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3 Things Your Dog Can Teach You About Wine Appreciation

Vinted on May 30, 2008 binned in best of, learning wine, wine appreciation, wine tasting, wine tips

I’m a dog guy.

While I don’t hate cats, I don’t love cats, either. Mostly, I get along best with the cats that think they’re dogs anyway. Since this post is going to be about my schooling of wine appreciation literally going to the dogs, my apologies in advance to those who are cat lovers. I’ve never been taught anything about wine appreciation from a cat (more on learning wine stuff from domesticated house pets in a minute) – though they have taught me the art of totally ignoring people.

Since Mrs. Dudette has most of the newborn baby dudette feeding responsibilities, Dude here has been given primary Dog Duty at the House of Dude. I’m the one who now has to feed and walk my wife’s Weimaraner, Samson (see pic above). (Actually, to be fair, after 7+ years together old Sammy is just as much my dog now as he is hers).

Sammy has been a great sport throughout the whole adjusting-to-the-baby thing, and he is very, very sweet with the baby. Having to walk the dog more often than I used to has made me take more notice of Sam’s behaviors – such as licking the baby, sniffing around, licking himself, sniffing the baby, licking himself, and licking himself (did I mention licking himself?).

By observing Sam, I’ve actually learned a bit about wine appreciation. And no, it doesn’t involve drinking so much that you want to sniff someone’s butt, unless that’s your thing (licking yourself is also optional). Though it does apparently involve startling segues from dog licking to wine tasting… maybe I should have thought about that one a bit more…

Anyway, straight from the home office in suburban eastern-PA, here are 3 Things that Your Dog Can Teach You About Wine Appreciation

  1. Short, concentrated sniffs work best. Dogs have some of the best senses of smell around – and Weimaraners have one of the best noses in the doggie business. When my dog smells something, he doesn’t take a long, drawn-out, overly-dramatic sniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiffffff. He takes a burst of short, concentrated sniffs. Sniff… sniff-sniff… sniff-sniff-sniff-sniiiiiifff.

    Turns out there is a lot of merit in that approach if you really want to smell something thoroughly – and in the case of wine, smelling is where you will get about 80% of your enjoyment and appreciation. Shorter sniffs help to focus your olfactory senses, and may also help to keep your sense of smell from fatiguing too quickly. The sharper your sense of smell, the more you can pinpoint what aspects you like (or don’t like) about the wine that your tasting.

    In the case of wine, smelling is where you will get about 80% of your enjoyment and appreciation for your glass of vino.

  2. Focus, focus, focus. Ever try to move a dog from a spot when he is smelling it during a walk? If not, I encourage you to do this as a test of your own upper limits of frustration. My dog will frequently stop in his tracks, plant his nose into a smell, and lock all four powerful legs so tightly that it would take a tow truck, steel cables, and an act of Congress to move him from whatever he is sniffing at that moment.

    When a dog is really smelling something, nothing can break his concentration. At that point, there is no walk, there is no leash, there is no master – there is only the smell. If you want to experience everything that a wine has to offer, you’d do well to imitate the concentration that the average dog gives to any random oder in which s/he gets interested. With that kind of focus, you’d be on your way to wine-tasting pro status in no time.

  3. Don’t rush it. Once my dog stops smelling something and decides to start eating it, he is an shining example of what not to do when enjoying a wine (or any food or drink, for that matter). My dog will inhale food that he really likes. He will eat it so quickly, you would think there was a pack of angry, hungry velociraptors waiting 7 inches away from him ready to steal his morsels should he take more than 14 nanoseconds to eat them. The tastier the treat, the less he chews (or breathes) before swallowing.

    Which is exactly what you don’t want to do when enjoying a wine. Take your time. Savor it. That glass isn’t going anywhere, man. Relaaaax. See, isn’t that nice? Sniff. Swirl. Focus. And enjoy.

    Now, go walk that dog!


Cheers!

(images: 1WineDude.com, nytimes.com, galacticpudding, javelinaleapwinery.com)

10 Free Wine Web Resources You Probably Aren’t Using

Vinted on May 5, 2008 binned in best of, learning wine, wine 2.0, wine tips


We’re all short on cash in these times of recess -er, I mean, economic challenge. So the Dude has compiled a list of his 10 favorite wine resources on the web. All of them FREE. Each one will cost you exactly $0.00 to use. Bumpkis. Nada. Goose-eggs.

