How to Elevate Your Wine-Drinking Experience
On National Drink Wine Day and beyond.
It's no secret we're big fans of wine. But when you drink wine on the regular, sometimes you just get stuck in a rut. It's so easy to pick up the same safe bottle you already know you like and pour it into whatever cup is nearby. Enjoying wine, however, can be an elevated affair — even without putting in much work.
So let's forget about the mundane, go-to ways we usually imbibe, and focus on treating our vino the way it deserves to be treated. How can you go about elevating your wine-drinking experience? Well, I have a few ideas, but I'm in no way an expert, so I reached out to Katie Owen, the wine director at Winc, as well. Read on for our best tips and tricks and get ready to enjoy your next glass of wine in style.
1: When in doubt, reach for bubbly.
"I think a lot of people would agree that bubbly, even at an entry-level price point, can feel luxurious simply because of the association it has with celebration and romance. Whether you’re splurging on a bottle or sticking to an entry-level option from your local wine shop, the experience can be equally as satisfying and exciting. For example, I think of Winc’s 2016 Finke’s Widow Sparkling Wine ($13). This wine has such a sleek look with its label and packaging, and the palate has some really pretty, floral notes, making it the perfect fit for any occasion." — Katie Owen
2: But don't limit yourself to just one varietal.
"If I want to create a truly memorable wine experience, my evening will start with bubbles, move to white wine or a light rosé, then finish with red wine. Ideally in this scenario, you'll have a different, appropriate glass for each wine." — Katie Owen
3: Keep your glass collection well stocked.
"Any wineglass collection needs three types of glasses. First is a white wineglass, which can be stemmed or stemless, depending on your preference. Don’t forget that your white wineglass can be used for serving Champagne and sparkling wine, too. Secondly, you’ll need a Burgundy glass and lastly, a Bordeaux glass. The Burgundy glass is best used for chardonnay and pinot noir — the classic varieties of Burgundy, France — though, I often like to use this curvier glass for some syrah and other rhone-varietal wines. The Bordeaux glass (above) is a taller, more slender style and is best suited for the classic Bordeaux varieties, including cabernet sauvignon and merlot." — Katie Owen
4: Try out new wine regions.
While everyone has their go-to wine regions (think: Tuscany, Bordeaux, Burgundy and Napa Valley, just to name a few), there are so many unexpected locations producing exceptional wines. Resist the urge to only sip from spots you know, and test out a bottle from a new country or city. For example, Nobilo, a New Zealand winery, has a sauvignon blanc that is decidedly drinkable, and a pinot noir that pairs perfectly with food.
5: Don't discount unexpected wine vessels.
Of course, bottled wine will always be a popular option, but you can also find must-try vino in some not-so-mainstream vessels. There are the canned wines that popped up at every pool party and beach bash last summer, and those oft-looked-over boxes. Don't worry though, we're not talking about the boxed wine you "enjoyed" in college; there are some top-notch options that come in cute little cubes, too. For example, Black Box Wines have won 27 Wine Enthusiast Best Buys and 50 Gold Medals, and they have a limited-edition rosé launching this March. Yep, that means in just a few short weeks you can buy three liters of rosé for just $25. Color us impressed!
6: And have fun with food pairings.
"It’s always invigorating when I can experience a food and wine pairing that isn’t one of the most commonly known pairings (like the classic steak and cabernet pairing, or lobster with buttery Chardonnay). For example, Champagne with pizza! Or, fried chicken with a pétillant naturel-style wine. These combinations please the palate in such an interesting and unique way — and for me, are the culinary experiences that will stick in my mind forever!" — Katie Owen
Biltmore Estate, Asheville, N.C.
The Biltmore Estate is the ultimate getaway — with 8,000 acres, guests can spend hours, or even days, wandering the gardens, exploring the 250-room French chateau and relaxing at the inn. But no tour of George Vanderbilt's grand estate is complete without a trip to the historic Antler Hill Village and Winery. There, you can enjoy a complimentary tasting of more than 45 wines, visit the cellars and dine at the Bistro. And it gets even better: America's largest home offers stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, making it a top vacation spot all year round.
Wine to try: Biltmore Century White — A semisweet blend including Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Muscat Canelli, featuring fragrant aromas of roses and fresh mint.
South Coast Winery & Resort, Temecula, Calif.
