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{Gift Guide} GIVE wine gifts, RECEIVE a wine pairing cookbook and two bottles of wine

2010 December 7

Our FOF vintage veterans handpick 7 top bottles to GIVE for the holidays.

Plus! enter to win below, and you may RECIEVE 100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love cookbook  and two bottles of wine from Casey Flat Ranch. (One FOF will win.)

To enter, comment below and answer: When you’re served wine at a restaurant, do you sniff and taste it before you drink it?

1. 2006 Wild Horse Cabernet, $18.99

It’s very smooth with a hint of smoke at the end,” says FOF Mary Maynard of the popular blog, “Happy Hour Mary.” “It’s just a bit over $15 but tastes more expensive!”

2. 2007 Open Range Proprietary Red Wine, $18

“This wine comes from Yolo County, California, an area at the forefront of seasonal, sustainable and organic agriculture.” says FOF Ursula Hemacinski, author of The Wine Lovers Guide to Auctions and VP of Marketing for Casey Flat Ranch. “With its notes of plum, black currant, fresh earth and cedar, it’s a great accompaniment to pastas, seafood stews, pork and lamb.”

2009 Open Range Sauvignon Blanc, $15

“This wine is also from the up-and-coming wine region of Yolo County,” says FOF Ursula Hemacinski. “With it’s crisp foundation, delicate minerality and notes of green apple, kiwi and lime, it holds its own against pork tenderloin and seafood pastas. It’s especially delicious with cheese trays.

3. Mumm Napa Cuvee M Sparkling Wine. $20

“The winemaker himself, Ludovic Dervin, told me he designed Mumm Cuvee M to taste like peaches and cream – and it does!” says FOF Jill Silverman Hough author of  100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love “It’s my favorite sparkler.”

4. Swanson Alexis Cabernet Blend (vintage years 2004 to 2007 from Oakville or Napa), $58-$79.99

“I enjoy Swanson’s Alexis Cabernet Blend from Napa,” says FOF Eve Bushman of Eve’s Wine 101 blog and the Santa Clarita, CA, newspaper column by the same name. “In the ‘04, I noted pleasant black fruit in the aroma and taste–dry with a lovely length.  The ‘05 was quite complex and the ‘06 had aromas of anise and eucalyptus.”

5. Dancing Bear Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon from Howell Mountain (vintage years 2005 or 2006), $106

“If you like mature jam on the nose and full flavors of cherry, blackberry, softened tannins and black pepper, you’ll like this,” says FOF Eve Bushman.

6. En Tirage 1992 Russian River Valley Recently Disgorged Extra Brut, $60.

“Longtime winemaker Don Baumhefner finally has released En Tirage, a bottling he’s let linger in the cellar for 17 years,” says FOF Virginie Boone, contributing reviewer for Wine Enthusiast Magazine. “Disgorged just this fall, it’s creamy, voluptuous and deep honey in color, with a lovely apricot nose and layers of texture.”

100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love cookbook by FOF author Jill Silverman Hough

“It’s full of easy, delicious recipes and makes wine pairing absolutely unintimidating,” says FOF author Jill Silverman Hough. “If you’re serving, for example, Chardonnay, turn to that chapter, pick any recipe, and it’ll go with Chardonnay. If you don’t have a particular wine in mind, pick a recipe you like and then get the wine to go with it.”
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To enter to win 100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love cookbook and two bottles of wine from Casey Flat Ranch, comment below and answer: When you’re served wine at a restaurant do you sniff and taste it before you drink it?

Contest closes December 14, 2010.

(See all our past winners, here.)

Thank you for entering. This contest is now closed.

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  • Murphy says:

    Yes, I always sniff, swirl, and taste. No matter the price or the familiarity. I love to read the labels on the bottles afterwards too.

  • sharon says:

    I always sniff and taste the wine before drinking. Swirling to see how long the legs are as well. It’s all a part of enjoying the wine to me.

  • Patricia says:

    No, I think it is pretentious and if someone else is paying for the wine I feel it is being a little snobbish. It is like saying to that person you don’t trust their judgment in selecting a wine.

  • Audrey Quick says:

    I do sniff and taste the wine before the wait staff pours a full glass, whether it is an expensive wine or not. You never know when a bottle has gone bad.

  • Patti says:

    I am a newbie “oenophile”, so I do my own simple version of sniff & taste. I am not familiar with a lot of wines, so I try to be cautious when ordering at a restaurant due to the price. I usually stick with wines that I know I will enjoy in that case. I am very willing to try new wines at home though!

