Friday, August 3, 2012

Good Knowledge: Wine Tasting Etiquette

Today I stumbled across this great lighthearted article written by my good friend Zeke Hampton. Zeke is well rounded when it comes to pouring wine and loves to extend his knowledge to customers. I have done a fair share of wine tasting and find his honesty to be spot on about attitudes and overall etiquette when stepping into a tasting room. 
As you read through his pointers you may recognize some guffaws made by yourself or friends but take to heart what he is sharing and you will soon find yourself a tasting room pro!

12 Etiquette Tips To Live By When Going Wine Tasting
By: Ezekiel Hampton

Here is a list of helpful pointers to remember when going winetasting. I wrote this with a bit of tongue-in-cheek, so no need to be offended by the intensities. I hope you have this memorized by heart the next time you plan on visiting some tasting rooms. The most important thing to remember is to have fun. I welcome any questions one might have. Cheers!
1. SCENT. Don't wear heavy colognes or perfumes because it will be distracting and those around you from smelling the wine aromas, which is an intricate part of wine tasting. Also, if you smoke...don't do it before or during your tasting because, like the colognes and perfumes, it will interfere from enjoying the wine and appreciating its distinct aromas. If you want to pair your cigarettes with your wine, do it at home where no one else will be offended. 

2. ATTIRE. Some people think that wine tasting means you have to wear your Sunday best. I may not necessarily speak for everyone in the industry on my feelings regarding the issue of dress, but I believe that wine should not be pretenious. Unfortunately, the Napa Valley has garnered a snobby reputation that has put-off the idea of winetasting for many. Dress comfortably....dress however you want. If anyone gives judgmental vibes, then they are the ones who will appear amateur as well as rude.  

3. LADIES. Don't wear heavy lipstick or lip gloss...someone actually cleans the glasses (or at least handles them) and seeing your "gunk" on the glass is just gross. What is mixed in with the makeup anyways (my guess is food, saliva, plaque, and germs)?  

4. YOUNG'UNS. For all the young yuppie parents who strive to be appear cultured....please don't drag your darling undisciplined children out winetasting. The kids don't want to be there, and their unrestrained hyper behavior is not wanted in a tasting room. Sorry...we don't find their behavior cute, funny, or bearable. They distract other wine tasters and prevent the host from providing information on the wines. Bottom line: Don't go wine tasting and bring along your kids. Wineries are not theme parks or day care centers.  

5. WINE TALK. Please don't come into tasting rooms and brag about how much of a wine-o you are and how much wine you buy. Also, don't try to talk "wine talk" like you know what you're talking just makes you look silly. i.e. "Oh wow look at those legs!" "Oh that has too many tannins for my taste. It's really tannic." "Oh yeah... that was a really good year!" "Merlot sucks" "Yeah I only drink really good Rombauer chardonnay and Silver Oak." "Oh that's pretty oaky." "How long can you age this wine? (oh you have a giant cellar and buy wines to age them 20 years? Then why are you showing up with complimentary tasting coupons or so concerned with a tasting fee?!). Being overeager in asking about the wine club before or right after the first taste is a sure sign that you are probably not really serious about it. 

6. FLIGHT LIST. Wine hosts find it rude when you stick your glass in their face and say " I'm on #3 (etc)." Each wine is crafted specifically, and if you do not even know what you're tasting then why are you there? The wine host should give you plenty of information on what you're drinking so kindly pay attention so they are not wasting their breath. Also, you do not need to strive for the aromas and tastes that the tasting sheet/wine descriptors suggest. Some people think that by exclaiming, "Ooh! I really taste the graphite in this one!" that they are 'correctly' identifying the profile of the wine. While those who write the descriptors (usually the winemaker) have ample experience tasting wines, there is also a flair for the dramatic and romantic when poetically describing the wines. I mean c' an essay on what you believe (or want others to believe) about the wine really necessary? Sometimes the descriptors can be fun to read, but don't take it as gospel. At the end of the day, it's all relative and you like what you like.

7. POURS. One is not obligated to drink everything that's poured for them. So there is no need to remind the wine host everytime he/she pours that you want just a "teeny teeny" bit. We get it, you are not trying to get drunk (kudos)...but don't be obnoxious or OCD with the size of the wine pours. There is no need to feel guilty about dumping wine...that's part of the wine tasting experience and something that proprietors understand when opening a tasting room. The costs are covered. Also, there is no need to rinse your glass with water in between tasting wines. Water diludes the wine post-rinse. When switiching over from whites to reds, kindly ask for a rinse (the wine host should pour you a small amount of the red wine in your glass. swirl it and then dump it. the host will then fill our glass with a taste of the red wine). Honestly, using water as rinse is not a huge deal...but if you want to get the best expression of the wine it is better to use the wine itself as a rinse. 

