Orange Coast Winery looks at a few of the stalwarts in a crowded field
As the saying goes, there's no accounting for taste. Every vineyard will make a case that their wine is the finest. There are more than 10,000 varieties of wine grapes grown across the world, and when it comes to wine and its consumers, there are as many different favorites as there are labels.
Before highlighting some essential types of wine, it's necessary to return to the basics. Wine may fall under five primary categories: red, white, sparkling, rose, and dessert. Classifications then branch off into dry and sweet wines, and flavors deepen even further based upon qualities like acidity and tannin (bitterness). For now, let's stick to the five basic types and list a few wines that can rightly be called indispensable.
Taking its name from the French for “blackbird,” Merlot is a rich, dark red wine derived from one of the world's most popular grapes. The flavor of Merlot is said to give hints of black cherries, licorice, plums and chocolate. This French grape reached American shores in the mid-19th century and since then, the wine has become a top-three favorite.
Merlot is typically less sugary than a Cabernet Sauvignon, with which Merlot is often blended. Leaning toward the dry side, Merlot has also been classified a medium-flavored wine. If you're new to Merlot, you may enjoy pairing it with steak, fish, or pasta.
Hugely popular in Argentina, Malbec is another French-derived dry, dark red that pairs well with lamb, game, and beef, as well as spicier fare like Thai or Indian. Its complex taste and aroma have been compared to earth, leather, tobacco and pepper. Typically of mid-level acidity and tannin, Malbec possesses a tangier and sharper flavor than Merlot.
Chardonnay (White Burgundy)
White wines are more crisp due to their lower tannin and higher acidity. Chardonnay hails from the Burgundy region of France and the ability of its grape to adapt well to various regions has seen this wine become the most popular white in the world. Chardonnay is often associated with bright, citrusy flavors and is best enjoyed with mild foods such as baked poultry or fish, sweet potatoes, and other buttery vegetables.
Although not as commonly known as its peers Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris, Sémillon merits a strong place on most wine lists due to its versatility, with dry and sweet varieties. Its taste has a zesty flavor comparable to apples, lemons, and pears when grown in cooler climates, and hints of mango, peach, and papaya when raised in warmer ones. If you're serving Sémillon as your table wine, couple it with light foods like seafood salads, crabs, and clams.
Cava, officially Cava DO (“Denominación de Origen”), consists of three white grapes (Parellada, Xarel-lo, and Macabeu) which, when combined, lend this sparkling and fruity wine a typically floral aroma and a citrus-based taste. Cava also comes in aged (nuttier) Brut and Rosé varieties and can have more of an earthy taste than its glamorous cousin, champagne. It's a versatile wine that goes well with white meat, cheese, rice, and seafood.
It had to make the list! Named after its region of origin in northeastern France, there's no other wine that has the public profile of champagne. It's the toast of winners and the marker of joyful occasions –and as such, is one of the most widely-consumed varieties on earth.
Described as floral, fruity, and spicy, the dryer Brut champagnes and the sweeter Secs offer the best of these flavors, with each benefiting from being well chilled before serving (the benefits being a boost to fizz and flavor). Lobster is a firm favorite to serve with champagne, as are other forms of seafood like oysters. Grilled chicken and egg dishes also pair well.
The Syrah blend of this particular wine is darker than your typical rosé (which is usually pinkish in tone) and has sweet tones of strawberry, peach, and olive. You have plenty of options to team Syrah with food: It's enjoyable to drink with pork, light breaded meals or pasta, pizza, crispy prosciutto, salads, or shrimp.
A particularly fruity pink, Moscato conjures up images of orange, pomegranate, and cherry for its drinkers. It sits nicely beside spicy foods or zesty Chinese meals and salads. It's sweet enough by some to be classed as a dessert wine, but as we said: There's no accounting for taste. You can pair a pink with beef or a dark red with fish if it works for you!
