9 Easy Ways to Improve Your Wine IQ in San Francisco
If you want to learn about wine in San Francisco, take advantage of the many resources at your fingertips, plus the miles of wine country just a short drive away. Here are some tips from San Francisco Wine School, plus some from Certified Sommelier Petra Polakovicova, Wine Director at Epic Roasthouse, and Certified Sommelier Jessica Eisenberg, Assistant General Manager at Puccini & Pinetti , that will make you smarter than ever when it comes to wine.
- Taste wine blind “Working in a restaurant gives me a chance to blind taste wines by the glass every day” explains Petra. People who are not so lucky have other options. At restaurants, ask the sommelier to pick a wine by the glass for you to taste blind. Many restaurants will offer to pour half glasses if you ask nicely or try flights at a wine bar. At home, use aluminum foil, a paper bag or even a sock to conceal the wine’s identity for blind tasting.
- Compare wines. whenever you have the chance. Ask your local wine merchant for help on what to compare to enhance your understanding of a grape or region. Dinner parties are a great opportunity to hold a casual wine tasting and explore different food and wine pairings. Play with food and wine combinations with your more daring friends, even trying combinations that you are pretty sure will not work. You never know for sure until you try.
- Read wine magazines. “Decanter is my favorite,” advises Petra, “because it covers a lot of things from Europe (yes, I am homesick!). Wine & Spirits and Wine Spectator are two others.”
- Travel. Visit wineries in local regions as often as you can. Make sure tour Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino & Lake to the north; Livermore, Lodi & the Sierra Foothills to the east; Santa Cruz, Monterey & Paso Robles to the south. Travel internationally if you can. “It is always such a great experience to put the theory in reality. In October I visited Paso Robles for example and I fell in love,” says Petra.
- Take notes. There is a difference between drinking wine and tasting wine. To make sure that you are as mindful as possible about what’s in the glass, take tasting notes regularly, every time you pull a cork.
- Ask for help. There is a lot of talent in the bay area–retailers and somms here really know their stuff. Ask them questions and show them you’re willing to learn and they will share their knowledge.
- Use the web. Bring your learning to the next level
- Take a class. I designed San Francisco Wine School to help students get the best wine education possible for their particular career path. Email the school now on advice on what program best fits your needs.
- Study. Jessica Eisenberg, the Assistant General Manager at Puccini & Pinetti, has 8.5 x 11 printouts showcasing different wine-related information that she tapes up to the walls of her apartment and changes them based on which region she is studying. She also recommends tracing maps as often as possible. Eisenberg says, “I study while on the stair climber at the gym and in between sets when lifting weights.” If you’re studying for the Certified Sommelier Exam, Petra recommends tasting a flight of 6 wines at least once a week (closer to the test at least twice a week). “Going over the grid every day, is also key. Any wine, any time,” she says.
How do you like to strengthen your wine I.Q? What are your best wine study tips?