Hanging Out at the Wine Bar by Rick Riozza

It was really unexpected; I recently wrote that no one can tell you what wine you prefer. You’d think I’d take my own advice.

My last couple of wine columns invited the readership to join in on a wine tasting at some of the more popular wine bars around. The theme of this “interactive” tasting was to try “a light and refreshing Chardonnay”—one that could compete with crisp Sauvignon Blanc and light, light Pinot Grigio that have taken over luncheons and hot weather patio parties.

So I walked into the bar (tell me if you’ve heard this one already)—the bartender knows me and throws out a “Hey Rick!”, when a couple seated at the bar, point at me and ask if I’m the guy who writes the wine articles.
“Yeah”—are you here for the wine tasting? Great! Glad you’re here.” I responded.
“Well we don’t like white wine—we never drink it!” they said emphatically.
“When was the last time you tried one?” I commented, attempting to run with the conversation.
“We just said—we never drink it! We can’t stand any of it. We just love red wine—red wine is so much better.”

I casually laughed only because it had been a while since I’ve heard someone—let alone a couple!—vehemently oppose white wine. Unfortunately, they weren’t laughing back and they even seemed a bit annoyed at me.

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“No, no!—no problem” I said. “Hey—I’m Mr. Red Wine! When I bleed—I bleed red wine!” I had to try one more time. “But you know—there are some great delicious white wines out there.” I quickly mention German Riesling, White Burgundy and French Sauternes. Not getting the courtesy nod, I retreat with, “But yeah—I’m with you guys! Red wine will always be on my table.”

Apparently I wasn’t winning them over. Here we are at a nice friendly wine bar and this couple is stuck on grimace. I blame myself for the awkwardness of the moment and amazingly dig the final hole by offering to treat them to a glass of a late-harvest French Chenin Blanc (blanc as in white wine) to “simply taste the resplendent sweetness and balanced acidity with layers of complex fruit flavors”. Every wine drinker I’ve ever shared this wine with has loved it. Would these absolute staunch red wine drinkers (ie. white wine “haters”) appreciate the bold flavors and subtle nuances of a white?

They immediately moved over to a corner booth down from the bar: A more romantic and red wine setting, for certain.

From your responses it sounds like we all had a fun time hanging out at the wine tasting bar throughout the valley and specifically at The Wine Bar in Old Town,760.564.2201, and at LQ Wine and Craft Beer Shop,760.771.8466, both in La Quinta, and at 3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro in Palm Desert, 760.837.9600. These wine venues are a great examples of the different types of wine establishments that we quaffers can enjoy.

LQ Wine, as I have written previously, is the classic cool and chic corner wine shop, and, was voted by the readers of the Desert Sun Magazine as one of the top three wine stores in the valley. There’s the comfort of a small bar for those who wish to buy a bottle and sit to immediately enjoy a glass or two.
Thursdays from 4pm to 7pm are scheduled wine tastings where you and friends can enjoy and experience an array of wines. And how about a cold brew? There’s a slue of chilled craft beers available.

The Wine Bar in Old Town is a different venue. A wine shop as well, with a wine bar and restaurant and weekend evening entertainment. The wine tasting menu is stellar in their well thought-out “wine flights” where three wines of a certain varietal or category—with discernible profiles, are served together to enjoy the game of wine. This wine menu is always changing so as to provide a great variety of wines by the glass.

These places have been and will continue to be written up as I cover the wine scene. The refreshing Chardonnay wines offered by these stores were a real treat, so stay tuned for my (and some of your)
tasting notes and comments.

One of the overwhelming favorites, available at all the wine shops, is the 2010 Mer Soleil “Silver” Un-oaked Chardonnay from Monterey County. Served from its iconic gray ceramic bottle—reminiscent of the cement vats used to produce this style of wine in France and now here, with mineral and wet rock aromas along with light citrus flavors of lemon, gooseberry and grapefruit. Lovely and refreshing!

Stay cool! CHEERS!

Rick can be reached at winespectrum@aol.com

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