I Am Resolved to Drink More Wine, so I've Signed Up for Tasting Room

A bottle of red + a bottle of white = a Billy Joel song
Publish date:
January 18, 2015
shoppables, drinking, wine, weekend, wine reviews, subscription sites, Tasting Room

While most New Year's resolutions are apparently doomed to fail, I think I've hit on one that will be more easily kept: I want to drink more wine this year. It's a frivolous goal, it's true, but I think it'll be a fun one.

In pursuit of this, I signed up for a thing called Tasting Room (honesty time: that's a referral link), which is a wine subscription by Lot18, an online wine vendor. Basically, they send you a tiny bottle sampler of six wines that you taste and evaluate for its website. It creates a wine profile for you and then ships you wine based on your responses. The more wine you rate, the more personalized their selections get.

The site's wine profile includes a little wine education without being pretentious, which I also dig, because wine talk is often full of wankery that gets in the way of folks just chilling and enjoying a glass of wine.

The 55 and older set, who tend toward using wine reviews and sommeliers, consumes not quite half of the wine floating around out there, but lines like "boomers aren't going to live forever" are being used in news stories on wine sales. Meanwhile, Millennials are drinking more and more wine and the stories are about how Millennials just drink what they like. The news media has picked a side in the wine revolution.

At any rate, I answered the little questionnaire and, a few days later, my sampler arrived.

The Sampler

If you think miniature things are cute, you might make a little bit of a high-pitched squealing sound when you open the sampler. I'm not saying I did that, but I'm not saying I didn't either.

I'm throwing the bottles away, but only because I couldn't think of a purpose for them.

So open the box, chill the whites, gather your glasses, drink. That's the game here. You log in and then you drink.

This wine tasting took about 25 minutes. I have a ton of wine glasses, so I hauled out four glasses for red and two glasses for white and washed them while I waited for my white wine samples to chill and then rest. Glasses have different shapes for reasons, but if you don't have speciality glasses, it isn't the end of the world. I mean, a red solo cup full of wine is still full of wine.

Meanwhile, you can listen to Billy Joel's "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" over and over again. Or you can listen to something else, sure, but I don't know why you would.

The Whites

Once the samples were ready, I sat down to do it. One of the whites had my favorite label, with a picture of an old typewriter on it. I'm a sucker for an old typewriter. Unfortunately for me, The Stringer is a Sauvignon Blanc.

Sauvignon Blancs are typically dry and fruity. They often get described as grassy and, I mean, if I wanted to drink grass, there are other beverages I'd choose than wine. That's personal preference, and I don't need to fight you if you love a bright and grassy-assed Sauvignon Blanc.

The site asked me to compare The Stringer to the second offering, Triskelian (which sounds more like a secret society than a drink), and then to rank the degree to which I preferred one over the other. I liked the second, a Chardonnay, a whole lot more.

Chardonnays are the everywine of the white wine world. They're grown all over and they're a good starter wine because there's a lot of varieties. They run dry to medium-dry and have fruit flavors that range from apples to pears to citrus to pineapple and so on. They get aged in oak and turn buttery and smooth, which is what makes them a super-nice-summer-night-on-the-porch-with-grilled-fish kind of wine.

The Reds

Red Sample 1: Squall

Wine 1 was a Pinot Noir, and while Pinot Noirs are supposed to be all lavish and sensual because of the bold (described as "forward") fruit flavors, they're a little too grape juicy for me to love them on their own. Though I'll drink them with dessert if dessert involves some chocolate. And a great Pinot Noir truly is awesome — I just don't expect a great Pinot Noir in a price point I can afford.

Red Sample 2: Chateau Grand Lacaze

The next wine was a Médoc Bordeaux, which is the classic Bordeaux blend. Bordeaux wines are usually blends, most of which use Cabernet Sauvignons as a majority part. If you like a Cab Sauv, I bet you'll like a Bordeaux, and vice versa. This will get you more berry flavors, stuff like blackberry and black cherry. And it will be augmented by deeper spice flavors like coffee and licorice.

Red Sample 3: Tremolo

Malbecs are Argentine. It's a varietal that shows up in Bordeauxs, but it's so good on its own. Malbecs are beautiful because they have this deep dark jewel color and they smell gorgeous. It's a theatrical wine, and by the time I was sampling this one, I was buzzed enough to stick my nose deeply in the glass and wax poetic about all of the rich berries. It also made me want a steak, in poetic fashion.

Red Sample 4: Strato

The final sample was a Cab Sauv — and was my favorite of all the options. Cab Sauvs are big and mouthy. They tend to have a depth of flavor that's layered: currants and vanilla and tobacco, which sounds terrible when I type it, but is actually delicious. This is a wine you take with you when you want to drink in a hot bath. Or at least it's the wine I take.

The Profile

It is a big deal that people are drinking what they like now instead of what people are telling them they should like. This is the stuff I think about wine, but you might think totally different stuff, hence the appeal of a personalized profile.

I swirled and sniffed and tasted all six wines as prompted by the website. Even though each tasting is only 50 milliliters, I wound up a little tipsy, so my judgment might have been a little impaired by the end. I definitely wouldn't do this tasting before I had to drive somewhere unless I had some water and a little while to sober up.

Your mileage will vary on that, of course; not everyone is as cheap a date as I am when it comes to wine.

At the end of my tasting, Tasting Room gave me my wine profile. Apparently I'm a "Golden Child" when it comes to white wines and a "Philosopher" when it comes to reds. What that means in practical terms for the Tasting Room algorithm is that I like my white wines to be full-bodied rather than sharp and fruity — but what that means in reality is that I mostly only hit up white wines for dessert, when I like them to be syrupy sweet. When it comes to reds, they seem to have interpreted my tastes really well.

At the end of the process, you get to decide on your wine shipment. There are three options: twelve bottles, six bottles, and two bottles. That puts you at three different price points and you can also choose your frequency of shipment. I'm going to splurge on the six-bottle shipment, at least for this first go, and that'll run me about eighty bucks. (There's a two-bottle option for about thirty bucks, too, which might be my regular option after this splurge.) That means each bottle is a little over ten dollars, which is a little less than I'd spend on a bottle over at Total Wine.

It also means I'll wind up having another box of booze delivered to work so my coworkers might judge me, but someone has to sign for the shipment. In the meantime, I think I'm already doing well on my resolution, thanks to Tasting Room.