I was inspired by Gary Vaynerchuk (Gary Vee, formerly know as “The Wine Guy”) to expand my wine palate by tasting a different varietal each week of the year! Join me by subscribing to my mailing list or following me on the social media platform of your choice!
August 2019 Wines:
03-09 August: Chardonnay
10-16 August: Aglianico
17-23 August: Torrontes
24-30 August: Lacrima
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 41: Chardonnay (August 3rd – 9th 2019)
Most wine drinkers have an opinion about Chardonnay and that opinion is often polarized. Even within Chardonnay lovers, there are often strong preferences regarding oaked Chardonnay and buttery Chardonnay. So, can you imagine the discussion around canned Chardonnay!
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 40: Zweigelt (July 27th – August 2nd 2019)
When exploring new varietals, I find that I’m more likely to order a wine that I can pronounce over one that I can’t. This goes back to the historically snooty ambiance around wine tasting and a self-consciousness that I once had with wine. I’ve always found it awkward to point to a menu and say “I’ll have that one” or even worse, attempt to pronounce it and be corrected with the proper pronunciation. For these reasons, I would have never tasted a Zweigelt (pronounced Zvee-gelt) on my own terms before embarking on the 52 Weeks of Wine Training Program.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 39: Fiano (July 20th – 26th 2019)
When I think of wines with nutty characteristics (like hazelnut, almond, or walnut), I think of Madeira, Shiraz, and sometimes Pinot Noir. Rarely have I experienced these traits in a white wine!
Fiano, a white grape with a vast Italian history, is known for strong traits of hazelnut and almond. Because it is a very low yielding vine and the grapes produced result in even less juice, wine producers did not dedicate much effort towards Fiano vines until recently. Interestingly, many of the historic Fiano vines are grown alongside Hazelnut plantations.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 38: Malbec (July 13th – 19th 2019)
This week’s wine is an exciting one because it’s the first canned wine that I’ve featured in the 52 Weeks of Wine Training Program! And a red canned wine at that! Canned wine is something that I’ve been passionate about over the past year because, though it may seem to be an emerging trend now, I believe that it will become very standard for most wineries to offer a canned option. If you’re interested in learning more about canned wine, I highly recommend that you check out my blog post, “The Facts About Canned Wine“, or listen to Episode 11 of my podcast, “A Taste of Audio”, available through iTunes, TuneIn or Spotify. Bottom line: the wine that goes into the can is the same wine that goes into the bottle.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 37: Friulano (July 6th – 12th 2019)
There’s a few food pairings out there that wine geeks and cork dorks like to challenge themselves with: asparagus, brussel sprouts, cabbage, artichokes, and chocolate (that one might surprise you!). These foods are known to be among the most difficult to successfully pair with a wine due to their strong and bitter attributes. You don’t want a wine that’s too delicate in its flavors and aromas because the food will overpower it, but you also don’t want to pair a strong or earthy wine with these foods because the notes will likely clash. Well, it turns out that Friulano is one of those wines that is among the most successful for these types of pairings.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 36: Cabernet Sauvignon (June 29th – July 5th 2019)
I’m always asking about others’ wine preferences and the most common response that I hear is “I like Cabs”. I’ve learned to either assume that this means “I like full-bodied, fruit-forward, jammy red wines” or I’ll actually ask to clarify and the response typically points in that direction. Since Napa Cabernet Sauvignon is so prominent and accessible in the United States, it’s common to associate Cab Sauv with these traits. However, Cab Sauv is a very diverse grape that has traits that span from earthy to sweet.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 35: Verdicchio (June 22nd – 28th 2019)
I hate to pat myself on the back, but we are really on a winning streak with these white varietals! I’ve previously mentioned that I don’t do research on the varietals prior to the official tasting, and since I’m in the 52 Weeks of Wine Training Program alongside my trainees, I’m learning along the way. So, these past few white wine varietals have been really great and refreshing summer wines! Verdicchio was no exception!