South Coast Winery & Resort in Southern California is a complete luxury wine experience. Reserve one of the resort's private villas for a night or a weekend and prepare to roam South Coast's rolling vineyards, relax in the spa, then sit down for a meal at the Vineyard Rose Restaurant. The menu is expertly matched to pair with South Coast's selection of wine. The rich Temecula Valley soil promises you'll be able to find the right wine for you.
Wine to try: 2004 Wild Horse Peak Cab, Thunderbolt Block — A unique light-berry cassis with herbal notes and smooth, round tannins.
Willamette Valley Vineyards, Turner, Ore.
The cool climate and rich volcanic soil make Oregon a haven for cool-climate varietals, especially Willamette Valley Vineyards' award-winning Pinot Noir. Set up right in the heart of Willamette Valley, the winery offers daily tours where you can get a glimpse of its sustainable farming practices, then sit down for a glass of Willamette's Estate Pinot Noir. If that's still not enough to convince you, Food Network star Rachael Ray featured the winery when she visited the area on $40 Dollars a Day.
Wine to try: 2009 Estate Pinot Noir — A rich, complex red with aromas of baked apples, cherry, pie spices and brown sugar.
Blue Sky Vineyards, Makanda, Ill.
Jim Ewers wrestled with the idea back in the mid-1990s. After years of thoughtful consideration and planning, Sky Vineyards opened its doors in 2005 and never looked back. Winemaker Karen Hand provides the vision and handiwork for high-quality Illinois wines. Blue Sky boasts, "The Romance of Italy in the Hills of Southern Illinois," and it's no wonder — the Tuscan Sun Pavilion and Gazebo provides scenic views of rolling hills and the winery's own tranquil waterfall.
Wine to try: Norton — A bold full-bodied red made from American Norton grapes with aromas of cedar and berry flavors.
Wollersheim Winery, Prairie du Sac, Wis.
It's only fitting that a state known for its cheese is also home to some of the country's finest wineries. Among them is Wollersheim Winery, which started out as a small family-run winery when founders Robert and JoAnn Wollersheim purchased a winery farm in 1972. Wollersheim celebrated its 40th anniversary with news that it had been voted Winery of the Year in the 2012 San Diego International Wine Competition, with additional awards going to some of the winery's Blush, Riesling and Seyval.
Wine to try: Prairie Blush — A glowing pink bright, fruity blush reminiscent of citrus, pink grapefruit and red currant.
Red Newt Cellars Winery & Bistro, Hector, N.Y.
The tasting room is nestled along the southeastern shore of Seneca Lake, and it is where winery owner David Whiting creates fine wines with locally sourced grapes from the area’s top growers. Red Newt Cellars is known not only for top wines and Rieslings, but for its culinary venture that set the bar high in the Finger Lakes Wine Country. Stop by the bistro for a quick bite to eat, taste current releases or sit down in the Wine Salon, where you can indulge in portions of delicious local food expertly paired with a flight of Red Newt wine.
Wine to try: 2011 "Circle" Label Riesling — A crisp and balanced white with peach, apricot, mango and pineapple that lingers throughout.
Vivác Winery, Dixon, N.M.
A successful winery in New Mexico might seem like a far-off goal, but brothers Jesse and Chris Padberg alongside their wives, Michele and Liliana, have always been up to the challenge. And with a meticulous process that starts with handpicking the grapes to resting the unfiltered, unfined wines for a minimum of 12 months before release, the Padberg family has certainly pulled it off — the winery has been named the highest-rated red wine producer New Mexico's history by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
Wine to try: 2008 Refosco — A unique dry red with aromas of watermelon, sweet peas, pomegranate and a hint of earthy vanilla from French oak barrels.
Montaluce Winery & Estates, Dahlonega, Ga.
During the last few decades, Georgia has been re-emerging as a top growing region, and Montaluce Winery & Estates' head winemaker, Maria Peterson, has made producing quality North Georgia wines her mission. The foothills of Dahlonega are the perfect spot for growing, producing and enjoying Montaluce's wines. Set up a picnic lunch or dine in at the estate's restaurant Le Vigne, where you can enjoy an array of refined meals made with local ingredients.
Wine to try: 2010 Montaluce Risata — A bright red with hints of cherry blossom, watermelon, strawberries and cream, with a crisp finish.
Jarvis Winery, Napa, Calif.
Many wineries use caves for aging their wines, but Jarvis Winery was the first in the country to tunnel a cave large enough to house its entire winemaking operation. Inside awaits 45,000 square feet of tunnels filled with beautiful chandeliers, crystals, arched alcoves, a waterfall and dozens of barrels of wine. You're also likely to find winemakers Dimitri Tchelistcheff and Ted Henry, who work all year to produce the premium red wines for which Jarvis is known.
