Should I give my wine life a makeover? This idea occurred to me when I heard about Shelley Lindgren’s surprisingly simple philosophy of pairing. Lindgren, the co-owner and wine director of San Francisco’s SPQR restaurant (and the co-author, with chef Matthew Accarrino, of a new SPQR cookbook), doesn’t just look for wines to complement the flavors in a particular dish. Instead, she thinks about wines in three categories—for weeknights, weekends and once a month. I like this approach because it forces me to plan a little, not just drink what I have on hand, and to experiment. As a start, I’m going to pick a weekend wine, like a good Sicilian Nero d’Avola, to pair with Matthew’s excellent curried-lamb potpie.
Another fantastic way to experiment is to go to a wine bar that serves unusual bottles. A passionate owner, like David Lynch at St. Vincent in San Francisco, will have a wine—such as a Viognier from tiny Rhône producer George Vernay—that’s almost impossible to find in stores. In “Where to Go Next,” we identify new places to have a great wine experience coast-to-coast.
The biggest way to shake up your wine life, though, would be to go to a winemaking region and get to know a grape more deeply than you ever could through a casual tasting, even at the best wine bar. So I was particularly jealous when our executive wine editor, Ray Isle, took a trip to Bordeaux to find fantastic bargain bottles, plus value-priced hotels and restaurants. He brought his best wine suggestions home and shares them here; I’m also saving his travel recommendations for when I go to Bordeaux myself.