines, specifically Frappato from Occhipinti and COS — something about the volcanic soil give these wines a unique mineral edge that grounds the fruit characteristics. And I never turn down some Cru Beaujolais (I’ll pass on the nouveau), and my go-to dinner bottle of late has been the Foillard Morgon Côte du Py.
When fall approaches and the weather turns colder, I look for some Northern Rhônes or leaner domestic Syrah. And when I want the funk, I break out the Chinon. I’ve lost some interest in Zin and Malbec, as many that I’ve tried recently tend to be flat and one dimensional. Not that there aren’t some exceptions out there, but I’ve found myself drinking a lot less of these wines over the past 2-3 years.
White Wines: When I started writing this blog, I didn’t tend to drink a lot of white wine. Thanks to the folks at Bi-Rite, Arlequin, Solano Cellars, and Cheese Plus, that has changed, and I’ve become a bit of an acid hound. Vouvray and Riesling are among my favorites for the surprising balance they strike between sweet and acidity. And you can never go wrong with a good bottle of Chablis –made from the much maligned Chardonnay grape — for its mineral edginess. For a completely different expression of the same grape, I turn to Jura for the oxidized nuttiness.
Other: Orange wines. I love me some orange wine. The texture is surprising, the color is mesmerizing, and it’s always fun to bring to a friend’s dinner party because everyone wonders what the heck you just poured for them. And while we’re on the topic of odd ball wines, I do tend to like wines that make me think, “Wow, I didn’t know wine could taste like that.”
Thinking back to my most memorable meals, they were always topped off with a glass of dessert wine, and I can’t turn down a glass of Tokaji if it’s on the list.
The majority of bottles I buy are typically in the $20-$30 a bottle range, though I take great pride in finding great values for “everyday” wine (under $15).
I have a soft spot for small producers, and will generally gravitate towards those wines over the mass production wines. That’s not to say that there aren’t some tasty wines coming out of large producers. I just enjoy the challenge and excitement that comes from locating the harder to find, smaller wine producers — folks who are pouring their energy and passion into what they’re making. It’s like discovering a great band before they make it big.