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Good introduction to wine in the LA area?

Spoony Bard | Aug 28, 200312:26 AM

I have several wine-related questions, actually, for the impoverished but curious newbie. Permit me, therefore, to ask the experts where I can find...

1. An introductory wine course with tastings, preferably accessible from the SF Valley. Perhaps some nice bottles included in the price of admission, as well?

I probably could be patient, continue ordering different wines with different meals, and eventually figure out what I like, but this seems like a fun and efficient way to gain some familiarity with varietals and their appreciation.

I'm a bit worried about wine dogma, however. Not that I'm afraid of the complexities of wine. More the unnecessarily sanctimonious treatment it often gets. While tasting Chateauneuf-de-Pape in France I felt there was a distinct odor, pomegranite or cherry, I think I said, while the tour guide dismissed this totally, correcting me by pronouncing what I clearly smelled as being in fact currant, or some such thing. Now, I know there's a common vocabulary, and I don't have the most fine-tuned "nez," but I don't need someone telling me I'm wrong when I'm enjoying what I enjoy.

Additionally, I'm interested in fortified and dessert wines and spirits as well, though that's likely another course.

I presume that by training my palate to vino, I'll gain greater sensitivity to flavor and aroma in general.

As an aside, if I want to drive home, will that mean that I have to spit? Just curious....

2. A good wine store to patronize. Preferably in the SF Valley or Westside, though I'll drive if it's worth it. A couple of years ago one chowhound recommended Wine House (which has classes) and Wine Expo in Santa Monica, and Wally's Wine in Westwood. Do these still exist and are they still good?

3. A merchant who stocks good Spanish wines, Rueda in particular. This is a variety of white wine more suited to its color than those coming from Rioja, or so I've read. While on vacation recently I had a 1998 Basa (?) that was the most complex, delicious, gentle white I've yet enjoyed. Does anyone recognize this particular wine?

Muchas gracias a todos!

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