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 34: Merlot (June 15th – 21st 2019)
I would not consider myself a Merlot drinker nor is it a varietal that I would typically order off of a menu. However, I couldn’t have told you why that is the case. Merlot is typically medium-bodied, forward with its flavors of cherry, plum and other dark berries and often has subtleties of earthier traits like tobacco and spices. If you described it to me with those specifications, I’d say that it’s right up my alley. But by it’s actual varietal, “Merlot”, I’d pass. For these reasons, I thought Merlot would be an interesting addition to the 52 Weeks of Wine Training Program.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 33: Aligoté (June 8th-14th 2019)
When your wine standards are minimal and your exposure to varietals is limited, wine palate growth is unavoidable with each new wine that you taste. I think this has truly been the case specifically for white wines for me. My palate was fairly well refined regarding red wines but I lacked an opinion about most white wines (as long as they weren’t sweet). With each week that we taste a new white wine varietal, I find myself adding it to the list of wines that I enjoy and this week, Aligoté was no exception!
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 32: Blaufrankisch (June 1st-7th 2019)
I can say with confidence that before this week, I would have never ordered a glass of Blaufränkisch from a menu. My reasoning: (1) I couldn’t have told you whether that was a red or a white wine and (2) the spelling of that wine suggests an Eastern European origin and if it’s anything like Gewurztraminer, I’m out! These are the sorts of natural biases we have towards unknown wines and why we typically find ourselves ordering and purchasing wines within our comfort zone.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 31: Semillon (May 25th – 31st 2019)
I used to be very easy-going with regards to white wines. I was once known to buy the 1.5 Liter bottle of Mondavi, any “flavor” was fine, and that would be my porch drinking wine in the afternoons. I always liked Sauv Blanc but Chardonnay was fine and same with Pinot Grigio. Well, one “negative” thing about the 52 Weeks of Wine Training Program is that it has made me much more particular about white wines.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 30: Barbera (May 18th – 24th 2019)
This was a first. I actually had to go back and re-taste a wine. No…it’s not because I drank the whole bottle and forgot what it tasted like! This wine really baffled me. I couldn’t figure out what made it stand out and how to describe it.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 29: Muscadet (May 11th – 17th 2019)
If you’ve been following along for more than a minute, I don’t need to tell you that I do not have an affinity for sweet wines. So any word starting with “musca…” immediately results in my reaction of “no thank you!”. However, when I was recently reassured that Muscadet was different, I decided to incorporate this wine into our 52 Weeks of Wine Training Program.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 28: Carignan (May 4th – 10th 2019)
Carignan has been adding subtle requests to my life to be included in the 52 Weeks of Wine Training Program schedule. I’ve recently been on a French Rosé kick and I keep seeing Carignan as a varietal in the wines. Also, a few months back, I focused my efforts on researching canned wine which connected me with Sans Wine Company and their Carbonic Carignan. When I realized that Carignan was secretly inserting its presence into my wine consumption and education, I knew it needed to be incorporated in the training program.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 27: Pinot Blanc (April 27th – May 4th 2019)
When I am tasting a wine and considering the varietal for my own consumption and palate (versus serving for party or a wine tasting event), I am looking for something unique. If a new wine or varietal is not distinctly different in taste from a common varietal (think Pinot Grigio, Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, you get the idea) and the price difference is significantly higher, I lose interest pretty quickly and categorize that varietal in the “meh” bin. “Meh” doesn’t mean it’s not a good wine, it just means, it’s not that special to me. I’m not unwilling to try anything from the “meh” category again, but I’m less likely to see it on a menu and think “ooo! I think I’ll order an overpriced glass of that and enjoy it!” So, unfortunately, Pinot Blanc got tossed in the “meh” bin.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 26: Montepulciano (April 20th-26th 2019)
Having minored in French at West Point, when it came to “Old World” wines (wines originating from historically traditional wine production regions, ie France, Italy, Spain, mostly European countries), I used to lean towards French wines. I felt like I had slightly more familiarity regarding French wine production regions than any other foreign country simply due to college requirements to know about the country. This didn’t mean I liked French wines – my husband and I traveled to Bordeaux for an anniversary only to learn that we didn’t like Bordeaux’s – but I knew how to pronounce the regions and knew their general locations, so that somehow made French wines more approachable. Of the other Old World regions, Italy and Spain seemed intimidating as the labels were harder to interpret and the grape varietals weren’t recognizable compared to traditional California grapes.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 25: Cortese (April 13th-19th 2019)
I’m finding that a lot of our unusual or “un-heard-of” varietals are Italian! Cortese (pronounced core-tay-zay) is an Italian white wine grape grown primarily in the Piedmont region. It’s typically used as a blending grape as its sensitive growing nature makes refinement for a single-varietal wine challenging for winemakers.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 24: Petite Sirah (April 6th-12th 2019)
If you’ve felt confused about Syrah, Shiraz and Petite Sirah, I’ll clear it up for you here: Syrah and Shiraz are the same grape, Petite Sirah is a whole different, unrelated varietal. Despite its name, Petite Sirah is no small grape, it’s actually quite powerful and big!