Wine to try: 2008 Will Jarvis' Science Project — A fruity Cabernet Franc and Merlot blend born from an eighth grade science project by the owners' son.
Winderlea Vineyard and Winery, Dundee, Ore.
Founders Bill Sweat and Donna Morris borrowed their unique name from a property they purchased in Vermont with the same name —. As former owner Jim Gerard explained, the word Winderlea was crafted by his parents combining the word, "wind," with the word "lea," meaning meadow or pasture. Combined, the words create Winderlea, a word evoking the meaning "Wind in the Meadow." Bill and Donna found it a fitting name for a winery to handcraft luxury Oregon wine. The boutique winery is known for its limited production of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and is also recognized for its sustainable farming practices.
Wine to try: 2009 Winderlea Reserve Pinot Noir — A bold yet warm vintage balanced with red and black fruit, plum notes, baking spices and clove aromas.
Sparkman Cellars, Woodinville, Wash.
Sparkman Cellars is all about family. In fact, Chris and Kelly Sparkman were inspired to settle down and open their Northern Seattle winery in 2004 after the birth of their first child, Stella Mae. Their drive and passion only grew after the birth of their second daughter, Ruby Leigh. The family, with help from some of the Pacific Northwest's top growers and winemakers, began the hunt for the best grapes to produce their artisan handcrafted wines. Since then, the small winery has quickly grown and racked up quite a few honors along the way — including being named one of the Top 100 Wineries in the World by Wine and Spirits.
Wine to try: 2009 Stella Mae — A rich, fruity blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc with a perfume of cassis, black cherry and dark chocolate.
Becker Vineyards, Stonewall, Texas
The Texas wine industry has been booming in recent years, and one of the leading wineries in this movement is Becker Vineyards. The fertile soil in the Lone Star State provides the perfect setup for Bunny and Richard Becker to produce wines that easily compete with some of Napa Valley's finest. But that's not all — the vineyard also boasts beautiful lavender fields, a grand reception hall, and a cozy bed and breakfast, which make this Texas winery feel like a French retreat.
Wine to try: 2009 Canada Res Cab — A simple, minimal-manipulation Cabernet Sauvignon with a lively concentration of fruit and herbal notes.
Vance Vineyard and Winery, Fredericktown, Mo.
Missouri may seem like an unlikely locale for a winery, but Vance Vineyards is making strides to bring Napa to the Midwest. The winery is fairly new, having opened its doors in just 2006, but has already won multiple awards for its wines with help from winemaker Roy Paris, who has been producing wine for more than 30 years. Vance Vineyards is constantly expanding, most recently opening the Twisting V Grille in 2008, giving guests an opportunity to pair their wine with a delicious dish.
Wine to try: Mollie — A soft, dry red with notes of cherry and touches of pepper and spice.
The Williamsburg Winery, Williamsburg, Va.
During the Colonial period, a farm now known as Wessex Hundred housed several families who were required to plant grapevines for winemaking. It only makes sense that after an extensive search, Patrick and Peggy Duffeler fell in love with the 320-acre farm in 1983 and opened the Williamsburg Winery. Their first wine, Governor's White, received a gold medal within two weeks of its 1988 release. The rest is history.
Wine to try: 2008 Governor's White — A fruity, semi-dry blend good for all seasons.
Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, Woodinville, Wash.
Chateau Ste. Michelle is Washington state's oldest winery, with its vines rooting back to the 1930s. The winery combines its Old World feel with modern winemaking technology, allowing the production of wines that have won some of the highest honors year after year. Join Chateau Ste. Michelle at its yearly Summer Concert Series or indulge in a sip of its unique Bordeaux-style blend in the state-of-the-art Col Solare Bottega (pictured above) — an intimate winemaking partnership between the Chateau and Tuscany's own Marchesi Antinori.
Wine to try: 2008 Col Solare — A rich, full-flavored vintage Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend with aromatic cassis, black fruit, tobacco and a silky finish.
Wolf Mountain Vineyards, Dahlonega, Ga.
Georgia is known as the Peach State, but that's not stopping the Boegner family from focusing on grapes to create award-winning wines at Wolf Mountain Vineyards. The winery, a charming Craftsman-style cottage, overlooks the foothills of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, providing fabulous mountain views year round. Sit back and enjoy a little Southern hospitality and a quick glass of one of the vineyard's European-style wines, or drop in for a themed Sunday brunch.
