The wine geeks of the world don’t realize they spew facts and details like Cliff Clavin from “Cheers.” Their passion for wine keeps their noses buried deep in wine glasses and books. But if you could determine a wine’s origins and vintage just by its color, viscosity, and aromas, wouldn’t you fly your freak flag, too?
But today’s sommeliers, wine shop owners, and experts usually aren’t boorish old trolls, but rather approachable, cool, casual, and–gasp–fun! Still, we novice wine drinkers get anxious, nervous, and tongue-tied around them because we assume they’re rolling their eyes at us behind their designer eyeglasses. So we skulk away, swiping our bottle of cheap-and-cheery off the shelf and hightailing it to the nearest check-out counter. But we’d all like to drink tastier wine, and a bit of knowledge can open doors to more enjoyable wines–and that doesn’t have to mean pricier. Who isn’t a sucker for the tale of the farmer-turned-winemaker who created a few hundred cases of remarkable wine for less than $20 a bottle. That bottle, that story, is a lot more interesting than the 1.5 million cases of cheap-and-cheery for the same price. So, don’t fear the wine geeks. They want you to enjoy wine, not just gut down your daily chug. The best way to learn? Drink it! Go to an Orange County wine tasting, join a wine shop’s newsletter, or browse a book while sipping something new.
LCA Wine The Saturday lineup is a steal–four wines to taste for $5. Take a bigger leap and enroll in a wine class at the SoCo Collection location. lcawine.com
Hidden Vine on the Lake A Hidden Vine, located on Lake Mission Viejo, features a tasting of six wines most Fridays, often with a winery rep in attendance. The $40 cost includes cheese, charcuterie, and dessert. ahiddenvine.com
OC Wine Mart & Deli With more than 40 wines on tap in Aliso Viejo, you can assemble your own tasting menu. Buy the tasting card and return at your leisure for new pours and experiences. ocwinemart.com
Local Wine Shops
Wine Exchange The staff in this store just off the 55 Freeway is friendly and helpful. Sign up for its newsletter to receive wine offers that are paired with stories about the vineyard or the winemaker. winex.com
Hi-Time Wine Cellars This Costa Mesa shop has a long history of sharing wine with Orange County residents. The best reading and learning comes via its monthly newsletter and in-store wine bar. hitime.net