8. MORE WINE? Want to try any additional wines that possibly might be opened that are not on the 'tasting list?' Then act like you're really interested in the wines. Ask questions (there is really no dumb question if it's sincere), as wine tasting should be just as educational as it is tasty. Bring a notepad if you wish, as it will come in handy when trying to recall the wines (the technical information as well as your own personal feelings about it) as well as make you appear to be serious. Wine hosts are eager to please and impress those who are genuine in their quest for knowledge. I should also note that there is nothing wrong with going wine tasting as an experience rather a going on a quest for good wines, as there are wineries that focus on "experience" and there are wineries that focus on wine. 

9. POST-TASTING. There is no obligation to buy wine and a hospitable, professional host will not pressure you...but for the love of Bob, don't pretend like you're REALLY interested in buying by saying/doing one of the following: "Can I buy these wines online?" "Can I take your pricing sheet with me? We just got into town and we're going to taste around, but we'll come back to buy some at the end." Let's just cut the bull...there's no need to be anything but honest: "I really like the wines but I'm not interested in purchasing today." "I like the wines but I am looking to buy some in a different price point." You will appear less silly, as wine hosts hear on a daily basis plenty of attempts to gracefully bow out of buying wine like their ashamed or embarassed of it. It's no big deal, so need to play games. 

10. LATE AFTERNOON TASTING. Most tasting rooms are flooded in the last hour that they are open with winetasters looking to get "one last drink" in before closing time. If a winery closes at 5:00pm, don't come in at 4:50pm and expect to go through a flight. Last call is not at 5:00pm, that's when it closes. Most tasting rooms won't start new flights fifteen minutes before close. Those trying to squeeze in one more tasting are usually at least buzzed, and not seriously interested in purchasing wine. Besides, the palate is usually shot from prior tastings so what's the point if not trying to get your buzz on?

11. TIPPING. Winetasting is not like dining out, so a tip is not necessarily expected. If a wine host was genunine, kind, informative, and giving of their time...then tipping is a nice gesture, especially if you do not happen to buy any wine. Wise man say: "Those who tip, may get extra wine next time."

12. LARGE GROUPS. Most tasting room hosts groan at the sight of lemos, buses, or large parties coming in to "party taste." Most higher-end wineries often won't allow these groups to taste, especially without any kind of prior appointment. If you are going winetasting in a large group, don't act like a jackass. Be respectful of other people tasting because they don't want to be distracted with your party-time vibe. Bachelorette parties are probably the worst...coming in with a sash and tiarra is obnoxious and we will probably judge you for it. If you are tasting in a group of more than 4 people, it is always respectful to call the winery ahead of time and either make an appointment or see if there is time available to come in to taste. Smaller wineries often lack space or available time/labor to accomadate such groups. If you are going to be more than 10-15 minutes late to your appointment or you need to cancel, it is rude not to call ahead. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Get-Away: Tahoe Style!

Summer is finally here and I can't think of a better way to start it off than with a post about my favorite spots in Lake Tahoe. When I was growing up I spent many summer vacations at Sand Harbor State Beach. It was my home away from home and something we always looked forward to as kids. 
I've compiled a list of must do's in Tahoe so get some peeps together and take a ride!

*Start your adventure at Tahoe's Northwest Shore- Tahoe City. There is plenty to keep you busy including, shopping, eating, drinking, golfing, swimming, or renting a boat to take in some breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding scenery.

*Lunch at Gar Woods. But don't plan on doing anything else that day if you go for the Wet Woody pitcher. The food ranges from burgers and steaks to seafood. Gar Wood's outdoor patio is a stone's throw to the water and will provide excellent views of Tahoe while enjoying a cocktail and some food. There is also a public doc with buoy's provided for all the boat in diners.

*If you are feeling lucky, you may want to stop and gamble at Cal Neva Resort. It is the only property in the country located in two states- on the California & Nevada border. The hotel was once a secret haven for Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack, San Francisco's upper crust, Hollywood's stars and international dignitaries. Gambling isn't the only thing to do here. You can also schedule a secret tunnel tour and learn about the history of the hotel. 

*Travel north to Lakeshore Boulevard, drive through Incline Village and admire all the huge "Cinderella houses" (as my sister and I like to refer to them). Try some more gambling and maybe an overnight stay at the Hyatt Regency Resort . There is also a private beach owned by Hyatt where you can rent cabanas and eat, drink, or swim all day long.

*South of Incline Village on State route 28 is Sand Harbor State Park. White sand beaches, clear blue waters, rocky coves, panoramic lake views, sunburns and childhood memories make up all the great qualities of this special beach. Hands down my favorite place. Get there early in the a.m. to secure a good spot in the sand! There is a beach area for non-boaters which also fills up very quick on the weekends. If you frequent Lake Tahoe you know that the winds and white caps pick up by 3pm so get there early!  During July and August, the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival at Sand Harbor offers the Bard’s best plays set against the awe-inspiring backdrop of Lake Tahoe.

