How to Have the Best Wine Year of Your Life
Go Prix Fixe
"Tasting menu" used to mean "expensive." Now it's become a relatively affordable way to explore the menu at casual places. At New York City's raucous Indian spot Babu Ji, chef Jessi Singh offers a seven-course menu for $60 that might include this yogurt kebab—perfect with a semidry Riesling or a beer from the serve-yourself fridge.
Join the New F&W Wine Club
The Food & Wine Firstleaf wine club is unusually interactive, allowing members to choose which wines they want and also to rate bottles they've tried. Then a supersmart algorithm tailors shipments to each person's tastes. F&W executive wine editor Ray Isle curated the introductory three-pack. $30; firstleafclub.com/rayspicks.
Find a Cellar Buddy
Most retailers offer a discount if you buy wine by the case. But 12 bottles of anything can seem like a big commitment, especially for a wine you've never tried. The insider move: Find a friend to split cases of everyday or collectible wines—either someone who shares your tastes or someone who doesn't and can help you branch out.
Purchase a Wine Fridge
With wine, as with technology, you may need more storage than you think. Keep bottles consistently cool in one of these new fridges.
A bartenders' favorite, Perlick now makes home models, like a 24-inch one with two temperature zones for 32 bottles. From $3,540; perlick.com.
The freestanding model is six feet tall, has three temperature zones and holds 178 bottles. $7,000; mieleusa.com.
This 15-inch model with space for 23 bottles fits almost anywhere. $3,400; true-residential.com.
If you're going to go all out on a wine vacation, France is an excellent place to do just that.
Learn in Provence
The five-day Extreme Wine course offers amateurs pro-level tasting training using some of the world's greatest bottles. From $8,300; laverriere.com.
The new La Grande Maison hotel, in a 19th-century mansion, is the ideal home base for château visits. Doubles from $433; lagrandemaison-bordeaux.com.
Float Through Burgundy and the Rhône
Viking's new river cruise stops in Dijon, Lyon, Mâcon, Tournon and Viviers. From $3,500; vikingrivercruises.com.
Go Crazy on the Ultmate Wine Splurge
You can buy a bottle of Rocca di Frassinello's superb 2012 Maremma red for $49. Or for $46,000 you can blend your own personalized barrel of super-Tuscan wine one-on-one with Rocca di Frassinello's winemaker, Alessandro Cellai. Once your wine is ready, it will be sent to you at home—all 300 bottles of it. The experience is only available to guests at the Baglioni Hotel Cala del Porto, a boutique property with gorgeous views of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Through October 2016; baglionihotels.com.
Invest in New Glassware
Riedel's new line of ultralight, ultrathin Superleggero crystal glasses brilliantly shows off a wine's aroma and taste. From $139 each; riedel.com.
Check Out an Urban Winery
Charles Smith Wines Jet City, Seattle
This vast new space is a showcase for Smith's high-end K Vintners wines. charlessmithwines.com.
The Infinite Monkey Theorem, Austin
Try wines from cans or kegs in a refurbished South Austin auto shop. theinfinitemonkeytheorem.com.
Bow & Arrow, Portlan, OR
From an underground location, Scott and Dana Frank make superb bargain Pinot and Gamay. bowandarrowwines.com.