A traditional and highly-respected wine with a dash of brandy, Port is a firm favorite whose hybrid recipe lends it a heavier, sweeter, and richer taste than many wines. It's also very versatile when paired with food. Commonly served towards the end of a meal (hence the term “dessert wine”) with items like cheese, cakes, chocolate or biscuits, port can also precede a meal as an aperitif or be served along with the main course. If you choose the latter, try combining Port with a white meat salad.
Sherry is a delicate wine, drier in texture than Port and with a lower alcohol content. Like port, it should be stored at lower temperatures. Also like port, it adapts well beside any meal. Whether you choose white meats, fish, salads, or light seafood with complements of nuts, rice, or mushrooms, there will be a sherry that suits your purpose. If you can't have another bite, then sherry, port, or brandy go famously with after-dinner cigars.
At Orange Coast Winery, we believe a blend of science and art can make the good life even better. With precision and passion, we select the finest grapes from our own vineyards located throughout the Temecula Valley and the Lodi area of Northern California. You can email us at email@example.com for more information, or simply call 949-645-0400 to get in touch.
Your server arrives at the table. She has the wine list. Actually, it’s more of a wine book. She gives everyone the “who should I give this to?” quizzical look, and then she follows the direction of everyone’s gaze. They’re looking at you.
It’s a nightmare scenario for the uninitiated. You know as much about wine as you do about nuclear fusion. Wine comes from grapes, and fusion is why the sun is hot. You’ll get through this. You choose a Merlot because it’s … well, red, and most of your fellow diners are opting for a steak. The server returns with the wine, uncorks and pours a small amount into your glass. You’re supposed to taste it. That much you know. Now, what?
Go ahead and taste it!
If your knowledge of wine is next to nothing, check out our guide for beginners:
The first thing that comes to mind
At a basic level, there are really only two things to know and remember:
There is no wrong answer.
Those two steps are easy enough to follow. What comes next might not be, chiefly because it seems like we should have a response on par with the wine experts. Leave those complicated descriptions to oenophiles (connoisseurs of wine) and sommeliers. Here’s why:
You might take a sip of a red wine and discover, to your, surprise the first thing that comes to your mind is … cement! As in, the stuff that sidewalks are made out of. No, the wine itself doesn’t taste like cement. It’s delicious. But nevertheless, the thought of cement jumps right into your head.
Give yourself high praise if something like this occurs. What you’ve detected is the wine’s terroir. The unique soil composition of a geographical area contributes to the taste of the wine created by the grapes grown there.
The grapes for some of the world’s best-regarded wines grow in areas where the soil absorbs minerals from the limestone beds below. Lime is a crucial component in cement. Conjuring up the memory of the smell of a sidewalk on a hot summer afternoon after tasting a certain wine’s terroir makes perfect sense.
Of course, the earth isn’t the only thing flavoring a great wine. Wines are sweet or fruity; light or full-bodied; and often have traces of delightful flavors like vanilla and lemon grass.
And that’s why there’s nothing wrong with being honest about expressing the first thing that comes to mind after you taste a glass of wine. Embrace it.
You’re in the grape’s world now.
Bottles of wine-flavored memories
“Membership has its privileges” was the theme of the American Express credit card from 1987 to 1996. If you’re old enough to remember, the card’s previous tagline from 1974 to 1987 was “Do you know me?” With apologies and due credit to AMEX, both statements also apply to Orange Coast Winery’s wine clubs.
Membership really does have is privileges. There are two specific clubs that offer you the best way to extend your enjoyment of our sterling collection of award-winning wines. Let’s take a look at the benefits of the Yacht Club and the Beach Club memberships.
It’s perfect timing. Just as the recollection starts to fade, you’ll be able to rekindle the amazing memories you had tasting the featured wines at Orange Coast. Was it that ES Zinfandel that left fruity footprints on your tongue? Or was it the Sauvignon Blanc and the citrusy lemon-grass veil it draped across your nose?