We just wrapped up GSM month and, in case you didn’t join us for the adventure, the S stands for Syrah. Syrah is a surprisingly light to medium bodied red wine with many earthier tones. Since we only tasted Syrah a few weeks ago, I chose to introduce Petite Sirah for the purpose of contrast. Petite Sirahs are often on the “boldest” and “fullest bodied” end of the wine spectrum, are typically strongly fruit-forward and rarely possesses prominent earthy traits. “Jammy” is a typical descriptor word that you hear with Petite Sirah.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 23: Grenache-Syrah Rosé (March 30th-April 5th 2019)
We’re rounding out GSM month (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre), and though we’ve tasted each of the varietals individually, this week I chose a different representation of the varietals: a rosé. Rosés only recently became part of my favorite wines when I realized that not all rosés are sweet. I felt a little silly when I discovered this fact though since I’ve been recommending rosés to other consumers, I’ve seen how prominent this belief is!
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 22: Mourvèdre (March 23rd-29th 2019)
I’m sorry if this is the 5,000th time you’ve heard me say this, but the March wines for the 52 Weeks of Wine are GSM-themed, which stands for Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. GSM is known for its fruit-forward traits with soft tannins and balanced acidity. So far, we’ve tasted Grenache, Syrah and a sparkling Shiraz. To be honest, I expected each to have some similar traits to the GSM blend, however, it was shocking to me how different the Grenache and Syrah were to the final output of the blend. So, I’ve been holding out to see what the Mourvèdre would bring to the table and tasting this Mourvèdre revealed where the “oomph” of the GSM originates from.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 21: Sparkling Shiraz (March 16th-22nd 2019)
I knew when I decided to have March serve as a focus on GSM (Grenache Syrah Mourvedre), we’d need to (1) break up the red wines with some other options and (2) experience a couple representations of these incredibly diverse grapes. So, this week, we’re tasting a Sparkling Shiraz!
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 20: Syrah (Shiraz) (March 9th-15th 2019)
Syrah, Shiraz, same grape, different region. Sort of.
So, traditionally, the grape from France is Syrah, the grape from Australia is Shiraz. And from other regions, it just depends. Technically, California, Washington, Chile, Argentina, and South Africa (where this wine was produced), can label the wine with either Syrah or Shiraz. This is typically consistent with the story that the winemaker wants the wine to tell.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 19: Grenache (Garnacha) (March 2nd-8th 2019)
In the past, whenever I’ve thought of Grenache, the word “ganache” comes to mind, mostly because the predominately Grenache red wine blends that I have tasted are rich and luxurious like a chocolate ganache. So, this week’s tasting was a bit of a surprise when I poured the Garnacha (a Spanish Grenache) into my glass and saw the lightness in color and body.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 18: Gamay (February 23rd-March 1st 2019)
If you were following along with the 52 Weeks of Wine at the start of the New Year, you may recall a feature of a wine called “Beaujolais”. Beaujolais refers the product region in France from which these wines originate. Many Old World wine production regions categorize their wines by the region that the wine originated (i.e. Bordeaux, St. Emilion, Penedes) which differs from American wines which we categorize by grape varietal. Beaujolais and specifically, Beaujolais Nouveau (the new vintage of Beaujolais released annually around the third Thursday in November), is typically the Gamay varietal, though often minimally blended with other varietals. This week, we are tasting the Gamay varietal, which by coincidence, is also a Beaujolais Nouveau.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 17: Riesling (February 16th-22nd 2019)
I’m typically a couple weeks ahead in the 52 Weeks of Wine Training Program so that I have adequate time to taste the wine, take photos and write the blog post. This week was quite different. I have been dreading the Riesling tasting. Even though I chose a “dry” Riesling, I was confident that “dry Riesling” was an oxymoron. Of all the Rieslings I have ever suffered through tasting, they were so intolerably sweet that I could not tell you a single attribute regarding the flavor. I fully intended to conduct a true and open-minded tasting of this wine, but procrastinated the process until the very last minute.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 16: Zinfandel (February 9th-15th 2019)
Oh Zinfandel. One of my true loves. I was first introduced to Zinfandel when I was about 24 and never looked back. Just as champagne evokes emotions of excitement and celebration for many, Zinfandel reminds me of a romantic Friday evening, fireside in the mountains after skiing all day.
