Tag Archives: wine tasting

Wine: The Food Enhancer

Spice up your life! If you enjoy food, then wine will come naturally. It’s part of the seasoning of your meal. Think of wine as a way to enhance the flavors of food. As a full-time wine professional over at TasteDC and about to be released author of I Drink on the Job: A Refreshing Perspective on Wine I constantly get questions from new wine drinkers about food and wine pairing. My overall philosophy is that wine and food is a synergy: 1 + 1 should equal MORE than 2. I argue that this is the same way with spices and the cooking preparation of your dish. Chefs will often add spices and taste as they go which helps to layer flavors and adjusts the flavor of the dish. Wine has dual purposes as well: it wakes up your taste buds before you begin eating primarily with acidity, and it accentuates flavors in food. If this sounds complicated, remember – no one has ever died from a bad wine and food pairing, it’s a low-risk proposition, even if wine and food don’t pair well, you can still experience pleasure!

My suggestion is that since wine and food pairing is an art form at best, wine consumers should experiment. What works for you, may not work for me and vice-versa. Just as chefs are adding new combinations of spices and flavorings to their dishes, new wine and food pairing synergies will be discovered. I like to think of it as exploration – new adventurers are breaking out of the mold of old ways of thinking and discovering new ways to enjoy the pleasures of wine. Just like not every explorer discovered something of value or importance, not all wine and food matches will work. But why not experiment and possibly make a discovery? The world of wine and food adventures is much safer than crossing the Atlantic on a galley, the worst mutiny that could occur is wine critics and the wine “order” could ignore you or denigrate you, but with the new world of social media – who needs them anyway? Set sail my friend to a new world of Tasting Discovery – Cheers!

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler

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So You Wanna Write A Book?


Charlie Adler “I Drink on the Job” Author and Speaker

I’ve just completed the final touches on my manuscript for my book “I Drink on the Job: A Refreshing Perspective on Wine” and I’m almost at the finish line. In football parlance, I’m probably at the five yard line just waiting to take the ball and break the plain for touchdown. But just as in football, there are defenders..

The lesson I’ve learned about writing a book and self-publishing is that you learn enough from completing a first book that it would be a big mistake not to write a second! There is a huge load of details you deal with in a first book and now I’m way up on the learning curve with one major hurdle: I don’t know how to sell/market the book! BTW – that’s very important, if you think that people will just “find” your book, well, there are alot of books on the market that sell less than 500 copies, and my breakeven point is about 1,500 copies. I’ve dealt with three edits, three designs, two covers, my publisher merging (that’s actually a good thing – Book Surge merged with Createspace which offers MANY more opportunities for product extensions such as DVDs, audio CD’s and even a new sales outlet), a web design (phase 2 right now for I Drink on the Job Blog – Soon to Be Website) and advice from many knowledgeable and kind human beings.

If you are thinking about writing a book, I think self-publishing is the way to go. If you can get a publisher to really put their marketing muscle behind a book or you’re a best-selling name author, the traditional publishing route might make sense, but if you want control over your destiny, self-publishing is supreme. My goal is promote my book everywhere I go and to ultimately have product extensions like audio CD’s, possibly a tchochke or two! Traditional publishers are having financial problems and are understaffed. They focus on blockbusters and books they can make money on quickly, it’s all about ROI. You might get an advance from a traditional publisher, but you essentially are indebted to them (they’re non-recourse most of the time with some exceptions) until you earn it back through sales. Self-publishing will cost you some money depending on how much you use the service – I’m probably just at $4,000, but I used their editing, cover design, and I will most likely use their PR/marketing as well – but you have no pressure to sell quickly. My thinking is that the book might have a soft launch to test different marketing avenues, and as it progresses, I might discover new potential sales channels. I’m only selling my book online and “in-hand”, but there are some retail outlets that may be interested in having me do book signings. I’m new to the process of book signings, I’ll blog about that when it begins in February!

BTW – I’m scheduled to be on Wine Library TV with Gary Vaynerchuk “Crush It” Book Site on Monday, February 15th, 2010, so peeps, you better be watching! Something like 100,000 people watch Wine Library TV every day, so I’m getting a strong start and who knows – maybe Gary will plug the book even more! He has a 10 book deal himself, so honestly, his book plate is full, so to speak – on the other hand, I may mention to him my wine audio CD’s, hmmm, maybe get a Gary V endorsement, but again, just one more option for promoting the book.

