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.
If you’re a wine novice, and your challenge isn’t as much experimentation as it is self-education, senior wine editor Megan Krigbaum collected the wisdom of three experts for “How to Be a Better Wine Taster.” Read up, and drink up, and you, too, will be able to change your wine life.
Where I’m Coming From: Portland, Maine
Pitch-perfect bistro with magnificent renditions of classics, like a French onion soup made with creamy onions and a 48-hour veal stock. bistropj.com.
Supercute oyster bar with a great local selection and some Asian-accented dishes, like the lightly grilled Gloucester surf clam with daikon and nam prik. eventideoysterco.com.
Masa Miyake’s sushi bar makes the most of the incredible local fish and farms. The botan ebi (large raw shrimp) were the best ever. miyakerestaurants.com.
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