We all know Julie. She wears big earrings and pink high heels, and on Friday night she goes to the bar before dinner and orders an appletini.
When she sits down to dinner, her friends order a bottle of cabernet or dark red zinfandel, but Julie takes a pass. She thinks she doesn't like wine.
She's never had a glass of symphony with its sweet overtones of apricots, or a sugary muscat canelli. She might have had white zinfandel once at a party, but her friends all laughed and she went back to appletinis and cosmopolitans.
Most restaurants don't serve white zin or beaujolais or symphony wines, and they're missing out on millions of dollars of wine sales because they don't understand people like Julie.
That could change if the Lodi International Wine Awards succeed.
The point of this local wine competition is to take some of the guesswork out of buying wine, said Mark Hamilton, volunteer coordinator for the Lodi-Tokay Rotary Club's LIWA competition. To do that, consumers and wine vendors need to understand "taste sensitivity quotient."
That's a term coined by restaurant and wine consultant Tim Hanni. He believes that most wine drinkers come in three varieties: tolerant, sensitive and hypersensitive.
There are several ways to learn what category you fit into.
Hanni says that research supports the simple notion that the more taste buds you have, the more sensitive your taste in food and wine. Hanni can be seen at LIWA painting people's tongues blue and counting their taste buds under a magnifying glass.
There's also a relationship between the foods you like and the wines you like.
Hanni wouldn't have to count Julie's taste buds to make a prediction about her tastes. Her passion for sweet cocktails means she probably puts lots of cream and sugar in her coffee. Her palate is hyper-sensitive.
If her boyfriend likes his coffee black and his roast beef rare, he's probably a tolerant taster. His favorite wines are probably "big reds" with lots of tannic acid, high alcohol content and a heavy dollop of oak flavor that comes from a long soak in a wine barrel.
As we age, our palates tend to become more tolerant. We acquire a taste for red zins and dry cabernet sauvignons. At least, wine writers do. They celebrate heavy wines and urge each of us to like them whether we really do or not.
Hanni is having none of it.
He wants the consumer to be king. He wants each of us ask for what we want and be proud of our preference.
That's why he's worked with local Rotarians to create a consumer-focused wine competition.
This year, LIWA added two panels of "consumer judges" - Lodians who risked "palate fatigue" and spent all day Monday tasting and spitting out hundreds of mouthfuls of wine.
"The consumer judges were totally open to learning about tasting wine," said Hamilton. He believes that focusing on consumers is an appropriate role for Lodi. "Lodi, unlike Napa, is more attuned to the common wine drinker."
So if you love wine, how do you take advantage of the LIWA competition?
First, learn your taste sensitivity quotient. Decide whether you are tolerant, sensitive or hyper-sensitive. If you can't find Hanni to examine your tongue, you can log on to his Web site - http://www.tastesq.com">www.tastesq.com - and take a survey of the foods you prefer.
Then, to learn which wines appealed to your palate, check out the LIWA results in the News-Sentinel or LIWA's Web site - http://www.lodiwineawards.com">www.lodiwineawards.com.
The payoff is not having to listen to some wine snob tell you what to drink.