Last thought – people often ask me if I enjoyed the process of writing. My reply is generally, “No”. Putting my thoughts on paper was fun, but editing and trying to get all the pieces of the book together so that each Chapter fit into the big picture, was not an easy task. The longest paper I had ever written in college was maybe 25 pages, but with a multi-chapter 250 page book, it’s significantly more difficult. It’s sort of like college gut-level 101 classes: I always did poorly in general broad coverage courses, but in the 300 level and above I mostly got “A”s. My first book is my Intro book about me and my approach to teaching wine, actually more like “experiencing” wine. Any future books will most likely focus on an aspect such as food and wine pairing or specific ways to broaden wine knowledge. I’ll take one chapter in my current book and make it the premise for a whole book. Then possibly I’ll extend the brand with audio-CD’s and a new website. Another note: I took Gary Vaynerchuk’s suggestion to use my name domain (yes, I own charlieadler.com!) as the gateway domain for all future websites. If I become a “name” in the industry, there’s value to my vanity domain, and potentially alot of cross-pollination of my various endeavors.

OK, back to writing, editing and drinking – Cheers!

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler

Debunking Terroir

I’ve heard so much about terroir in the wine press/blogging/twitter the last few years, that I’m past overwhelmed by all the statements and now into my denial phase. If you’re not familiar with “terroir”, it’s all about the “placeness” of a wine: the what, where, and how of the type of vine chosen, the varietal, the roots, the soil, the micro-climate, the wine maker, the regionality and of course all the factors that go into making the wine. For example, the “terroirists” or proponents of the idea that wine (and cheese, and beer, and pretty much anything you consume) should represent the unique characteristics of its region, are generally against much human manipulation, ie. chemical fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides, and too much use of new oak (this is a very short list, there are many more!). Their thinking is that we should taste nature’s gift the way nature intended it to be–use natural yeast, don’t filter or fine, and let the grapes ferment and express themselves the way they were meant to..enough, enough!

So what’s my issue with the concept of terroir? Does my skepticism towards the idea that you can (or can not) taste the soil in the final expression of the wine give me the right to throw the whole idea of nature’s expression out the window? Well, that’s not my point. I actually believe that better wine makers know and understand the locality they live in and they should use the least aggressive means of getting the vine to ripen grapes and express the full range of flavors. I believe that terroir, like character, is personal to each wine consumer. We each HAVE our own terroir (where you were born, your family history, the way you were brought up, etc.) and VIEW terroir differently – you say tomato, I say tomaato, well..you get the picture. We all express our own terroir, taste things in our own way, and we should each express our own opinions. The terroirists like many idealists are just too fanatical for my tastes, so to speak. They often condemn “manufactured wines” that have no soul, no individuality, and don’t represent a unique micro-climate. Fine–but just like the average American consumer, I want to enjoy a wine and I want it to taste good – what if 2 Buck Chuck tastes better to my palate than a $45 bottle of Burgundy, does that make me insincere? Isn’t there a place for mass market wines just like there’s a place for chain stores, or other commercially made products? Sure, I prefer handmade chocolates, but I’m not offended by the highly industrialized manufacture of Hershey Kisses, hey they taste good too!

The French say “to each his own” – so be it with wine. You only buy grass-fed organic beef from the farmer’s market, I like Prime-Aged corn-finished meat, but my mother swears by the tenderloin at Costco. Same with wine, each of us has different needs and goals in mind, so that should sincerely respected. I’d rather drink a local Virginia or Maryland wine (non-organic – it’s not possible at this point to produce organic wines in our area primarily due to humidity and rainfall during harvest issues) than an organic wine from say Chile. Both wines are great, but I can see the face of the Virginia winemaker at a local wine tasting room or at local tastings. I like the idea to keep money in the community when possible – that’s my feel good issue. For me, my sense of terroir is connected with the people I help in life – economically, spiritually, and in whatever way I can be of assistance. I don’t give money to international charities because I try to assist the homeless that live within a mile of a my home. My terroir is right here..

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler

How to Pop


Charlie Adler, Author of I Drink on the Job” Popping the Champagne Cork Video!

