Monday, June 29, 2009

Free Wine Tastings

I'll confess: I used to be really daunted by wine. I would venture to say that there are many people who feel the same way. There's a sense that you really have to know wine, and to be able not only to distinguish between grape varieties, but to be familiar with the regions from which wines come. There's also a (false but very real) stereotype that good wines have to be rare and expensive, and that anything inexpensive and readily available must be "bad" wine.

But in 2006, some friends and I were at a conference in San Diego, and we made a side trip to Temecula. There we enjoyed a beautiful day tasting wines at various small wineries. While I knew next to nothing about wine, I knew that I was enjoying myself. I enjoyed it so much that a year later, I took the chance to visit Napa and Sonoma and taste a fine selection of wines. In addition, this past March I visited the Elgion/Sonoita region in Arizona (which produced wines very similar to those I tried in Temecula).

From these various trips, I've come to view wine the same way that I view art: I may not be an expert, but I know what I like and what I don't. "Good" wine (like "good" art) has structure and complexity, subtlety, and something about it that evokes a response. "Bad" wine (like "bad" art) is one-dimensional, forgotten after the first taste, and leaves you cold and bored. In summary, it all comes down to individual preference, and you shouldn't let anyone else tell you which wines to like and which to snub.

If there's one down-side to wine tasting, it's the cost. Tastings can run from $5 to $10 per person depending on the winery you visit - and once you've exhausted the small cadre of vineyards that Vermont has to offer, you're looking at travel time and travel costs as well. Luckily, there's the Burlington Wine Shop on St. Paul street in downtown Burlington (just down from American Flatbread). Not only do they carry a varied selection of wines at a great value, but on select Saturdays throughout the year, they do FREE wine tastings from 1:00 p.m to 7:00 p.m.

Picking different themes for each tasting (it was Italian wines this past Saturday), you can generally try out six different wines, all for that reasonable price of FREE. Of course, you need to be over 21, and you may need to wait a few minutes for the crowd to thin down, but it's worth it; particularly if you aren't planning any trips to Napa or Tuscany anytime soon. In addition, the featured wines are usually on sale as well, so if you find something you like, you'll get a deal on purchasing a bottle.

The Burlington Wine Shop is limited in the number of tastings they can hold, so it doesn't happen every Saturday; but they advertise the event regularly in Seven Days, or you can go to the shop and sign up for the e-mail list to get updates on when tastings are held.

There's also no pre-requisite knowledge about wine required; so you can just go and decide what you like best for yourself.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Oh, the first entry

The pressure of the infamous first entry - to set the tone of the blog, to give the reader a hint of what is to come, to distinguish the new blog from the plethora of other blogs out there on the Internet - is such that I have procrastinated writing it for a very long time. I kept thinking that it had to be good; really special and memorable, in fact, and clearly, concisely focused.

Then I realized that, far better than being special and memorable, it should be existent. It can't be anything if I don't write it.

Furthermore, why should I have to pigeonhole the focus of the blog and cram it into a well-defined niche? Why not declare that this blog is to be about whatever I feel like at the moment, even if, at the moment, I feel like talking about how Kudos bars used to be my absolute favorite, and then they went and made them way smaller, and...

I just answered my own question.

This blog does have a focus, and it's not Kudos bars (though clearly I'd be more than willing to discuss my favorite chocolate snacks, if anyone else is so inclined). This blog is about Burlington, Vermont, where I have spent a major chunk of my life. It's also a bit about what it's like to be 27, female, and a scientist living here - simply because I can provide solid, first-hand knowledge of this point of view.

Recognize that there will be a good deal of personal opinion. I'll do my best to present facts, as well as anyone can nail them down, but at heart this blog will review the various entertainments and goings-on around town from my own personal point of view. Feel free to disagree, though keep in mind one other point: for the most part, my only hope with this blog is to draw attention to the attractions of Burlington that I personally enjoy. Maybe I can introduce you to a band or an art gallery that you've never heard of. Maybe I'll get you to try a local restaurant, or check out a concert or sporting event. Maybe I'll just tell you of my various personal disasters in this town, such that you'll be able to avoid the same. Who knows? The point is, I hope you won't get all bent out of shape over the topics I pick, or because you think that Kudos bars are better now than ever before. What I hope is that you'll be inspired to expand your haunts in Burlington, because its got a lot of good stuff to offer.