Another reason I love Zinfandel is because I have had the privilege of introducing so many people to this beautiful wine! Because of the reputation White Zinfandel had many years ago, many people assume Zinfandel is a sweet, pink, cheap wine. So, when I meet a Cabernet Sauvignon lover, I’m always excited to hear their response regarding Zinfandel!
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 15: Albariño (February 2nd-8th 2019)
I try to be as honest and truthful with my reviews of the 52 Weeks of Wine varietals and though I’d love to glam up how Albariño was such a special and unique wine, I’d be lying if I didn’t just come out and say it: it tasted like a Pinot Grigio to me. That’s not a bad thing! I like Pinot Grigio! However, it just didn’t really stand out as anything special.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 14: Chenin Blanc (January 26th-February 1st 2019)
I have to admit, I was quite excited to taste this Chenin Blanc! Before the holidays, I tried a white wine blend that was Viognier and Chenin Blanc and I absolutely loved it! So, I was curious to deconstruct the wine and taste the varietals independently to learn the characteristics of each. I’ve employed this same concept for the 52 Weeks of Wine Training Program for the month of March: we’re deconstructing GSM’s (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre) and tasting the respective varietals independently to learn more about what builds such a smooth and luxurious wine!
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 13: Nebbiolo
(January 19th-25th 2019)
Nebbiolo. You’ve probably heard of it, seen it on a wine menu, but if you’re anything like me, you didn’t know what to expect. So, one night when we were making homemade smoked pizza on the Traeger, I thought it might be a good night to give this Nebbiolo a try.
Maybe it’s a sixth sense or just a coincidence, but lately, I’ve been quite effective on my random dinner and wine pairings. I mentioned last week that I prefer not to research the varietals before a tasting out of concern that knowing too much will bias my tasting experience. So, this week, I took a gamble in hopes that the acidity of our homemade pizza sauce would compliment this unknown wine. And boy, did it!
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 12: Soave
(January 12th-18th 2019)
I have to admit I get a little nervous before I taste some of these white wines that I am unfamiliar with. I got a burned on Gewürztraminer a month back and so I have set my expectations low on the unusual white varietals. To lay it out there, I have a hard time enjoying sweet wines and highly floral wines. I could combat this anxiety by researching the varietals before I taste but I truly enjoy going into a tasting completely blind. So this is the sacrifice I make…hah…first world problems!
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 11: Sangiovese
(January 5th-11th 2019)
The first week of 52 Weeks of Wine of 2019 has arrived! This week is a bit more exciting than the previous weeks because many of my friends and followers have chosen to purchase their wines through me and it all kicks off with this week! I’ve been receiving messages over the past few days such as, “Can we taste the Sangiovese yet?!”, “What should I pair with it?”, “What if I already drank it?”. You guys have had me laughing so hard! Let me break this to you: you can drink the wine any time you want and you can pair it with whatever you want! The idea behind only tasting one new varietal each week is to not overwhelm your palate and its growth. There is no such thing as cheating in the 52 Weeks of Wine Training Program!
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 10: Beaujolais
(December 29th 2018-January 4th 2019)
It’s the last week of the year! That feels so frightening and exciting to say, but don’t you worry, it’s not the last week of the 52 Weeks of Wine! And the New Year brings even more excitement for the 52 Weeks of Wine: the ability to subscribe to a monthly wine box delivered to your door with free shipping!
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 9: Viognier
(December 22nd-28th 2018)
At a recent wine tasting event in my home where guests brought a bottle to share, I tasted a white wine that my friend Megen brought – a Chenin Blanc and Viognier blend. The majority of the wines for the tasting were sweet whites and red wines so this white wine blend went mostly unnoticed. I was shocked! I couldn’t get over how much depth that this white whine had while still being incredibly smooth. Despite my encouragement for others to try the wine, the party ended and the wine was still 3/4 full (oh darn, I guess I’ll just have to help polish that one off tomorrow)!
