This Retiree Learns About Wine

Up until a few weeks ago I would call myself a complete wine novice. To me, wine has always been just another drink choice. I’ve been sitting here in Sonoma Country, California – wine country – for a year and a half without really understanding what all the fuss was about.

Then a friend took me to wine-tasting that was different. At this tasting, wine was paired with food! It made all the difference in the world for me. The young woman helping us gave me a basic education in wine that got me enthusiastic about learning more.

Here’s what the young woman did to introduce me to wine: she had us take a little sip and carefully, thoughtfully, taste it. Then we took a bite of the food and took another sip of wine. I was surprised! The wine tasted different when paired with food. That did it for me. I had to learn more about how to enhance the taste of food with wine.

I have to tell you the total experience was a pleasure. The quiet farm country, the majestic tasting room. I liked the dark wood cabinets, tables and huge walnut bowls filled with oranges. It was very peaceful.

This whole experience had me heading to the library’s website. I was happy to find a new cookbook written by a local, Sonoma County winemaker, Christine Hanna. The Winemaker Cooks: Menus, Parties, and Pairings by Christine Hanna was just what I needed.

Christine has been involved in her family’s vineyards and gardens since childhood. She is now the president of the winery (Hanna Winery). She’s very knowledgeable when it comes to wine, but she also loves growing and cooking her own food. Her love of food and entertaining is very evident in this book.

Christine organized the book by the four seasons. Within the seasonal sections there are five menus and then recipes follow each menu.Β The only way I know to describe the type of food in this book is to call it California-wine-country-chef style. It’s all very rich in a healthy way. It’s seasonal, organic, locally grown and raised, and includes wine, both in cooking and paired with food. I’ll give you a sample menu. This is a Summer Weeknight Dinner:

Haricort Verts, Goat Cheese and Watermelon Salad

Grilled California Shrimp Kabobs with Raita

Saffron and Pine Nut Couscous

Sugared Icebox Plums with Basil

And the wine? An aromatic Riesling

The only recipes we’ve tried from the book are the ones for fava beans and for fresh peas and fresh onions. But I have two I want to try this week – Artichoke, Prosciutto, and Chive Frittata as well as the Haricort Verts Salad mentioned above. (Haricort Verts, I’ve learned, are skinny French green beans.)

I liked the talk about food in this cookbook, but I really appreciated the talk about wine. The author took a bunch of questions she’s asked every day, and scattered them throughout the book with the answers. Here are the ones, as a beginner, I found most helpful.

  • How do I decipher a wine label?
  • How do wines get their color?
  • What does it mean when a wine is “corked”?
  • How do I pair wine with food?
  • How do I store my wine?

For me this was a good book to start me on my new path of understanding the pairing of wine and food. The book was filled with color photographs by Sheri Giblin. Not a picture for every recipe, but so many that I was satisfied. A perfect book to read from beginning to end and then go back and dabble at different menus, dishes and sidebars.

I’m still a wine novice and will probably be one for a while. But now I know how I want to learn more – one bottle at a time. I brought home a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. It was delicious when paired with a light salad of vegetables and rice. The sauce was not too acidic, as that can make the wine taste bitter. See? Lesson one went well.

Tell me about your wine experiences. Novice or connoisseur? Do you have a favorite wine? Do you like to pair wine with food? If so, what is your favorite pairing?

The Winemaker Cooks by Christine Hanna (Chronicle Books, 2010) can be purchased at Amazon. (I’m an Amazon Associate.) For more about Christine and/or Hanna Wines visit their very nice website HERE.

This post is linked to Weekend Cooking, a weekly feature at Beth Fish Reads. Click the button below and it will take you there.

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20 Responses to This Retiree Learns About Wine

  1. Beth F says:

    OMG I ***need*** this book. I’ve had Hanna wine before (yes, Pennsylvania sells this one!) and remember liking it. We are definitely still in the learning stages. Just taking the time to really, really taste the wine is a turning point. When I drank wine as simply a beverage, I was less discerning. Now that we (I like the way you put it) “take a little sip and carefully, thoughtfully, taste” our wine, we not only drink less but we really appreciate it.

