Today we welcome another rooster into the hen-house, friend and wine lover Jim Hueston. We first met Jim in a drinking establishment some 23 years ago. We shared several glasses of wine with Jim back in the day and are pleased to say that Jim’s taste for wine has continued to grow and develop. It is with great pleasure we welcome Jim and his enthusiasm for wine to our blog…
I love wine. I love the way it tastes and the way it can make food taste better. I love the magic that happens when you blend good food, good friends and good wine. I love the social lubricant properties of wine that allow the conversation to flow a little easier and the laughter to be a little louder.
I am a wine enthusiast. I am not a connoisseur or a sommelier or a wine professional of any sort, just someone who enjoys exploring all aspects of wine and food. My education has come from personal experience, lots of mistakes and a few great revelations.
I liken my enjoyment of wine to that of a car enthusiast. Car guys (or gals) like to talk about their cars, their friend’s cars, cars they would like to drive and cars they will never drive. They compare horsepower and top speed, cornering capability, stopping power and other metrics. If they like you, they may even let you drive their car.
I like to talk about wine. Although I’m not very good at it, I like to try to pick out specific aromas and flavors and compare color and texture. I like to imagine what food the wine might go well with and find out what other’s think of the same wine. Sometimes I’ll recall with friends great bottles we have had in the past, and compare to the wine we are drinking now. I like taking friends down to the wine cellar and picking a bottle out for dinner that night. If I really like you I’ll let you pick (almost) any bottle you want.
I say almost because I have acquired a few special bottles along the way. I have a nice bottle of French Boudreaux that my brother gave me to commemorate the birth of my daughter. We are going to drink it with her on her 18th birthday, in seven more years.
Similarly, I have a bottle of wine from the northern Rhone to commemorate my son’s birth. We will drink it with him when he turns 18, which will be in 2025.
I also have a Jeroboam, a 3 liter bottle, of Spanish Cabernet Sauvignon set aside for my 60th birthday. I have another 12 years to go before we have that party. I’ll need a few friends to help empty that double magnum.
Other than those few bottles, you can pick pretty much anything. You might notice that there is no special bottle yet for my wife. She tolerates my wine habit and gets to drink almost whatever she wants whenever we go out. If she likes something I will buy a few bottles and put it in the cellar, but she is more a wine consumer than a wine enthusiast. The most frustrating part of our relationship is that my wife has a better palate than I do. She can pick out subtle flavors and identify them, where I struggle sometime to articulate more than “wow, that’s good, I really like it”
Most wine drank in North America is cellared for approximately 40 minutes. That’s the average time it takes to go from the liquor store to the glass. Consequently, most wine sold in North America meant to be consumed within 2 years of hitting the store shelves. It may improve a little with time, but probably not.
A real wine cellar is dark, cool and humid. A temperature around 13 C and humidity between 50 and 75% will help your special bottles reach their peak.
One aspect of wine I don’t like is the points system used by various magazines and critics. I don’t like them because they are a technical evaluation of just the wine. When I drink wine I usually have food with it. I also drink it in some environment, be it on the beach, in a fancy restaurant, around a camp fire or at the dinner table at home and I’ll most likely be with friends or acquaintances.
All those factors come into play when you enjoy a bottle of wine and the points don’t capture any of those dimensions.
I started my serious informal education of wine about 8 years ago. My wife and I got together with 3 other couples who were interested in learning about wine. We meet once a quarter. The host couple picks a theme for the evening and the other couples bring wine that meets the theme and food to match. We each take turns introducing our wines and why we think they go well with the food.
In eight years we have learned a lot. Here’s a sample:
The third bottle is always awesome. This means that your ability to discern the subtleties of wine diminishes as you drink. Serve your good stuff first and drink cheaper as the night goes on.
Price and a great experience don’t always go hand in hand. Some of the folks in our group are very busy people. Inevitably they would do little to prepare for a wine tasting night and out of guilt, buy a very expensive bottle that met the theme. At the end of the night the expensive bottle would often rated least liked of the bunch.
This seems counterintuitive, but expensive wine is often crafted to require time in the bottle before drinking. Some great French Chateau’s first growth wine needs 10 to 20 years in the cellar to reach maturity. We were sometimes buying good wine but drinking it far too early.
Bacon, Chocolate and Merlot are an amazing pairing!! This accidental discovery happened during a Merlot tasting later in the evening when everyone was feeling uninhibited to unusual combinations. I’ll definitely serve this at a party sometime; I can’t wait to see the reactions on the faces of our guests.
If you’re interested in wine, the best way to learn is to try something different. Find some like-minded friends and see what you can discover. Ignore your tried and true favorite and try something new like Moscato d’ Asti on a hot summer day or dry sparkling wine with potato chips,. Invite friends over and figure out your favorite wine with pizza or hot dogs & hamburgers on the BBQ.
Every once in a while you should also treat yourself right and live like a rock star. Try something a little higher in the price range, just to see if it’s any different from what you’re used to. Ask for help in a good wine store. Give them your price range, tell them about the occasion and ask for a recommendation. You might find your new favorite wine.
Photos by Jim Hueston
To learn more about Jim see our Guest Chicks page.