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 8: Petit Verdot
(December 15th-21st 2018)
A lot of people ask me about my “burner” wines but I have been hesitant to put information out there at risk of insulting a wine producer or blender. Here’s the deal: there are wines that are phenomenal, sometimes more expensive, that you drink first before you get a buzz because you really want to enjoy and take in every aspect of the wine. Then, there are burner wines. These wines are those that you drink after the really good wines because they just don’t offer as many attributes as the starter wine and your taste buds won’t notice much of a difference. I’m not suggesting that burner wines are bad, they’re just not usually the one you want to start off with if you’re having friends over! My burner wines are usually exceptionally affordable (ideally under $10). Burner wines are typically more of my go-to mid-week wine if I want a glass but I don’t want to open a nicer bottle.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 7: Grüner
(December 8th-14th 2018)
When I hear Grüner Veltliner, I’m a little bit intimidated. That sounds like a beast of a wine! Am I about to get by butt kicked? Should I be wearing Lederhosen while I drink this? Is a wine glass appropriate or do I need a boot? Okay…I’ll cut myself off there.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 6: Madeira
(December 1st-7th 2018)
I’ve never been one to consider myself a “dessert wine” drinker. I have a hard time enjoying sweeter wines because I have difficulty getting past that initial sweetness shock. As soon as sweet wines hit my palate, I feel like I can’t even taste the attributes because I am overwhelmed by the sugars.
However, this 52 Weeks of Wine palate training has been incredible! I knew my palate would grow by tasting new varietals, but I didn’t expect growth this early. I’m telling you – the aromas, flavors and subtleties that I can identify in wines is blowing my mind, and we’re only six weeks in! Now, I’m finding that I have quite a new perspective on wines that I had historically avoided – even sweet wines.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 5: Gewürztraminer
(November 24th-30th 2018)
Gewürztraminer. I usually just mumble that word through my teeth very quickly in hopes that no one will question what I’m saying. Our neighbors have advised me to think of “girls are meaner” with the pronunciation, but apparently the ACTUAL pronunciation is “Gertz-Tra-Meener”. You can say it however you like.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 4: Cabernet Franc
(November 17th-23rd 2018)
Okay, so I may have pulled a fast one this week. I just might be quite familiar with Cabernet Franc. It might also be my current favorite varietal.
I have mentioned Cabernet Franc to several friends lately and few have been familiar with the varietal. What?! You are missing out! So, I thought I would secretly embed Cab Franc into the 52 Weeks of Wine series with the motive of exposing others to one of my favorite, less prominent varietals.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 3: Penedès
(November 10th-16th 2018)
I wish I had some great story about how the first time I tasted Penedès was when I went on some luxurious vacation to the coast of Spain. Well, I have never even heard of Penedès. If I wasn’t in the wine shop standing in the white wine section, I couldn’t have even told you whether it was a white or red varietal. So, when the woman helping me with my selection said, “How about a Penedès?” I awkwardly said, “Oh yea! Of course! A Penedès!” Considering my selection criteria consisted of (1) a white wine and (2) a varietal that I’ve never tasted, I was 2-0 and on track for this week’s 52 Weeks of Wine selection!
52 Weeks of Wine: Week 2 – Tempranillo
(November 3rd-9th 2018)
To tell the truth, I am a little intimidated by Spanish wines. It goes back to that tendency that I have of staying in my comfort zone – which I my main motivation to get out and try new wines! But when I think of Spanish wines, the first thing that comes to mind is Sangria. I know that is ridiculous, but if you’ve had as many bad Sangria’s as I have, you can relate! So, when a Tempranillo was recommended to me by my favorite wine store, I just told them to add it to the box and did not think much of it….until I got home.
52 Weeks of Wine – Week 1: Languedoc
(October 26th-November 2nd 2018)
I was recently listening to an audio book by Gary Vee (Gary Vaynerchuk, once known as “The Wine Guy”) and he recommended trying a different varietal of wine every week for one year to expand your taste palate. Well, twist my arm! So, I will be featuring a new varietal each week with my experience and recommendations. My strategy is to start with wines I have am not familiar with and see where that takes me! If you would like to use this as your guide and find the varietal at your local wine shop, I would love to hear your feedback! Please let me know if you decide to join me on the “52 Weeks of Wine” journey!
Week 1: Languedoc
I deliberately chose to start this learning experience with a French wine for a funny reason, which I will share with you. In 2013 my husband was deployed to Kosovo and was authorized one four-day weekend for R&R with two travel days on your own dime. Many people did not take the opportunity because the cost of traveling home to the US for such little time or for families to travel to meet in Europe was so high. We were pre-kids and both active duty, so a flight to Europe for me was within our budget. We chose to meet in Paris and fly together to Bordeaux for our second wedding anniversary.