    I’m still learning about wine and food pairings, so this book is more me. Thanks sooooooooo much for introducing me to it.

  2. Beth F says:

    “this book is FOR me”… not more me. Sigh.

  3. Louise says:

    Oh you’ll have years of fun ahead now Margot! I love wine. I’ve grown into red wine (pinot noir is my absolute favourite- the great ones, feel like silk in the mouth), and now rarely drink white wine. Except of course, when those nice people have put bubbles in it. That in itself is a celebration. Your book sounds great. Food and wine pairings are an art form in themselves. I love being at a great restaurant with a fabulous sommelier. They can do amazing pairings, with wines that you’d never think of yourself.

  4. We have been pairing pizza with red wine (the cheaper the better in this case) every weekend now for years! :–)

  5. When we watched the movie Sideways a few years ago, I wished I knew more about wine. I would love to go to a wine tasting like that and should probably check out that book. My wine purchases are based on how pretty the label is.

  6. Mary says:

    This sounds like a good one for me and would also make a wonderful gift. Thanks for spotlighting it!

  7. Annie says:

    I have lived near wine regions in the West and have found that the right wine food combo can really transform a meal into an experience. I recently found a lovely 2007 Cab Shed Horn from Lake County. It is reasonably price and really made the evening delicious. What a great treat to give someone who enjoys wines, a gift of an evening of wine/food pairings.

  8. kaye says:

    This book does sound like a perfect gift for someone that fancies himself a wine connoiseur but really isn’t (son-in-law trying to keep up with his much more sophisticated sister!). If it were up to me for family dinners, I would just go with the wine with the penguin on the label. πŸ˜€ Have a great weekend and happy wine tasting!

  9. Rikki says:

    Sounds like a very interesting book for people who want to know more about wine.

  10. TheBookGirl says:

    I am a total wine novice. When I buy wine gifts, I always rely on the salesperson in the wine store, and then worry after that they’ve sold me something that tastes terrible, lol.

    I tend to like my wine sweet, and I admit to a fondness for sparkling wines.

  11. Great post, I can totally relate to being a novice. I could really use that book! I am clueless, and I’ve finally come around to the reds. I do like Sauvignon Blanc and a white Zinfandel but no clue as to pairings or descriptions. I either like it or I don’t.

  12. JoAnn says:

    This sounds like a great book, even for oenophiles like us! My husband likes to complain that he has encouraged my palate to become a little too discriminating. We’ve hosted wine tastings/food pairings, love trying new varieties, and (best of all) discovering wonderful inexpensive wines.

  13. I need this too…. I know little about wne and having food enhance flavors… this has me interested.

  14. Staci says:

    I know absolutely NOTHING about wine so this really intrigues me and I would love to go to a winery!!

  15. What a fun book! My nephew is in the wine business, making wine and food a focus of our trip to Chicago last month. It was so much fun.

    Thanks for cheering my 48 Hour Book Challenge this weekend! It felt wonderful having your support.

  16. i never have a clue what wine to bring when i go to a friend’s house for dinner. i usually stick with a white and hope for the best. my mother-in-law has great taste in wine so i use her red and whites as my standbys. i’m not a wine drinker myself, but this book might come in handy for a friend of mine. also, lucky you to be living so close to the vineyards!

  17. LOL I’m rather picky where it comes to wine. Don’t like red and white I prefer… as prosecco! Fortunately that’s always a welcome gift to bring. πŸ˜‰

  18. Good for you! You are in no danger of suffering from ennui ;>)….we used to enjoy touring wineries — when you go back to Oregon, there are a lot of great ones there …smaller like the one you went to and most of them take plenty of time to talk to you and answer questions.

  19. kaye says:

    sounds like you had a fun weekend and I can see some future posts on wine and food and cook books πŸ™‚

  20. stacybuckeye says:

    I love wine and have been to many wineries and tastings, but have never really learned a lot about pairing it with food. At least not in the thoughtful way that this event did for you. Now I want to know more!

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