  • Bevena says:

    Yes, I take the time to smell and swirl before drinking. Although I am the first to admit I am not an expert, I do think there might be a bad bottle served and it could go back.

  • Patricia Assanowicz says:

    To be honest, even if I sniffed, and swirled bottles of wine, I would not honestly know what I was looking for, yes, I will taste the wine, that tells me everything I need to know. I do love a good bottle of wine to enjoy with family and friends. I save the corks and bring them home to make art projects, I live on the water and make in my opinion really nice paintings, or lobster and netting projects and I use the corks for a more realistic touch. So to end this, tasting is as far as I go, I love wine I leave the swishing and smelling to the experts. Happy Holidays to All…

  • hsbelvis says:

    I do! I lived in the Bay Area for a short time and learned to sniff and taste in the Wine Country.

  • Kristine P says:

    Yes – always smell (wine not cork) and taste. Even a wine you know can have a bottle that’s not good. As for the cork just check that it’s not dry and no mold that indicates air got in.

    I do the same at home…..mostly because I want to enjoy with all my senses.

  • Ethelyn Beeks says:

    I pretty much order the same wine when I’m out, so no need to smell first.

  • Ysconsin says:

    Same as other commenters, if I know the wine, I usually don’t taste, unless if in a posh restaurant where it’s part of the expected dining ritual. If I don’t know the wine, yes, for a glimpse of what’s ahead and if it will pair with the meal.

  • Margarida says:

    I do actually smell and taste wine in a restaurant before drinking it.

  • Lisa says:

    I love opening a wine & just letting it open a little then smelling taking in the all wonderful note the wine has to offer. I love the earthy notes of an aged oak barreled wine. Then just sip & taste the notes. Love the berry red wines & the buttery whites. Each wines & winery offers it’s own wonderful interpretation of what their grapes offer. The sparkling wines are the only wines I don’t smell first. Just go straight to the taste.

  • Sandra Marshall says:

    I normally swish, sniff and taste the wine when it is presented at my table.

  • Veronica Guerriero says:

    Last year we took a wine course in Chile and afterwards enjoyed applying what we learned when dining out after returning to the U.S. It gave us a thrill to sniff and sip–look at us now, we’re all grown up!

  • Jean says:

    I almost always swirl, sniff and taste. Yum.

  • marsha says:

    taste it for sure!

    I don’t order wine in less expensive restaurants.

    I love the cabs, zinfandels and pinot noirs. :)

  • Bianca Mandel says:

    I do sniff and swirl the wine before tasting it in restaurants. On two occasions I have had to send the wine back because it was corked. I have taken several wine appreciation classes at The Wine School of Philadelphia, and it was there that I learned the importance of all aspects of the wine experience. I also do this at home with any bottle of wine purchased in a store. Often the sniffing and swirling releases extra elements of the wine’s flavor. It is the thing to do.

  • Gwen Surell says:

    Whether I am at a restaurant or a winery/wine shop, I always bury my nose deep in the wine glass after swirling the wine around first. I love the different bouquets, and try to guess from the aroma what some of the ingredients of each wine are. I can usually tell from the bouquet whether the wine will be sharp, smooth, sweet, dry… And I enjoy them all. I typically keep 6-7 cases of wine on hand throughout the year: some to drink, some to share, and some to give as gifts. I rarely will go to someone’s home without bringing a bottle (or two) to complement the entree, or as a hostess gift. I love exploring wineries when I vacation, and new wine shoppes locally that carry unique wines.

  • deb says:

    I know the wine I drink, so no I don’t sniff

  • Martha says:

    I never sniff the wine. I look at it and then enjoy the taste, the food and the conversation.

  • Tricia Douglas says:

    If I’m buying a nice wine, of course, I’ll smell and taste if first. I’m not going to sit and drink something not enjoyable.

  • Mary Bouchard says:

    When I am drinking wine, I always sniff and taste the wine, slowly, purposefully, before I drink it. I pay attention to its qualities. To me, that’s part of the enjoyment of the fruit of the vine. In more expensive restaurants, I may taste before “approving” the service of a particular wine. I love wine, though, so within the varieties that I particularly favor, I don’t often feel the need to send a wine back.

  • L Carcaise says:

    Yes, I want to know if something is wrong before I’m left sitting there.

  • susan says:

    yes – but not overtly. I actually sniff and taste just about everything before I eat it, and wine definitely so. But doing the snuffle and swirl is just crass.

