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Don't listen to wine snobs: Your taste buds know what you like

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Posted: Friday, March 13, 2009 10:00 pm

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 - 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 - www.lodiwineawards.com.

The payoff is not having to listen to some wine snob tell you what to drink.


The Lodi News-Sentinel

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • posted at 6:25 am on Tue, Mar 24, 2009.


    Cogito, Onus is Amazing... both their cab and their chardonnay. Did you know that the 'Onus" people sell their juice to Coppola winery in Napa also?

  • posted at 4:36 am on Sat, Mar 21, 2009.


    Cognito....You might want to try a wine called Napa Red or 3 Girls Cab from Oak Ridge on E. Hwy 12. Mettler's Cabernet is very good at $25. While you're at Oak Ridge give Moss Rocks and OZV a try. Van Rueiten Cab-Shrah is also a worth contender at $15.

  • posted at 1:22 pm on Fri, Mar 20, 2009.


    Commonsense, I have 6 BV LaTours 04s, and another 6 05s in my cellar ( but I didn't pay the current $90 a bottle for it). Could you steer me to something comparable for half the price. I'd be very appreciative. Have you tried the ONUS produced locally. Had their cab at last years spring wine show, felt it was the best wine there.

  • posted at 1:01 pm on Fri, Mar 20, 2009.


    Lodi is the number "1" producer of Zinfandel, Cab, Merlot and Chardonnay. Guess where the majority of those grapes go? Napa! From someone who has a wine cabinet full of expensive wines, I can tell you anything over $50 dollars a bottle is a joke. To sugguest a Napa or Sonoma Cabernet is worth $75 more than a Lodi Cab or Zin is laughable. If you believe it, you're a fool.

  • posted at 4:47 am on Fri, Mar 20, 2009.


    "In 2003, The Wall Street Journal tasted 50 Zinfandels under $20, with the "Best of Tasting" going to a Lodi wine and four other wines in the Top 10 containing a good portion of Lodi grapes."http://www.thefreelibrary.com/%27%27Taste+of+Lodi%27%27+Showcases+California%27s+Other+Award-Winning+Wine...-a0122778491Well will you look at that! The best tasting wines were from Lodi and the others used Lodi grapes."Many consumers may not have heard of Lodi before because most of the wine from the region bore the broad "California" label."http://www.villageprofile.com/california/lodi/01/topic.html"LODI, Calif. For most of the past century, farmers working the fertile river delta soils here have been unsurpassed at growing tons of whatever grapes the wine industry demanded...But in the past few years, some wine lovers have begun to sing a different tune...The shift has something to do with the ups and downs of the multibillion-dollar California wine industry, for which Lodi supplies about 20% of the grapes."http://www.usatoday.com/travel/destinations/2004-10-07-lodi_x.htm

  • posted at 7:02 pm on Thu, Mar 19, 2009.


    HRH, I gave a blind taste test to my wife and her friends with chardonnays. Trust me, these ladies drink a LOT of chards. They had 6 different wines, some expensive, some not. 3 of the 4 women picked Kendall Jackson as the best in the group. My daughter (24) went with the Rombauer. My favorite, BV Carneros, got 4th. Just goes to show you, drink what you like, forget about the price. Of course, nobody locally will produce a Cabernet as good as Oakville, but we make some Zins and blends that will compete at their price level with anyone. But we weren't comparing Van Ruiten to Screaming Eagle.

  • posted at 4:34 pm on Thu, Mar 19, 2009.


    Carlos, my point is that the fact that Lodi wines reviewed favorably in a Lodi sponsored event is no surprise, it happens everywhere, not just Lodi. But I challenge you to gather some friends who enjoy wine and have a blind tasting... if you don't know it's from Lodi I'll bet you taste it differently. I have noticed and commented on the fact that Lodi in general has a certain, shall we say "attitude" that they are the new wine mecca or somehow "better than" more established wineries and regions. It's the same attitude that turned people off to French wine for many years. Some of the local wine is palatable, but it's far from superior to certain labels. It may take time, but it will also take care not to over estimate the local fare. Two Buck Chuck scored well, too, but they don't showboat inappropriately like the locals here. You really SHOULD consider the source.

  • posted at 2:51 pm on Thu, Mar 19, 2009.


    Carlos, check out the Stockton Rotary wine event. It will be held at Micke Grove for the first time this year. The food is awesome (all included free). Many local wineries who don't do a lot of events, do this one. I wouldn't miss it.

  • posted at 5:25 am on Thu, Mar 19, 2009.


    Cogito and WCPatty, I'm with you! I love the local wines. My wife and I especially love all the local wine events like First Sip, Zinfest, and Taste of Lodi.

  • posted at 4:21 am on Thu, Mar 19, 2009.


    WCPatty, I was at a friends house recently where a $300 bottle of French Bordeaux was opened for dinner. It had been perfectly cellared, had beautiful color, was 14 years old. Was it good? Absolutely! Would I rather have it instead of a case of some of our best local stuff? Not a chance. I'm with you, I love a lot of our local wines. They are terrific. See you at the Spring Wine Show next weekend!

  • posted at 3:03 am on Thu, Mar 19, 2009.


    I happen to like Lodi wines. I don't give a flip if they win medals or not. If someone thinks they are somehow superior because of wine preference I really have to wonder for what inferiority in themselves are they are trying to compensate.

  • posted at 6:56 pm on Wed, Mar 18, 2009.


    Carlos, don't get upset. It's obvious that someone who doesn't think Lodi makes some good wines, just doesn't know much about wine. Consider the source my friend.

  • posted at 1:57 am on Wed, Mar 18, 2009.


    some like ripple others like thunderbird i perfer maddoog 20-20.

  • posted at 11:50 am on Tue, Mar 17, 2009.


    The 2008 San Francisco International Wine Competition wasn't a local contest. Over 1,150 wineries submitted wines from 21 countries, literally thousands of wines were entered. Michael David and Van Ruiten Family wineries won silver medals. Quite a few Lodi wineries won bronze.Check it out at;http://www.sfwinecomp.com/

  • posted at 8:10 am on Tue, Mar 17, 2009.


    Too bad then, Whoa Nellie, that they don't have a double gold medal award for "this would be great to cook with so I can save the good wine." A LOCAL "COMPETITION" will favor the local wine whether it tastes like vinegar or fruit punch. It's laughable that you would cite such a competition as evidence that Lodi wine is anything more than what it is... common, great for cooking and making box wine, and the laughingstock of Napa, Sonoma, South Africa,Spain and, of course, France. Ahhh... Livable, Laughable Lodi.

  • posted at 2:36 am on Tue, Mar 17, 2009.


    HRH6S1, well I guess you could call all of the medals Lodi wines have recieved as "Gold Common Medal" or "Double Common Gold Medal" huh?I was at this competition and it was fantastic. Tim Hanni's theory is very interesting, and I suggest taking the taste test at the "tastesq" website link in the story.


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