You can thank me later, by clicking the “Make a Donation” button on the Left and sending me some cash. Oh… uhm… wait a second… never mind…

Anyway, chances are that even if you’re an experienced wine geek, you probably are not using some of these gems. I’ve found them to be extremely useful, or helpful in a pinch, and in some cases downright indispensable. Hopefully you’ll find them valuable as well (look at it this way – you’re almost guaranteed to at least get what you paid for `em!)…

  1. Wine Vocabulary: At a loss for words trying to find the right term to describe that wine you’re tasting? Not anymore. With this handy aroma/tasting card from Vinography, you’ll minimize the guessing and maximize the terminology in your tasting notes. And you are keeping tasting notes, right?
  2. Wine Terminology: Don’t understand a term on the back of that bottle? Not anymore. WineLoversPage.com contains a ridiculous amount of information, and their Wine Lexicon is especially handy, easy to navigate dictionary-style, and contains click-able pronunciations for those of us who have a hard time with French (i.e., everyone but the French).
  3. Wine Labels: Confounded by tricky wine labels on those Old World wines? Not anymore. Another gem on the WineLoversPage.com website can sort that one out for you – a Wine Label Decoder, which can help you unlock the “secret code” and interpret just what the hell those German, French, and Italian wine labels are trying to tell you.
  4. Wine & Cooking: Wondering why yeast is the primary contributor of flavor to wine? No? Crap you’re messing up my shtick for this article…! Anyway, maybe you will start to wonder about it after you check out GlobalGourmet.com’s awesome Wine & Cooking reference.
  5. Wine Vintages: Doesn’t it piss you off when you’re at the wine shop, and you’re trying to determine if that low sale price has anything to do with a nasty vintage? Not anymore. You can get a handy vintage chart to-go by pointing your mobile browser to Berry Bros. & Rudd’s Mobile Vintage Chart.
  6. Wine & Health: Wondering if putting back those wines is putting years on your life ahead of your time? Wonder no more – the Professional Friends of Wine have compiled a wealth of wine health information in their Wine Health 101 Section.
  7. Wine Nutrition: Wondering about the nutritional content of that wine you’re drinking? No? Well, these are health-conscious times, my friend, so you’d better get on the ball! CalorieKing.com can help you out with their nutritional-label-style details on popular wine types.
  8. Italian Wine: Confused by Italian Wines? You guessed it – not anymore. ItalianMade.com has an expansive and informative section on Italian wines, complete with regional maps, varietal information, and wine & food pairings.
  9. Grape Varieties: Getting tired of feeling like a dunce because you don’t know the difference between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio? Alright, alright, it’s a trick question; but any budding wine geek who has even a passing interest in wine grapes should bookmark this great grape reference from CellarNotes.net.
  10. Best Bang for the No-Buck: Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the folks at Wine Spectator do know their stuff, and they have put together one of the handiest one-stop-shop areas on the Internet for wine knowledge. In the case of their Wine Spectator School Library, that shop charges $0.00 USD, and comes complete with a glossary, regional wine maps, tasting materials, wine tasting advice. It’s a fantastic place to start for the budding wine geek.


Cheers!

(images: freefoto.com, ox.ac.uk, thelanguagemenu.com)

Meditation By The Glass: The Mindfulness of Wine Appreciation

Vinted on April 14, 2008 binned in best of, learning wine, wine appreciation, wine tips, zen wine

(images: all from Joe’s house!)

Although I was raised in the shadow of Roman Catholicism, I am not by any stretch of the imagination a religious man.

In fact, after attending an Oblate grade school, a Franciscan high school, and a Jesuit university for undergrad, I ended up totally religiously-confused. Not exactly a poster-child for American religious education.

Still, despite being (more-or-less) totally religious-averse, I would consider myself a spiritual person. Over the last few years, my wife has introduced me to Zen and Buddhist principles that we have tried to integrate into our lives, with some great results. I don’t claim to understand any of the universe’s mysteries, but there is no denying (for me, at least) the powerful & moving experiences of communion I’ve felt when meditating.

“This small word – witnessing - contains the whole of spirituality.” – Osho

And by “meditating” I don’t just mean the familiar image we have of someone sitting on a pillow silently exploring the depths of their witnessing (though doing that is great and I’d highly recommend it to anyone). I mean going about your daily life activities and truly witnessing each moment of your life – trying to be “in the zone” and really living, treating every action you take as sacred – whether you are washing the dishes, walking the dog, negotiating an important business deal, playing music…

…Or tasting wine.

It’s by truly being meditative when tasting that we can most maximize both our enjoyment of wine and our wine appreciation skills…

I’ve written a few “glasses of zen” articles in the past, but I’ve never really explored how the simple act of witnessing can enhance the enjoyment of wine.

Some of the greatest noses in the wine business follow a similar “witnessing” tasting method, though they themselves may not call it meditation.

Take the love-him-or-leave-him wine critic Robert Parker, for example:

“When I put my nose in a glass, it’s like tunnel vision. I move into another world, where every bit of mental energy is focused on that wine.” - Robert M. Parker, Jr.

A similar tasting ethos has been expressed (quite eloquently) by the venerable Christie’s wine critic Michael Broadbent:

“You do not need to be an expert, or even that interested in wine to enjoy drinking it. But tasting is not the same as drinking… The important point is that there is a reason for every colour, smell and taste. Every facet of a wine’s effect on our senses… is meaningful. Exploring and understanding these facets helps us to appreciate a wine more fully.” – from Winetasting, by Michael Broadbent

Those are some serious big-league wine-tasters, whose opinions have been known to make-or-break sales for virtually any wine that they happen to taste. So, you don’t just need to take Dude’s word for it!

I could wax philosophical on how the quality of our focus may or may not increase the quality of our wine appreciation. But I’ll leave that one to the book Questions of Taste: The Philosophy of Wine which has already explored it in great detail.

Instead, I will simply leave you with another quote, and then request that you do just one simple thing. Here’s the quote:

“Meditation is not something that we just do for 20 or 40 minutes every morning and then forget about. Meditation involves a principle of awareness that you can practice in every moment of your life.”Wildmind.org

Here’s the simple request:
The next time that try a glass of wine, really taste it, don’t just drink it. Don’t think, just taste.

If you find yourself marveling at how all the disparate aspects of nature have come together to allow you this moment of real, focused living – connecting you to the small miracle of how the fruit of a wild plant can end up producing the complex and pleasure-giving drink in the glass in front of you – well, my friend, then you “get it.”

Nothing left to do but sit back, relax, and offer up a small prayer of gratitude to the universe for the gift you have received.

Well, that and finish your glass, of course.


Cheers!

3 Things an Infant Can Teach You About Drinking Wine

Vinted on April 9, 2008 binned in best of, learning wine, wine appreciation, wine tasting, wine tips

(images: firstrung.co.uk, www.2112.net/powerwindows, freelanceswitch.com, ecx.images-amazon.com)

In a mere 2 1/2 weeks, my infant daughter has taught me a lot about life – how fragile, strong, miraculous, and “gritty” it can be, sometimes all at once.

What I didn’t expect is that she would also teach me something about wine appreciation.

Now, before you go running for the phone to report me for child abuse, I’m not feeding this kid any vino. The most she gets of that would come from the residual bits in Mrs. Dudette’s breast milk.

What I’m talking about is watching her eat (er, is it “drink” right now?). It’s actually made me reflect a bit on how we (as adults) normally eat and drink in our crazy, not-enough-minutes-in-the-day kind of world.

And I can sum it up in three little words…

SLOW DOWN, BABY.

Actually, you can even shorten it down to two words (SLOW DOWN), for those of you who are really, really busy.

My daughter (more or less) waits until she is pretty hungry, makes her “hungry face” (which consists of her sticking out her tongue and flailing her head around looking for a waiting nipple), then latches on and starts sucking and gulping like a crazed, wild animal. She does stop to breathe – but only when she has to. Or when we burp her (those burps would finish her in the top 5 in any beer-guzzling bar burping contests, by the way).

And you know what? Daddy isn’t much better.

I eat 4 to 5 meals a day, trying to load the calories up in the AM and gradually lighten my food intake so that dinner is usually a small-ish meal. When I eat lunch, I’m usually in the middle of something else. Instead of being “in the moment” and enjoying the food, I gulp i down as if it were the only meal I would receive that week and someone will come to snatch it away from me
if I’m not finished “eating” it in 5 minutes or less.

Watching my lil’ bundle of joy has made me realize that this is probably not the most mature way to ensure I’m getting the right amount of conscious enjoyment – not to mention nutritional value – out of my meals.

If I used the same approach to appreciating wine, I wouldn’t even taste it, let alone be able to evaluate its aromas, or enjoy any lingering finish that a great wine has to offer!

Let’s get to the nitty-gritty and summarize.
On the winding road of life, watching how an infant eats can show us what (not) to do to really appreciate our wine (and our food):

1) Slow Down (Baby)
Take your time. There is no reason to rush that glass down your throat. Look at the wine. Smell the wine. Check out the colors of the wine in your glass. Swirl it and smell it again. Get to know the wine a little bit – after all, you’re going to be putting it into your body, if nothing else you should make sure it’s something that you really want in there!

2) Be In The Moment
Think about the wine and its aromas and flavors. Don’t think about all the things you need to get done tomorrow, whether or not you think the restaurant’s veggies will be overly-buttered, if the baby-sitter is eying up your beer (OK, maybe you should worry about that last one), etc.

3) Don’t Forget To Pause – and Breathe
Once a glass of wine is poured, wine needs air to really show its stuff. And you need air, too. To clear your mind, help you focus, and remind you to pause and actually live and enjoy each moment of life. And each glass in your hand.

Cheers!

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