Tasting Less that the Best

We have been very fortunate in our wine tasting experiences over the years.  We’ve had the chance to visit and taste some of the most famous and exclusive wines from the United States, Europe, Australia and South Africa.  We have bought a few bottles and from time to time we open some of those bottles and give ourselves the pleasure of tasting greatness.  But most of the time, we drink very nice wines that are either from one the wine clubs we are members of or which are easily available, accessible and economical.  We believe that most wine enthusiasts follow the same pattern that we do.  (We’ve often wondered whether the Rothschilds ever open a simple Beaujolais on a steamy summer evening.  If any Rothschilds are reading this, please let us know.)

The problem, if that’s what it is, is that when we go wine tasting we don’t gravitate towards the wineries and wines that are our normal fare on a routine Tuesday.  We choose the wineries that we know, from experience or reputation, that make the best wines in that region.  In many instances, these wineries make an array of wines, some of which are low-priced, mass-market entries and others that approach the very finest.

Beringer’s Rhine House, which includes Beringer’s premium tasting room.

Let’s take one winery as an example: Beringer.  They have some wines that sell below ten dollars a bottle.  (In fairness, they do not sell these wines at their winery in St. Helena.  For a long while, these plonk wines were served in dive bars and at company affairs, and we thought that these were all Beringer made.)   At the other extreme, their Private Reserve can rival any wine from California or elsewhere.  There are other top-end single vineyard varietals and there are many Beringer wines at the lower end of the price spectrum that are quite enjoyable.  What do we drink when we visit Beringer?  Their finest wines, of course.  We have some at home, but more often we open their wines that cost 80% less than the top tier.  And we like them quite a lot.

The lesson, we guess, is that we ought to pay more attention to the less than the best wines when we go tasting.  It’s difficult.  Once we’ve tasted the best, everything else seems rather drab.  Of course, we try to save the best for last, but then we often choose the premium tasting menu and never even sip anything in the more affordable category.

There have been cases in which we have asked to compare wines made from the same grape on both the premium and the regular menus.  Most servers don’t care; after all, their potential customer is more likely to enjoy the costlier wine more and might buy some.  There is a line of thought that if the top wines are excellent, some of that excellence should be reflected in the lesser ones.  There are many instances in which that is true.  But in these times of mega-corporate takeovers, it is often the case that the grapes for the commercial wines are purchased from other vineyards, pressed and bottled in different factories and have far lesser quality controls.  Sometimes the adage, “you get what you pay for” is true.

Snapshots

We are inveterate wine tasters and have made wine tasting trips many times.  Others we know are mildly interested in wine tasting and have made only one voyage to Wine Country.  Almost all of them remember that experience warmly but not enough so to do it again, or at least not yet.

To be honest, the various trips blend together in our memories.  What made one trip so different that it stands out in our minds?  Not much, actually.  But there are certain mental pictures that do regularly pop up.  They’re snapshots, really, not enough for a whole article but we’d like to share anyway.

There was the first trip wine tasting we took together to Napa Valley and Sonoma County.  We were young(er), very much in love and a mellow early summer sun was shining down on us as we drove our rented convertible down Dry Creek Road.  If there were a label on this picture, it would say, “Happiness”.

Chateau Palmer.  Photo courtesy of Decanter China.

One time we showed up at a top Bordeaux vineyard, Château Palmer, without a necessary appointment.  Worse yet, it was during the lunchtime break and the winery wasn’t even open.  However, just as we were leaving, a group of French and American restauranteurs showed up for a private tour with the wine maker.  We just tagged along and finally arrived in the salon, where Monsieur announced, “C’est teatime” meaning he was opening bottles, which we got to share.

On another Bordeaux trip, we were there for the vendange, the harvest.  We were at Cheval Blanc, one of St. Emilion’s finest, where we saw the pickers hard at work in the vineyard and went to take a photo or two.  The workers stopped picking, looked at us with some evident hostility, and started hissing among themselves in a language we didn’t understand, maybe Arabic, maybe Roma.  That was a photograph never taken.

We were in Paso Robles for a few days where we knew few of the wineries, so almost every place we went was a discovery.  On our last afternoon there, we visited one winery after the other whose products we just didn’t care for.  After the last, we thought sadly that we had overtaxed our taste buds and just weren’t able to tell good from bad anymore.  But we hadn’t been to one of our favorites yet and decided that Turley would be our final stop for the day.  Let us simply say there was nothing wrong with our tongues.

