WINE TRAVEL GUIDE

Don't Let Wine Intimidate You

(Illustration by Bonnie Dain)

  • Read a Book Want to know how wine is made? Why vintage matters? When to decant a bottle--and how to go about doing it? Karen MacNeil's The Wine Bible is full of approachable and entertaining information (Workman Publishing, $20).
  • Visit a Wine Shop Most neighborhood wine shops host tastings and can tell you about clubs or gatherings in the area. Build a relationship with store owners, and they'll make suggestions or help you to experiment with new wines.
  • Take Notes Try sampling wine flights at bars or restaurants to get a feel for different kinds. Bring a wine journal with you to jot down your impressions and keep track of what you like.
  • Join the Club Women for WineSense is a national organization for women interested in wine making and education. Local chapters organize meetings at wine bars and restaurants where members do tastings and discuss topics like wine-and-food pairing. Last year, the New York City chapter invited speaker Josh Wesson, cofounder of Best Cellars, an online wine shop that specializes in bottles under $15. The Portland, Ore., chapter recently had a "Red Wine & Chocolate" discussion and tasting. The $40 basic membership includes an e-newsletter and discounts to events (womenforwinesense.org).
  • Play a Game Wineopoly is a fun take on Monopoly, with wine trivia questions and game pieces like a decanter and a cluster of grapes ($25, target.com). Test your nose with a wine-aroma box by Le Nez du Vin, with six vials containing scents like black currant and green pepper ($57, winecellarsonline.com).
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