*If the modest person in you wants to get a little daring, try the 'Nudey' beach- as our parents liked to call it. This not-so secret beach lies just south of Sand Harbor State Park. You can hike or boat in. My experience here is very limited as our view came from about a mile away while boating on the lake!

*You will find plenty to keep you busy in Tahoe's South Shore
. Visitor's can hike, golf, swim, boat, ski, gamble, eat, drink, play, and stay all week in the lake's biggest 'city'. During the summer months you can catch an outdoor concert at the popular Heavenly Valley Resort.

*Emerald Bay- if you are in the car, get out and do some rock climbing and take some pics of Eagle Falls. If you boat in, anchor at Vikingsholm and take a swim. Its crowded on a good day but well worth it. Lunch, drinks, hiking, swimming = good times. Emerald Bay is also one of Tahoe's most photographed landmarks. 

*Some people like to do physical activities while on vacation. If that's you, try hiking the Rubicon Trail. It starts at the Vikingholm Parking lot at Emerald Bay and ends at D.L. Bliss State Park. The hike is roughly 4.5 miles long so pack some snacks and plenty of water! Caution: Do not try and hike this trail after a good night of drinking adult beverages!

*Continue north on Hwy 89 to Sunnyside Resort where you'll find good eats and drink, great views of the lake, and outdoor bar with dining. Private beach and docks for summer vacation rentals make this a great week long getaway. Like me, you can spend many hours sunbathing in the water or beach. 

There are so many more things to do in Tahoe but I hope this list of favorites will steer you in the right direction or help you decide on your next vacation destination!

How To Deliver An Unforgettable 2-Minute Toast

Recently one of my favorite designer discount websites- created an offspring just for men. The new site, is great and has some wonderful articles on men's clothing, accessories, and all around etiquette. I am stealing their article because I think it's important for men and women to deliver eloquent toasts at any occasion. We have definitely all seen the best man, maid of honor, or frat house buddy give drunken, crying, toasts at weddings. Its funny, but sometimes highly inappropriate stories and un-funny jokes make you gasp. 

Get ready to take notes!

By Euan Rellie

Nothing better illustrates the ongoing decline of gentlemanly manners than the over-emotive, inarticulate and generally pointless speechifying that passes for a modern rehearsal dinner toast. Before you stand up and add another eye-roll-inducing log to the pyre of modern manhood. But, as it turns out, making a good toast or short speech is not hard at all. If you follow the rules.

Rule 1: Adopt a mildly provocative tone.
This ensures that the audience will listen. It’s the basis for the English best man’s speech. If you tease the subject a tiny bit, but with affection, that will make your emotions more convincing, and it will render your toast memorable and authentic.

Rule 2: But not too provocative.
One friend of mine joked incessantly in his toast about how the bride’s family “all work in the New Jersey construction industry… and we all know what that means.” Given that the family in question looked like extras from Goodfellas, this did not go down well. And my friend Tim Geary opened his speech at his own wedding by announcing, “This is the first time I feel no guilt over having slept with the bride the night before the wedding.” His new mother-in-law failed to laugh. (My sister-in-law Whitney Cummings can do a good roast. Google her. But please, stop well short of where she does.)

Rule 3: Make jokes at your own expense.
These always go down well. And, in my case at least, they are easy to pull off; “Sorry I’m wearing such an inappropriately lurid dinner jacket. It looked better on Eddie Izzard.”

Rule 4: Make jokes at the expense of your guests.
At my 40th I announced, “I wanted to invite my oldest and best friends tonight, but instead I invited you shallow media/fashion types and hangers-on.” That was a double. It satisfied rules 4 and 5.

Rule 5: Don’t be too nostalgic.
My dad remarked at his 70th birthday, “If you don’t drink and you don’t smoke, you won’t live any longer, it’ll just seem that way.” He ended with: “I’d like you to raise your glasses to the people who couldn’t be here tonight because they were too far away, or else sick, or because in some cases I didn’t invite them.”

Rule 6: Use no notes, ever.
You’re smart enough to prepare three or four lines and remember them. You’ll deliver them more convincingly. And it’s more fun if you riff a bit.

Rule 7: Make an admiring remark about the prettiest girl at the party.
Ignore this rule if you got married within the last 18 months, or any time when you are toasting your own wife.

Rule 8: Extemporize, sure, but prepare a punch line.
At my wife’s birthday this year, I concluded that “she’s not perfect, but she’s perfect for me.” Corny, I know, but she liked it—and for some reason it caused a couple of other women to profess undying love for me.

Rule 9: Keep it short.
Really short. Shorter than this piece. This is the most important rule of all.

In addition to his day job of writing for Park & Bond, Euan Rellie moonlights as managing director of the boutique investment firm Business Development Asia.