We had just arrived in Sonoma Valley and had visited our first tasting room.  We were on our way to Arrowood, but overshot the entrance to the winery, and so had to turn around on a rather narrow stretch of the Sonoma Highway.  This required a few back-and-forths to accomplish and unfortunately, we blocked the progress of a police car.  The cop was unnecessarily peeved and pulled us over for a sobriety test.  Of course, passing was not a problem.  The officer was mightily annoyed that he couldn’t drag us in for DWI.  But it was a good lesson to be aware of alcohol, driving and the police when wine tasting.

There was that time we were in the Rhône Valley in Provence and drove to Châteauneuf-du-Pape.  We went to Domaine Beaurenard. We had been there years ago and had a private tour with the owner, who happened to be there at the time of our visit.  We had the great pleasure to have a tasting with Monsieur Paul Coulon, the owner of Château Beaurenard.  Since then, each time we open a bottle of his wine, we call it *the wine of Monsieur Coulon*.

Each of these snapshots brings a smile to think about them.  There are surely many more to be remembered that we might share with our readers later.

Wine Club Deliveries

You’re in a winery and you just adore the wines you’ve been tasting.  In fact, you’re quite voluble about it, telling your friends and total strangers just how good these wines are.  At this point, the friendly waitperson who has been serving you suggests you join their wine club.  Your powers of sales resistance are at an all-time, alcohol-induced low.  So you sign up.

We like to think we have stiffer spines than that, but we also know we’ve joined around twenty clubs over the course of time and are currently members of six of them.  (It’s a good idea to join for a while and then resign when you have enough from that producer in your collection.)  We very much enjoy receiving great wine, even if we have to put some of them down for a few years.

Photo courtesy of The Spruce Eats.

What we don’t like very much is the process we have to go through to get those wines.

For one thing, there are too many deliveries.  For example, one of the clubs we belong to delivers six times a year.  At the other extreme, another club only wants you to buy a certain number of bottle each year, which we take advantage of each spring.

And then there are the shipping costs.  In many instances, the fee for sending you the wines is nearly equivalent to an additional bottle.  One thing we appreciate in some clubs is the occasional special deal for reduced rate shipping.

Prior to each shipment, the winery sends you an announcement of the next wines they’ve chosen for their members.  We have found that in virtually every selection, there is at least one wine that we don’t particularly want.  Most clubs allow you to customize your order or to switch out some wines, but most expect you to buy the same number of bottles, or to spend the same amount of money.

This wouldn’t be so bad if wineries had first rate information systems to serve their members.  Sadly, that is not often the case.  We have had experience with web sites that are inaccessible, that don’t show all the wines available, that will allow you to add to an order but not subtract, or that simply don’t work.  At this point there is no alternative but calling the winery, which especially in these pandemic times means that you leave a message for someone working at home, who may or may not get back to you in a timely manner.

We have also experienced mess-ups on the winery’s side that resulted in our getting the wines we ordered and the wines that were on the original membership shipment list.  If the winery is nice, they’ll tell you to keep the wines you hadn’t asked for because it was their error.  In other cases, we have had to return the unwanted wines, which is a general pain.

Now, don’t let us deter you from joining one or more clubs you’re genuinely interested in.  But no matter how large or famous the winery may be, they’re still small businesses, with the systems and processes that are the weaknesses of all such enterprises.  Enjoy your wine, because you probably won’t be too crazy about the process of getting it.

White Dessert

A few issues ago, we focused on red dessert wines that you might encounter at some wineries, where they are almost an afterthought compared with the table wines made there.  Of course, there are certain parts of the world where dessert wines are the main event and some of those are red: Port from Portugal, vin doux naturel from the south of France, Recioto from Italy’s Valpolicella region and Mavrodaphne from Greece.

In the United States, there are few if any wineries that specialize in dessert wines, and those who do usually make them from white grapes: Reisling, Vidal, Rousanne and sometimes Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.  There are many renowned wineries that do have white dessert wines on their lists, sometimes.  They don’t have the proper climatic conditions every year to make these wines so visitors won’t always have a chance to try them.  As is often the case, if those who come to taste the main production show genuine interest and some knowledge, we have experienced that the server “just happened” to have a bottle of their dessert offering in the refrigerator that could be shared.