Wine to try: 2011 Brut Rose — A delicate, sparkling rose wine with red berry flavors and a light salmon color.
WillaKenzie Estate, Yamhill, Ore.
WillaKenzie Estate is a lesson in Pinot — the 420-acre estate is home to vineyards comprised of about 70 percent Pinot Noir, the rest divided between Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gamay Noir and just a little bit of Chardonnay. The winery's attention to detail plus its sustainability efforts, including a multi-level gravity flow process and a solar array, ensure the best Oregon wine possible now and for years to come.
Wine to try: 2009 Pinot Noir Aliette — A medium- to full-bodied wine showing kirsch, cranberry, pie cherries, dried flowers with a touch of warm cinnamon, aromatic of pink peppercorn and rose petals.
Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Geyserville, Calif.
You'll never want to leave Sonoma County after stepping foot onto Francis Ford Coppola Winery. The winery resort features bars, two full restaurants, a swimming pool, a movie gallery, a park area and a performing arts Pavilion — truly making it the "wine wonderland" of owner Francis Ford Coppola's dreams. Of course, this wouldn't have been possible without a little help from Academy Award-winning production designer Dean Tavoularis, who drew inspiration for the winery's design from the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen and other family-orientated parks.
Wine to try: 2007 Archimedes — A dark, smooth blend of Alexander Valley and Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon with a complex flavor mix of black plums, wild berries, licorice, vanilla and spices.
Brotherhood, America's Oldest Winery, Washingtonville, N.Y.
Brotherhood Winery may be America's oldest winery, but it is by no means an ancient relic — founder Jean Jacques dug out the first underground cellars in 1839 and winemaker Bob Barrow still uses those cellars to make decadent wines today. Brotherhood is just a short drive from New York City, making it the perfect getaway outside the city. Take a day trip or spend the whole weekend — you'll find the only thing vintage about Brotherhood is the wines.
Wine to try: Brotherhood Winery Blanc de Blancs — A dry yet soft, crisp sparkling wine made from 100 percent Hudson Valley Chardonnay grapes.
Fox Run Vineyards, Penn Yan, N.Y.
Fox Run Vineyards owner Scott Osborn likes to let the wine do the talking. That's why he works closely with winemaker Peter Bell and vineyard manager John Kaiser to instill a minimal intervention winemaking process up on Torrey Ridge. The Finger Lakes region is best known for Riesling, and Fox Run is no exception — its 2005 Riesling took home the gold at the 2007 Riesling Du Monde Wine Competition in Strasbourg, France, beating out more than 500 Rieslings from 12 countries. Fox Run Vineyards was the only American winery awarded a gold medal in the entire competition.
Wine to try: 2011 Reserve Riesling — An off-dry wine harvested at peak ripeness with aromas of lime zest, honeysuckle and tree fruits.
Arrington Vineyards, Arrington, Tenn.
With the Jack Daniel's Distillery nestled in Tullahoma, Tennessee is known for its whiskey. However, the folks down at Arrington Vineyards, just 25 minutes south of Music City, are aiming to put the Volunteer State on the map for wine, as well. The winery was founded by Fred Mindermann, winemaker Kip Summers and Kix Brooks, one half of popular country music duo Books & Dunn. After Arrington Vineyards' official opening in 2007, it quickly caught the attention of wine aficionados, winning Best of Show at the Wines of the South competition. On top of that, the Tennessee hills make Arrington a great place to sit back and indulge in a little Southern comfort.
Wine to try: Stag's White 2010 — A dry Tennessee Vidal Blanc blend with nectarine, green apple and citrus fruit flavors aromatic of fruit cocktail.
Duchman Family Winery, Driftwood, Texas
Maybe you can't take a trip to Italy, but if you're ever in Austin, take a short drive southwest and stop by Duchman Family Winery. Founded in 2004, Drs. Lisa and Stan Duchman and winemaker Dave Reilly work together to bring Italian-style wines to Central Texas. The winery sources the majority of its fruit from the Texas High Plains AVA to create experimental varieties of Vermentino, Sangiovese and Dolcetto. The property, a beautiful Tuscan-style villa, sits on a hill and promises views of rolling hills, picturesque sunsets and fine wine, of course.
Wine to try: 2010 Vermentino — A complex white with a burst of citrus and a delicate flowery aroma, perfect for Texas heat.