  • Martha says:

    I always sniff, swirl and sip – you get to use your smell, your sight and your taste to enjoy a great wine!

  • Laurie says:

    I always snif, swirl and taste when I order a bottle of wine. I don’t do corks, that’s over the top for me.

  • rjcard123 says:

    I have just started making wine at home. I made a merlot and I enjoy sniffing and swishing because as the wine ages it taste better and better.

  • omiobabbinocaro says:

    Any time a bottle is uncorked a bit of the wine should be poured, aerated by swirling and one needs to sniff and taste…Any wine can go off it stored improperly…

  • Kathryn says:

    I taste it first!

  • GINGER Mc says:

    Taste it, yes…sniff, no!

  • Val says:

    Sniff — sure, why not! If a good tasting wine has had time to breath — its a delightful pleasure to inhale the wonderful aroma.

  • Jacqueline Scott says:

    I just order the same wine that I always have. I really don’t know much about how to sniff and taste wine. All I know is that if I like it I buy it.

  • Stephanie V. says:

    always sniff and taste – tasting wines, esp red, one of my favorite things to do
    tvollowitz at aol dot com

  • Gina P says:

    I usually don’t because I mostly order wines I’m already familiar with (hiccup!), but if it’s a new one, I don’t make a big production out of it, but do take a quickie sniff and swish.

  • Sandy says:

    Sometimes just a quick sniff and a sip. That’s about all. Keep it simple. When in doubt, I ask for recommendations.

  • cindy says:

    Yes, part of enjoying the wine is the smell of it, which wets your appetite for the rest of the glass!

  • Christian says:

    Yes! I do. Even though I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing…I try to at least pull off the wine afficienado look!

  • Karen Millar says:

    I do and I don’t! If it’s a wine that I’m unfamiliar with (especially if it’s pricey), I may. My husband thinks it’s pretentious to do so with a wine we’re familiar with and I’m inclined to agree. One thing I always do, however, is comment on the wine, so the server can use the information if he/she is so inclined!!

  • laurie says:

    When I taste wine in a restaurant and the waiter/sommelier hands me the cork, I squeeze it to make sure that it is not dry or cracking, I may or may not sniff, but definitely swirl the wine in the glass and then a taste…..Oy, just thinking about it all makes me relax!!!!!

  • Karen Millar says:

    I do and I don’t! If it’s a wine that I’m unfamiliar with (especially if it’s pricey), I may. My husband thinks it’s pretentious to do so with a wine we’re familiar with and I’m inclined to agree. One thing I always do, however, is comment on the wine, so the server can use the information if he/she is so inclined!!

  • Anne says:

    Oh my gosh, its been ages since we could afford to go out, let alone order wine … I’d probably whoop and holler and try to jump into the glass.

  • Sue S. says:

    I hate to say it, but I go to the same restaurants in town all the time and order the same wines. Therefore, I don’t need to sniff and taste. Even if I were ordering a new wine, I don’t think I sniff and taste…I feel that’s a bit pretentious.

  • beth w says:

    no. just lap it up….between stories….

  • Shellie says:

    I usually taste after a very brief sniff! And then determine how smooth the wine is.

  • Trisha says:

    Yes, but I “sniff” the wine, not the cork, then taste. I do not pretend to be an expert, but enjoy the bouquet and can tell when the taste is “off”
    In my younger days, in a fine restaurant, the sommelier would do the initial tasting, before presenting the wine. Is this a lost art?

  • Jo Cavins says:

    I don’t. I feel like a fool doing this. I order and drink. If something were wrong, I’d complain, but otherwise the extra step just seems pretentious.

  • Robyn Ely says:

    I have to agree with Sheri, I do the same thing.
    Usually when returning to the same restraurant
    your pretty familiar with the staff.
    I do swirl and taste, but forget the sniffing of the cork.

  • Milda Simaitis says:

    The waiter will serve the person who selected the wine a sample tasting. Sniff, swish, inhale and swallow. Approve or reject. When approved, the waiter will pour an appropriate serving to those wishing to enjoy. I have never rejected!

  • Sheri Isler says:

    In a less expensive restaurant I do not, I know the brand I am ordering and it is usually a reliable mid range wine, so I just ask them to pour. In a fine expensive restaurant where they will be decanting, or I am ordering something older and pricey I will taste and swirl but not sniff the cork, which I think is pretentious. You can feel the cork to make sure it is wet however.