 

            Grapes that have been attacked by botrytis, the Noble Rot.  Photo courtesy of Vinoble.

Unsurprisingly, California produces the most white dessert wines in the US.  But they are also to be found in Washington and New York states.  Some are the result of what is known as the Noble Rot, botrytis cinerea, a fungus that attacks the grapes, sucks most of the water out of them and leaves very concentrated sugars behind.  Naturally, it takes a lot of shriveled grapes to make even a half bottle, so that’s why producers are a bit reluctant to share tastes.  Botrytis doesn’t always occur – another reason it’s hard to find and get a chance to taste these wines, but in the Sauternes region of France it’s routine.  A trip to the Bordeaux region is incomplete without visiting Sauternes.

Making ice wine.  Photo courtesy of New York Upstate.

Another common way of making dessert wines is to let the grapes freeze.  The resulting ice crystals puncture the skins of the grapes, also letting out much of the water when they defrost.  In the US and Canada, we call these ice wines.  Of course, this requires very cold conditions while the grapes are still on the vines.  This does happen in Canada every year, so the Canadians are the world champs of ice wine, mostly in Ontario but also in Québec.  These wines tend not to be as sweet and are better at accompanying fruits and cheeses than with chocolate.

Lastly, there are late harvest dessert wines, made from grapes that are left on the vines to dry out.  They tend to be a bit raisin-y for that reason.  They are more frequently made in Europe than in North America.  Late harvest wines are known as Vendage Tardive in France (particularly in Alsace) and Spätlese in Germany.  Visitors to those places will surely get a chance to taste their dessert wines, after sampling Reislings and Gewurtztraminers.

Wine tasting in regions that specialize in white dessert wines can overload the senses a bit, but you can be certain to try them.  In regions of Wine Country where dessert is not the main reason to visit, tasters need a bit of luck.

Visiting Napa Valley for the First Time

Decades ago we visited Napa Valley for the first time.  It was a life-altering experience…well, vacation altering, at any rate.  Traveling to winemaking areas for the purpose of visiting wineries and tasting their products is an experience we have relived many times since.  Napa Valley was not only our first destination but also the one we have returned to the most often over the years.

The iconic Stag’s Leap winery in the 1970’s.  Photo courtesy of The Rainbow Times.

It is a very different experience today than it was then.  In those days, wine tasting was much more casual.  The founders of many namesake wineries were alive and pouring tastes for visitors.  The servers – owners and workers, generally – stood behind a plank stretched between two barrels and poured a few thimblefuls of wine into tiny glasses that we were urged to take home with us.  No one thought of charging for a tasting.

As first-timers, we were in awe. There were rows and rows of vines stretching, so it seemed, in all directions as far as the eye could see.  There were no Napa palaces at that time.  All the wineries were combinations of factories, warehouses and working farms, much as can be seen in less-discovered parts of the world these days.

The wines that were available for sale were a great deal less expensive.  The best in the house could be bought for ten dollars or less.  (To be fair, $10 sounded like a lot more money in the 1970’s and ‘80’s.)  Some of the wines that we bought then are still among our favorites, such as Robert Mondavi or Louis M. Martini.  (Although we never had the pleasure to meet Mr. Mondavi, Mr. Martini once served us wine.)  The cost of their top wines are now counted in the hundreds of dollars.

Stag’s Leap winery today.

We try, with some difficulty, to imagine what the experience of a first-time visitor (and novice taster) must be like today.  Almost all the founders have passed away.  Warren Winiarski of Stag’s Leap and Mike Grgich of Grgich Hills are approaching the century mark, but they are virtually the only ones left.  Most of the major wineries are the property of multinational corporations.  The vines are still there but the tasting facilities are in many cases “visitors centers” architected to impress.  Impressive they are, but visitors’ encounters are starkly different than ours was.

Even before the pandemic, the cost of a tasting had become rather steep in many wineries, enough to be prohibitive for tasters as young today as we were then.  Of course, the price for a glass of wine in a restaurant or bar has also increased, so wine tasting is not that out of line in dollar terms.  Since the pandemic, almost all Napa wineries are available for tasting by appointment only and the price for tasting has increased tremendously.  That prohibition was once a ruse to keep rowdy crowds away; today the tastings are seated and the limitation is for real.

We still have a sense of wonder when we visit sectors of Wine Country we’ve never encountered before.  And we still have a great time in Napa.  But it will never be our first time again.

Red Dessert

Often when we visit a winery and have tasted what was on the list for that day, we’ll sort of nonchalantly ask, “Do you make dessert wine?”.  Sometimes the answer is “no” and sometimes it’s “yes, but it’s not available”.  But quite often the server will reach below the bar and bring out a small slender bottle that’s full of nectar.

Wineries very rarely advertise their dessert wines for tasting for a few reasons.  These wines are usually made in low volume.  They may not be made every year.  And they tend to be rather expensive.  But they are a distinctive wine category and wine tasters should get to know them and recognize that they’re not all the same.  One obvious distinction is that some are red and some are white.  In this issue we’ll focus on the red ones.

First of all, red dessert wines are NOT just red table wines with sugar added, even if they are sometimes made from the same grapes.  The winemakers stop the fermentation before all the sugar is eaten up by yeasts, so the residual natural sugar is quite high.

Photo courtesy of Porto Running Tours.

The most famous red dessert wines are Ports.  To our way of thinking, if it doesn’t come from Portugal, it isn’t Port, no matter that some American wineries make dessert wines from Zinfandel or Pinot Noir and call it Port.  The real thing is made from grapes uniquely found in the Douro Valley, such as Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz.  It is distinctive and highly alcoholic, because it is fortified with neutral spirits.  There are many varieties of Port including from ruby, tawny, late bottled vintage (LBV) and best (and most expensive) of all vintage Port.  Take a trip to Porto and you can taste them all.  Oddly, the Portuguese don’t drink it much, but it is beloved by British academics and anyone with a sweet tooth on a wintry night.

There’s a style of red dessert wine not often found in the United States.  In France it’s called vin doux naturel or naturally sweet wine; there is no equivalent English term.  Almost all of it comes from the south of France, in Provence and Languedoc, usually from Grenache grapes.  You may be most familiar with wines known as Banyuls.  Of course, all grapes are naturally sweet, but they aren’t all processed the way these wines are.  Fermentation is stopped by the addition of some eau de vie, which stops the fermentation.  There’s less alcohol than in Port, but it still has a kick.

Finally, there are some specialty wines with long and unique histories.  For example, Recioto is made in Italy’s Valpolicella region.  It’s Amarone that’s been stopped before it’s finished.  The people of that region like dessert too, and you’d better sample it there because it’s not found that often on American wine store shelves.  Another is the Greek Mavrodaphne, which you may find in some Greek restaurants and neighborhoods, and is another fortified wine.  It may remind you of Port.

 

Discovering in Wine Country

When we first started going wine tasting as a recreational outing, everyplace we went, everything we tried was a discovery.  We will never forget the wonderment we felt as we drove along Route 29 in Napa Valley.  All those wineries!  Such famous wines and they come out of those buildings!  And they let you try what they make (for free in those days)!

We have recreated that feeling often in our travels and it’s always the same.  Aha, so this is really Bordeaux or Burgundy or Paso Robles or Montalcino!  In a way, it has been the same rush as we once felt on Christmas morning.  But over the years, as we have returned to our favorite corners of Wine Country, that initial thrill has given way to pleasures of familiarity, of knowing what we were going to taste and knowing that it would be good.

There is still plenty of opportunity for discovery as we make our way through Wine Country.  They never happen where you expect them to be; they always come as a surprise.

  • Discovering wine making where we didn’t expect it – There have been occasions when we were travelling for business or even on vacations where we didn’t expect to find vineyards – and suddenly we found wine making going on. Perhaps the best example of that was finding Testarossa Winery in Los Gatos, the heart of California’s Silicon Valley.  Another would be our first trip to Temecula, just north of San Diego, in a desert setting.
  • Discovering new wineries in familiar locations – This kind of discovery is the exact opposite of the one above. How many times had we been to Sonoma County’s Russian River AVA?  More than we can remember, but although we had driven past Baciagalupi Vineyards and Moshin Winery many times, we had never stopped there.  These small, out of the way wineries, and others like them, sometimes produce wonderful wines (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in these cases) and reward a little adventurousness.

William Hill Winery.  

  • Discovering new wines at familiar wineries – Of course, many American wineries are producing new offerings all the time, but we don’t consider a new wine at Robert Mondavi or Etude to be true discoveries. But there have been cases in which we have given a winery that we know produced widely sold commercial wines and were well surprised to discover some excellent offerings in a surprisingly pleasant location that we’d never seen before.  William Hill Winery and Clos du Val fall into this category.
  • Discovering that winery you hadn’t appreciated in the past had returned to form – Often when there is a change of ownership or winemaker, a winery that we had liked had disappointed us. It’s a good idea to give these a second or even a third chance.  Perhaps the new owners took over in a particularly bad growing year, as happened at Limerick Lane Cellars.  Or it may take several seasons for a winemaker to align his or her techniques with what the terroir has to offer.

And these sorts of discoveries don’t even include the pleasing response to a winery where the wine may not be to your taste, but the overall experience makes a visit worthwhile.

Long Island’s North Fork Wineries…Today

For New York City residents and Long Islanders, a wine tasting trip to Long Island’s North Fork was and is the primary destination that didn’t require an extensive journey.  The roads on the North Fork are a bit of well-groomed Americana; the vineyards are beautiful; and the people in the wineries are eager to demonstrate that Long Island belongs on the viticultural map.  However, in the past the wines, to our taste, with few exceptions did not rise to the quality that the winemakers wished to credit them with.

We are pleased to report that a lot has changed in recent years, much for the better.  There are more wineries, with more interest in improving the wine tasting experience and, again to our opinion, there are more wines worth a two-hour drive on the Long Island Expressway.

How have things changed, or not?

Tasting near the vines at McCall Wines.

Many of the experiences of wine tasting on Long Island have not changed.  Once you get past Riverhead, there is village after village with wineries, either on Route 48 to the north or Route 25 to the south, with more on the latter road.  The homes are gracious, huge trees overhang the roads (again more so to the south) and the wineries are well marked so that finding your way is simple.

But certain changes are more evident.  Visitors don’t belly up to the bar and taste a broad selection of a winery’s offerings.  In most cases, wines are available in preselected flights, or by the glass or bottle.  Thus the atmosphere is a little more like being in a bar than a winery.

And even where there is a bar – some wineries don’t even have one! – most people take their tastes outdoors, on a patio, on a lawn or even right up next to the vines.  This works spectacularly well on beautiful summer days (which we have been fortunate to experience) but might not be so enjoyable on a grey, muggy or rainy one.

The tasting room at Sparkling Pointe.

Another noticeable difference is that the food trucks are gone, at least on weekdays.  Many of the wineries now offer food to pair with their wines.  Mostly it’s cheese and charcuterie that are available, with some making more memorable repasts than others.

The pioneering wineries are still there and, based on some sampling, we can say that they are much as they were: not terrible but nothing to write home about either.  But people with money have begun to open or take over wineries.  They have invested in more architecturally pleasing tasting rooms and better winemaking equipment.  With money, they can afford to invest in crafting better wines: dropping more fruit, hiring more workers to prune and care for the vines, and letting the grapes reach the fullest maturity.

The result has been a distinct heightening of the quality of the wines of the North Fork.  To our tastes, Paumanok, McCall’s, Mattebella and Sparking Pointe lead the way.  (Mattebella is reviewed in this issue.  The others will be in focus in later editions.)  We’re sure that others are coming to the fore as well.

In a few words, the North Fork has gone from being a pleasant diversion to a wine lover’s destination.

Think About Farming

For most of us, wine tasting is focused on, well, wine.  We visit different wineries in the same region and learn to detect the subtle differences between one Chardonnay and, say, three others made within a mile of one another.  We give credit, if we think about it at all, to the winemaker who we see as a master artisan.  In general that’s true, but wine is a combination of artistry, industrial processes and agriculture.

Even when we are at a winery surrounded by vines, how many of us even consider soil composition, trellising and drip irrigation?  Visiting at harvest time, with grapes hanging heavy on the vines, we don’t believe that many people give a lot of thought to how much science, expertise and sheer hard work went into getting those grapes there.  Now, we’re not advocating that everyone take a few courses at Davis before going wine tasting, but maybe a few thoughts on the matter and a bit of reading are appropriate.

Workers harvesting in the Beuajolais region.

You’ll enjoy the wine you taste at any time of the year, but we think that there’s also pleasure in knowing what has to happen to get the wine out of the ground and into your glass.  For one thing, a visitor ought to be aware of what’s happening in the vineyards at any particular time of year that they are there.  Of course, in the winter months the vines are bare, but there’s lots of work going on to prune the vines to increase later yields.  In March, there’s some green on those vines; it’s called bud break.  Sometime in May, itsy-bitsy grapes begin to form, which is called the fruit set.

Things get serious in July and August, the period of veraison, when those premature clusters become recognizable as grapes.  The farmers now do the unthinkable – they cut away many of the grape bunches that were forming.  This process, called dropping fruit, allocates nature’s resources from within the ground through the vines to the remaining clusters.  Then in late August through October, the grapes are harvested and vinified.

The nature of the soil makes a difference.  Calcareous soil contains limestone that retains water, making farming easier, and the limestone adds acidity to the wines.  On the other hand, grapes grown in gravelly soils are enhanced by the retained heat in the rocks, making the resulting wines bolder and higher in alcohol.  This type of soil is typical in Bordeaux’s Left Bank, which is why wines from the south of the city are called Graves.  If the ground has a clay-like consistency, it favors grapes that ripen quickly, such as Merlot, which is common on the Right Bank of the Bordeaux region.  This little bit of agricultural knowledge explains why wines from a few miles apart in the same region can be so different.

If your reason for going wine tasting is simply to sample, drink or party, none of these thoughts about farming will make any difference.  But if you, like us, go to learn as well as sip, then having a basic understanding of the farmers’ contributions adds to the pleasure.

Bad Wine

The rationale for wine tasting as an avocation is – of course – that you get a chance to try a lot of really good wines.  Sometimes when we enter a winery’s tasting room, we know we are going to taste something delicious or at least interesting.  Often, when we’re visiting a winery for the first time, we may not know what to expect, but we have every reason to be excited about trying something new.  And a few times, we’ve been disappointed with the wines we’ve tasted.

But there have been rare occasions when we’ve been handed a glass of really bad wine.  That’s not the same as wine we didn’t like.  We’re talking about wine that has been poorly made, bottled or stored.

The most common cause of spoilage is corked wine.  This is not really the fault of the winemaker but rather of the company that sold corks to the winery.  In growing or preparing the corks, a grower may have unintentionally introduced a chemical known scientifically as 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (or more usefully, as TCA).  From the moment that cork is put in the bottle, the wine in it will taste corked.

A wine testing lab.  Photo courtesy of Cornell University.

We were once at a winery that prides itself on their scientific approach to winemaking.  We even got to see their lab where people in white coats were doing something that looked like high school chem lab to us.  When they poured our first taste it was immediately apparent that the Chardonnay smelled and tasted like wet cardboard.  (Some people say it’s wet dog, but let’s not go there.)  The server was at first surprised and then abashed, but truly it was her fault.  She should have tasted the wine first before pouring it.  Maybe she did and didn’t recognize that the bottle was spoiled, which is even worse.

Consumers should be on the watch for cork taint.  If you find it at a tasting room or at home, bring it to the winery’s attention.  Many corks have identifiers so that the winery can tell who had sold them the faulty corks.

Another common fault in wines you might taste is called brettanomyces, or brett.  This is a type of yeast.  Since yeasts are an essential ingredient in making wine, some funky yeasts are bound on occasion to sneak in.  However, in some cases brett is considered a feature, not a flaw.  This yeast produces an aroma and taste that is generally referred to as “barnyard” in polite company.  In rude company it’s called…well, never mind.  There are some wine lovers who find a bit of this taste to be admirable, especially in Pinot Noirs from Burgundy in particular.

For the record, we’re not brett fans.  A little is bad and even Burgundians know that a lot isn’t good.  If you find it in a bottle opened at a winery, bring it to management’s attention right away.  When it happens in a wine opened at home, a reputable wine seller should exchange a purchase.

The point is not to play wine detective looking for bad bottles.  They are rare enough that most people only rarely encounter one.  We have seen some people who were evidently unaware of what bad wine smells and tastes like, finish a bottle and not understand why they didn’t like it.  That’s why a sommelier takes a sip of our wine and let’s us try it before serving it.  There’s no reason to drink bad wine…Life is too short !