I’ve probably opened more than 2,000 bottles of sparkling wine – that excludes Belgian beers and Real Ciders.
Believe it or not, the secret is in the knees – bend them just a bit..for whatever reason, whether it’s psychological or physics, this makes easing the cork out less cumbersome. I have to admit – sometimes the cork does fly out – even when you use the precautions mentioned in the video – ironically, this happened to me at the Embassy of Switzerland in Washington, D.C. when I attempted to open some VERY fizzy Swiss wines.

Enjoy the video – I think you’ll find that opening a bottle of sparkling wine is relatively easy and care-free!

Cheers!

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler

Does America Have “Poor Wine Self-Esteem”?

gary_vaynerchuk

Does America Have Poor “Wine Self-Esteem”

I saw the awesome Gary Vay – Ner – Chuk on his #aucrush #crushit “Crush It” book tour this past Wednesday at American University’s Kogod College of Business. I wasn’t just seeing Gary to hear about his book, but frankly I had a bit of an agenda: I wanted to promote my own book “I Drink on the Job” on his fun web show Wine Library TV (I have good news at the conclusion of this Blog Post!). Since I obviously wanted to draw some attention to myself in an audience of 200+ mostly college students, I wanted to ask a relevant question about wine to get Gary’s point of view. I was so excited/thrilled when the Moderator pointed at me to ask a question, I literally jumped up in the air, I was really pumped up by the show!

My question for Gary was about American’s “confusion” with wine and what he thought the problem was. In usual Gary fashion, probably the most quotable man in the wine business as well as all of Wine 2.0, he spewed out one-liners like “We’re stuck on 16 adjectives”, “People have no wine self-esteem”, and “I’ve seen grown men sweat at a business dinner..” His key point was that there’s a lack of what he calls “wine self-esteem” in the U.S. I thought this was something to delve into further because it’s one of the main reasons that I wrote my book “I Drink on the Job”.

According to Wikipedia Definition “Self-esteem”: “Self-esteem” is a term used in psychology to reflect a person’s overall evaluation or appraisal of his or her own worth. According to Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV WineLibraryTV, his newest book “Crush It” Crush It and many other entrepreneurial ventures, this is the biggest “problem” among American wine consumers today. Here’s the UStream Video of the event Gary Vaynerchuk Video at AU Crush It (I’m at about the 36th minute, he definitely noticed me!).

Throughout my book, I mention episodes of tension with American wine consumers in the real world. Examples include the woman who almost fainted when she found out I had purchased wines with screw top closures for her corporate event, the gentleman who almost went ballistic when I suggested that Robert Parker may not in fact be a “wine God”, and the woman who would not accept a pour of wine from me – at a wine tasting! Throughout my twelve year career in wine, I have experienced so much wine anxiety that I think Gary hit it right on the head – it’s actually American’s lack of “wine” self-esteem. Much of the proof of this is anecdotal, but when I teach TasteDC’s TasteDC Website wine course Wine Basics 101, I get the same questions over and over again: what do the “legs” of wine mean, is a more expensive wine a better wine, how long should a wine age, etc. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the questions, in fact, I think it’s very healthy to have strong curiosity about wine. I think the problem is that too many people believe there is in fact a right and a wrong answer. Too many wine professionals portray wine as something “difficult”, “complicated” and “mystical” – why else would they “de-mystify” wine? You only de-mystify, what is a mystery. What if wine professionals simply told new wine consumers to try a wine first and see if that person gains pleasure or to make wine part of daily meals? I spend over 200 pages in my book “I Drink on the Job” portraying wine as an everyday staple – drink it every day with your meals and the mystery disappears like the secrets to a magic trick. Once you get past the “illusion” of wine, it becomes an enjoyable part of your day, and a way to improve the pleasure of your meals.

As I always like to say: “Drink first, ask questions later”..but of course, I’m..

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler

Wine Book Tour Thoughts

Charlie Adler - Drinking on the Job!

Charlie Adler - Drinking on the Job!


I’m putting together the finishing touches on the book “I Drink on the Job: A Refreshing Perspective on Wine”. Right now, I’m organizing the photoshoot and working on the book website. FYI, http://www.idrinkonthejob.com will change from being the blog itself into being the website for the book. In other words, The blog will be one of the links on the website, but the overall site will include excerpts from the book (like “nobody ever dies from a bad food and wine pairing”), a Calendar to find me on tour, photos, videos and details on how to reach me. My goal is to be a major wine speaker at wine festivals throughout the U.S. and possibly some international venues. I expect to increase my exposure to corporate event planners who are looking for an entertaining speaker who can also educate their audience with common sense anecdotes that will help them improve their ability to choose a wine..Oh, and of course, being a better wine “chooser” makes a person a better employee, leader, and overall great person – yeeowww!!

