The Art of Random Wine Tasting (Visiting Whole Foods’ VA Wine Tasting Room)

Vinted on August 31, 2009 binned in commentary, wine tasting

Today we’ll be talking about listening to entire rock albums vs. individual MP3 song downloads, wine preservation systems, on-line store boycotts, Jenga, and Mozart.

Yeah, I know – how do I get myself into these messes, right?

Let’s start with the albums vs. individual songs thing.  At heart, I’m an album guy.  What I mean is, I find that on the whole, I prefer listening to an entire album of music vs. individual songs or best-of collections.  Some of the greatest rock albums of all time – Who’s Next, Moving Pictures, The Queen Is Dead, Woyaya, Close To the Edge, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Let It Bleed – had an enormous amount of time and effort placed in the track sequence alone.  Sure, the individual songs are quite enjoyable, but over the course of listening to an entire hour of a band’s work, the pieces can sometimes become more powerful when taken taken together. In rare cases, the construction of an album is so damn good that removing or rearranging even one track would be like removing an instrument from a Mozart work – the remainder starts to fall apart, like a Jenga puzzle with a foundation piece suddenly torn away.  Sometimes, deconstruction isn’t worth it.

The funny thing is, when it comes to wine I’m in exactly the opposite camp.  I love going through a great bottle of wine with friends, really “listening” to what the wine has to say as it unfolds and changes over the course of an evening, but all things being equal, I’d rather sample and enjoy several wines in the same time frame.  And since they contain alcohol there is a simple biological limit to how many bottles can be opened and enjoyed in full by a small group of people in one evening.  Not that I’ve tested that limit, of course. At least, not yet this week.

Which is why I fell in love with the wine tasting bar at the enormous Fairlakes, VA Whole Foods ‘mothership’ store while touring the Loudoun County wine country recently.

So, to recap: that’s Rock albums vs. MP3 singles, Mozart, Jenga, Virginia, and Whole Foods.  Now we can talk about some wine!…

General on-line boycotting of Whole Foods not withstanding, I was duly impressed with the cozy wine lover’s hamlet nestled on the second floor in the very back of their enormous Fairlakes VA store.  The setup includes about ten enomatic wine-preservation machines, which are capable of dispensing single-pour amounts of wine directly from bottles that are preserved via an inert gas system.  My understanding is that the systems are not cheap. 

The setup is a wine geek’s wet dream (ha-ha), as the amount of different wines that you can sample are limited only to the number of individual bottles in the preservation system, and your credit limit.  It was about as close to wine nerd heaven as you can get, provided that you enjoy the by-the-glass sampling and aren’t too self-righteous about the ‘album vs. singles’ / ‘bottle vs. glasses’ kind of thing.  I need to offer much thanks to VA-based wine blogger Dezel of My Vine Spot for introducing me to the WF tasting spot, and for the great and geeky wine conversation we had over (several) glasses together.

By now you’re probably asking So… what did you drink, man!???

That’s fodder for another post entirely.  Some of the wines on offer were excellent examples of some of the world’s great fine wines.  I’ve yet to offer any twitter ‘mini-reviews’ from that extended tasting, because I’m finding it very, very difficult to summarize those tasting experiences in under 140 characters.  For now, I’ll offer some pics of my selections as taken from the extraordinarily crappy camera on my LG ENV2 cell phone (dear iPhone users – please resist the temptation to tell me how great you are because your overly-expensive phone that is nasty and smudgy from the glossy screen getting rubbed against your face all day long, and gets crappy talk-time life with it non-replaceable rechargeable battery, takes amazing video and pictures – thanks in advance):


(images:, 1WineDude’s crappy LG ENV2 phone camera)





  • Dylan

    Interesting system. I definitely appreciate how it's designed to allow multiple tastes of wine. Sometimes that's all we want or need. It's something I would try, however, I still think I remain in the camp of letting the bottle unfold while making contact with the air. This system doesn't appeal as much to the unfolding of time and seems to emphasize the rapid fire nature of consumption.

    • 1WineDude

      Yeah – fundamentally different experience, really.

  • Therese Howe

    Now I'm REALLY sorry I didn't join you guys after the wine tour! I love that Fair Lakes Whole Foods … I go for lunch at the salad and hot bars. I should've worked something out with the Whole Foods people for you guys — sorry, didn't even occur to me!

    • 1WineDude

      Next time… ;-)

  • Joe Herrig

    There's a bar in Atlanta (Decatur) that does that called "Tastings"…first off, let me say that they're selection is not NEARLY as impressive as your snapshots. That being said, it's really cool to try bottles that you normally couldn't afford without splitting amongst a large group, which can be tough to do. However, I think the "human" aspect of the tasting experience is lost in translation a little bit…like replacing a handshake. I guess it's spawned from this romantic "Public House" mentality, where the barkeep is there to lend an ear, and the handcrafted goodness of the earth is handled with care, rather than vended out by a machine. Dunno. Guess I'm nostalgic.

  • Tom Mansell

    what's '95 d'yquem going for by the glass?!

    • 1WineDude

      I think it was $18 for an ounce pour…

  • Joe Herrig

    Also: on the music note, is there any band that does "whole album" listening better than Pink Floyd? Dark Side, The Wall, Meddle, Animals…they're all basically rock operas that cannot be enjoyed nearly as much in pieces.

  • Arthur

    I have to say I lean strongly towards being an 'album guy' when it comes to wine.
    Now, I'm gonna go and dust off my Amigos LP and hope it doesn't skip during "Europa".

    • 1WineDude

      Ha!!! Good one!

  • 1WineDude

    Yeah… it's definitely NOT like sharing an entire bottle.

    Great call on the Floyd…!

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