Wine resolutions for the new year

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We hear quite a bit about the proverbial bucket list of adventures and goals that form resolutions this time of year. Some of our resolutions include gardening, remodeling, weight loss and more.

Why not consider a list of wine resolutions for the New Year? Make it an adventure in learning about the complexities of wine and wine culture.

Let’s take 2017 and explore new varietals, or simply new-to-us varietals. One of the best ways to travel without leaving home is to take a peek at the wines from New Zealand, Australia, Germany or Hungary at your grocery store. Each of these wine-producing countries contains a red wine, dry white wine and a sweet wine that may be perfect to try on a casual Friday evening as you settle into the weekend. Ask the wine steward what their new favorite wine might be or what’s new on the shelf; you might be surprised to find rich varieties such as Alicante Bouschet, Petite Verdot, Teroldego or Tannat that are sometimes used to add color or richness to wine blends. Trying new wines can add to your enjoyment and also expand your knowledge of different textures and flavor profiles of wine.

What if you resolve to try one new wine a month? You could invite a few friends over and have another great reason to enjoy well-paired foods with wine and friendship. There are hundreds of varieties of wine grapes grown in more than 60 wine-producing countries, which could keep you busy for many years to come.

Winemaker dinners
These events are a great way to try new wines, learn how they’re made and blended while enjoying many courses designed to show off both the food and the wine. From appetizers to dessert, winemaker dinners are featured both at wineries and at restaurants; prices generally depend on the food and wine pairings. Subscribe to your favorite restaurant’s newsletters or social media for special invitations to winemaker events.

Cook with wine!
Many of our beloved chefs use wine in their recipes to enhance the flavors and textures of sauces, meats, fish, vegetables and even desserts. Add a white or red wine to your favorite cioppino recipe or try a new brownie recipe that calls for a specific wine. You’ll be rewarded!

Be progressive
Try progressive wine dinners in your neighborhood. Select four houses; each hosts one food/wine pairing, beginning with appetizers, moving to salad, main course and concluding with dessert. When each course is complete, everyone walks to the next course, enjoying every paired delight. Each progressive dinner could be themed by cuisine, adding something special to the wine pairings that might include beverages such as sake, ouzo, port or sparkling wine.

Happy hour
It’s a convenient way to explore new items at that new wine bar or restaurant around the corner. Tasting menus may include special flights of wine that include three to five one-ounce samples of one varietal or a wine region you haven’t had the chance to explore yet. This is a great way to check out sparkling wines, dessert wines or wines from another area of the world. Try searching “happy hour near me.” Please remember to designate your driver or call a service.

Wine travel destinations
Getting away? If you’re already planning your 2017 travel and have room in your itinerary for a couple of days before or after your trip, consider trying a new wine region or winery near your destination. Looking forward to your annual visit to your time share? Chances are there are new wineries, vineyards and tasting experiences wherever you may be traveling. Wineries and vintner associations often feature their winery map online; they’re happy to send you a physical map or brochure of the area to help you prepare a stop or two during your travels. Try searching for wine regions in the area you are traveling.

Last year I expanded a vacation by adding a couple of days of wine-centric travel to Victoria, British Columbia, in the luscious Pacific Northwest. In addition to meeting truly charismatic and genuine lovers of wine, I was fortunate to find and schedule quite a few experiences of a taste-and-learn variety, during which I learned about regional styles of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and how they differ from the wines in my region. To accomplish this, I did not allow myself to order any wine I was familiar with during lunch or dinner. The food matched the fun, and the opportunity to meet chefs and wine enthusiasts in another wine-grape-growing region was fantastic. My New Year’s wine resolution this year includes exploring cultural cuisines and the traditions of wine celebrations and I’m open to suggestions!
Cheers to you this New Year and beyond! ■

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