If you represent any wine festivals, feel free to contact me at wine@tastedc.com. My twitter account at idrinkonthejob went active and live about two weeks ago and I’m adding followers at a good pace. My intent is to use Twitter to give quick anecdotes of my tour and things I learn and experience while out and about and tasting. I love my Blackberry Storm and it really helps me to quickly take photos, blog, Tweet and even add video. My message is both to the Newbie wine consumer and to the industry as well: anyone can quickly get started in wine, all they have to do is think of wine as part of a meal. Keep it simple and don’t worry about the details, drink first, ask questions later, there are so many excellent choices, it’s best to learn as you go!

OK, back to drinking on the job, have a great football Sunday everyone – Cheers!

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler

Is Taste “Personal”?

Don't Clow Around with Your Cheese!

Don't Clow Around with Your Cheese!

Is tasting wine, cheese or any other foodstuff something your predestined with or something you learn? The “Nature vs. Nurture” argument fits tasting so well because we know so little about people’s ability to taste.  One day wine professionals are talking about “supertasters” http://supertastertest.com who have extra taste buds on their tongue which makes them super sensitive to bitter flavors and the next day (minute?) we’re teaching people what “cassis” tastes like http://www.wine-lovers-page.com/cgi-bin/lexicon/gd.cgi?w=246.  Can tasting be taught if your genes are predisposed to make you a tasting flunkie?

Since I’m writing a book I Drink On the Job right now about wine from the point of view of the Wine Basics 101 class that over 16,000 people have attended over the years at TasteDC, I’ve really been thinking about how people approach taste in wine classes, but cooking classes as well.  Often, people ask me how to “describe” a wine, I guess they want to better explain what they’re experiencing.  My weird reply is usually that we don’t know what you’re tasting, there is no way for us to measure that – yet anyway.  If I’m tasting a piece of fresh mint, I can say it tastes like “mint” and you can agree, but I don’t know what exactly is going on inside your mouth, much less your brain.  Many critics of frankly wine critics argue that we can’t have a true discussion about the objective quality of wine until we can agree to the terms.  If new wine drinkers are relying on the accuracy of wine critics explanations in order to form their own tasting skills, how is this possible if there is no objective way to varify tastes?

In a society where science has become our religion, some technology people have attempted to break down how we taste from the receptors in tastes buds, to various tests of the brain’s response to aromatic stimuli.  I think this is exciting, but frankly missing the big point: much of what we taste is part of our past experiences.  I might be able to measure your brain wave response or see which parts of your brain are stimulated by certain smells, but what I can’t do is determine how your past experiences have effected that response.  I’m even going to venture a guess and say that about 90% of what we experience in taste has to do with our past experiences, and most people think about taste when they’re eating.  In a nutshell, no one should discount the effect of your family background and the times spent at the dinner table with them and the types of foods and beverages you consumed.  Many early wine drinkers have a sweet tooth and I’ve noticed that many of them were brought up with highly sweetened foods and beverages.  This kind of tasting “history” is cultural and seems to have the influence of making dry wines often seem unpalatable to these individuals.  The effect on taste is so significant that I’m not sure any change in future habits can get this person to enjoy a dry wine, a significant issue because over 95% of wines sold in the U.S. market are “dry”.

In the wine industry and some degree the food industry, we need to better understand how past experiences relate to taste.  Expectations of taste may effect us more than what we’re actually experiencing in our mouth, and this is one of the reason’s that people prefer more expensive wines if they are told the price before they taste themhttp://www.wine-economics.org/workingpapers/AAWE_WP35.pdf, while in actuality, most new wine drinkers actually prefer cheaper wines by “taste” if they don’t know the price of the wine.  I don’t know which will win in the Nature vs. Nurture argument, but I will be willing to guess that one of the biggest influences concerning tasting wine will for the new consumer will be time – the more wine becomes part of our regular meal and tasting experiences, the more comfortable and knowledgeable we will become relating to our tasting it – the classic reply I have to “what am I tasting” should be only time will tell..

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler