There are many things in life that intimidate me â€“ modern car engines, tax
forms, computer viruses. But not wine. Yes, Iâ€™m from California. Yes, I worked
at a winery (and yes, I feature them in many books). Yes, Iâ€™ve earned a
certificate from the prestigious UC Davis wine appreciation program. But
learning all the complexities is like learning a foreign language â€“ if you donâ€™t
use it, you lose it. I admit: Iâ€™ve forgotten more about wine than Iâ€™ve
retained. However, because people turn to me for advice about what wine to
order, I developed a bit of shorthand.
Do you ever drink wine or spirits? If spirits, is it mixed drinks or
straight? Do you drink black coffee or lattes? Do you drink full-sugar soda or
diet? Orange juice, cranberry juice, or grapefruit juice? Prefer chocolate for
dessert or fresh fruit? Season your steak with salt/pepper, a combination of dry
seasonings, or a creamy sauce?
You donâ€™t need answers to all the questions, just a starting point, a hint, a
clue. And you donâ€™t need to follow the â€świne rulesâ€ť (red with red meat, white
with fish/poultry). Thatâ€™s old school. My cheat sheet is below. My caveat: this
is a system that works for me. You might have different preferences and thatâ€™s
If Iâ€™m with people who donâ€™t normally drink wine, I veer toward white
wine, usually something lighter, like a Sauvignon Blanc. These
wines â€“ especially the ones from New Zealand â€“ are very soft and subtle and
generally please everyone. Sauvignon Blancs from California tend to have a hint
of grapefruit. If youâ€™ve got full-sugar soda or orange/cranberry juice drinkers,
try a Riesling or a Moscato â€“ although these arenâ€™t what Iâ€™d
recommend drinking with your main course, as theyâ€™re rather sweet. If someone
likes lattes or chocolate, a â€śrich, full-bodiedâ€ť Chardonnay would be
good (stay away from â€śoakyâ€ť Chards for this type of drinker). One warning about
Chardonnays: they come in more flavor variations than jelly beans â€“ never assume
if you like one Chard, youâ€™ll like another. Finally, if you have a mixed bag of
flavors being mentioned in your group, try a white wine blend. These
are usually lighter in body and flavor, and blended to please a broader spectrum
of wine drinkers. Some have a hint of sweetness, some a hint of brown spice or
floral notes, so they arenâ€™t boring.
If Iâ€™m with wine drinkers, Iâ€™ll veer toward red wine. Merlot is
something I choose for people who like creamy sauces and is safe for a mix of
wine appreciation levels (itâ€™s affordable, hard to screw up and not a wine with
tons of different flavors). If people like black pepper and strong spices, I
might choose a Syrah or Chianti. If chocolate or lattes come
up, I might choose a Pinot Noir, but one from a drier climate (Oregon
Pinots taste softer to me). If there were preferences for fruit for dessert, I
might choose a Zinfandel or a Shiraz. Iâ€™ll choose a
Cabernet Sauvignon if people like strong flavors (black coffee, pepper,
straight spirits) and there is red meat coming to the table (probably the only
wine type that I consider doesnâ€™t go well with white meat or fish â€“ but thatâ€™s
just me). Remember how I compared Chards to jelly beans? Same applies to Cabs â€“
lots of styles and flavors, therefore harder to pick one that pleases a variety
Wine is a lot like the different coffee drinks available at Starbucks. You can
get a plain, but good, cup of coffee, add different tastes to that cup (shake
some cinnamon on top, add creamy whip, etc.), or have the coffee be a complement
to heavier flavors (chocolate, caramel, etc.). Whatever fits your mood and your
taste buds. Wine does the same thing. Selecting a wine is a little adventure and
when you ask people for their preferences, they become vested in that adventure
with you (and therefore the adventureâ€™s success isnâ€™t all on your shoulders). If
youâ€™re nervous about making a decision, you can always ask for a taste of
something to see if you like it before you commit. Have fun!
Although Melinda has lived in Georgia and Texas, she's a California girl
at heart. Her earliest memories are of life on an isolated 50-acre sheep ranch
in rural Sonoma County, California. Picture rolling hills covered in brown
grass, a eucalyptus forest, a long gravel driveway lined with plump sheep and no
sidewalks. It was a big deal to drive into town on a one-lane road in a
ramshackle, bubble-fendered pickup for an ice cream.
to this century. Melinda lives in California's hot central valley with her
husband - her basketball playing college sweetheart. With three kids the couple
has done the soccer thing, the karate thing, the dance thing, the Little League
thing and, of course, the basketball thing.
Melinda writes sweet to medium heat contemporary romances as Melinda Curtis and
red hot reads as Mel Curtis. She loves writing romances about women who don't
realize how strong they are until a hero comes along to show them, while
capturing the wry humorous power struggle of falling in love - because, really,
who lets the man have the last word?
For better or worse, she's family now
Duffy Dufraine just found
out he's going to be an uncle.
Jessica Aguirre came to Harmony Valley in search of the
father of her unborn child, which is by no means him. An
accident may have damaged the expectant mom's memory, but he
knows his twin is the man she's looking for. But Greg's
gone, which leaves Duffy the only family Jess has. And he
has to make things right. Offering her a temporary place to
stay seems an ideal short-term solution. Until she stirs
desires that make the embattled vineyard manager rethink his
own long-term game plan. Is he ready to offer Jess and her
baby a home to call their ownâ€”with him?
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