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Developing a taste for wine

RETAIL ROUNDUP:

Becoming more knowledgeable begins with trying new wines, local experts say.

March 17, 2007|By Amanda Pennington

Last year, the wine industry in the country contributed over $160 billion to the economy, according to a study by MKF Research LLC in Napa Valley. The enormous popularity of wine could be from its recently celebrated health benefits, local wine aficionados said.

But how does one become a wine expert, or just more savvy? It's all about tasting.

"I think for beginners, it's really important to go wine tasting, whether it's at Wine Styles or any other place with a wine bar," Costa Mesa's Wine Styles manager Jennifer Keefe said. "Really, literally putting the wine in your mouth is the best way to learn about it — you can read some great books … and that's a great way to get started, but more importantly, it's the wine tastings."

Wine Styles and other local stores generally offer weekly tastings.

South Coast Plaza will host the LearnAboutWine's wine tour and 45 Napa Valley vintners from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

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The winemakers will pour more than 75 wines, and tasters can ask questions about each wine to learn its origins.

"I think it's kind of fun to learn…. People want to learn more than just drink something that tastes good," said local winemaker Jeff Dobkin, who owns Thompkin Cellars in Costa Mesa with his wife. "There's this pedigree about it. If we're at a wine-tasting event with our wines, people can talk to us, and we can tell them every little thing about it."

UC Irvine also offers wine courses through its extension program.

At Hi-Time Wine Cellars and Wine Styles in Costa Mesa, weekly tastings focus many times around themes. Today Hi-Time will feature new releases from California, with Italy's new releases featured March 23.

At Great Legs Wine on West Coast Highway in Newport Beach, owner Maureen Collins almost always has a bottle open ready for a customer to get a sample.

"If somebody wants to collect wine they definitely need to go to their local wine retailer — I wouldn't recommend going to the supermarket because typically the person who works at a wine store has actually tasted the wines and therefore can talk about the wines and talk about what's in them," she said.

Once you're as knowledgeable as you want to be — local wine experts agreed that wine drinkers don't have to be connoisseurs in order to really enjoy a nice glass of wine — the next step is buying wine gadgets.

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