You’ll be able to renew these memories and have new tastes make more of them with 8 in-house tastings of Orange Coast’s full wine list for you and a guest. Your membership also grants you exclusive access to the Orange Coast members’ room, where you’ll receive 20% off all wine, food, and merchandise. The members’ room is open every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Orange Coast Beach Club members are among the first to be notified of private events, new wine release parties, and more. Membership is a bimonthly charge of just $66 billed in February, April, June, August, October, and December – the credit that accumulates in your account can be used to purchase food and your favorite wines at the members’ discount rate.
Prepare to enter an unexpected level of service when you opt for Orange Coast Winery’s exclusive top-end membership. When you’re ready to return to Orange Coast Winery for a visit, you’ll be treated to a flight of 8 wines for you and 3 guests. The wines (and, in all likelihood, the guests) will be selected specifically based on your tastes, and served with a complimentary plate of cheeses.
This is likely to engage your appetite for more, so your Yacht Club membership also entitles you to 20% off all wine, food, and merchandise as you relax in the Orange Coast Winery members’ room. While it occasionally opens during the week, this exclusive area of the winery usually only welcomes members on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Yacht Club members are at the top of the list for news about upcoming private events, new wines, as well as wine release parties. Your $125 wine credit is billed bi-monthly each February, April, June, August, October, and December, and you can attend one of our quarterly pick-up parties or drop in anytime to pick up your custom wine selection.
But what about…?
Ah, yes. How does “Do you know me?” apply?
It works for Orange Coast Winery just as it did for the famous credit card. Things hit a different level when you’re a private member. The staff takes the time to get to know you. Your preferences are remembered and met with customized choices. And your transition from the outside to this special world of wine is only possible by the privileges that come with a Beach Club or Yacht Club membership.
For more information on our wine clubs, give us a call at 949-645-0400.
Be sure to address these key components before you start sampling
If you’re an avid wine drinker, you may have attended a tasting or two. Tastings can be educational and fun and they are an excellent way to learn about a new type of wine or a recently-discovered vineyard. Wine tastings also make for great parties, and if you have like-minded friends, perhaps it’s time to think about hosting your own.
But before you start assembling the guest list and wondering which bottles you should pick up, it’s important to think logistically. While you’ll want everyone to have a good time, the wine is really the star of the show. You don’t want it to be overshadowed. When planning a wine tasting, don’t forget about these taste-bud killers:
Because smell is such a big factor when tasting wines, you should make sure that your home is as scent-free as possible. This means that if you are going to cook, don’t fry up meat or prepare other things with aromas that could saturate the air. Don’t lay the cologne or perfume on too thick, and try to encourage your guests to follow suit.
A good wine tasting requires a fair amount of concentration, but this doesn’t mean the event has to be church-quiet. Music is a good idea. In fact, according to a thorough research review, certain types of music can actually allow people to enjoy their wine more. One study conducted at Oxford University compared different types of classical music and found that “the music playing in the background exerted a significant influence over people’s wine ratings … In particular, the wines were rated as tasting significantly fruitier while listening to Rachmaninoff than to Debussy.”
Another potential distraction during a wine tasting is the surrounding environment, and the lighting specifically. While you will of course want your guests to be able to see what they’re sampling, turn the lights down a bit. If you have a dimmer switch, this is the perfect opportunity to use it.
Of course, the key to tasting wine is all about the palate. Just as you do not want smelly foods at your tasting, you don’t want anything spicy or sweet either. Crackers or bread are great palate cleansers because they can soak up any flavors that linger. Fresh fruits, veggies, or cheeses are also good food choices. And don’t forget about having enough water close by for palate-cleansing purposes and to keep your guests hydrated.
Hosting a tasting is a great way to share your love of wine with fellow aficionados. But if you would rather not go through all the trouble of doing it yourself, you and your friends can simply head over to Orange Coast Winery. Our tasting room is open every day, so you can come in whenever you like to sample our wines. For more information about Orange Coast Winery or our selection of wines, give us a call at 949-645-0400.