Raising A Glass

Focus On Wine

August 15, 1999|By Vikki Valentine : special to the sun

Contrary to popular belief, there is only one rule of conduct at a wine tasting: Taste the wine. No need to be adept at swirling, sniffing, spitting or spinning wine erudition. Just sip, look contemplative for a second or two, and say whether or not you like it. You'll be well on your way to having a great time.Fall is prime time for wine tastings, and what follows is a guide to area tastings.

Chesapeake Wine Company

2400 Boston St.


Tastings, Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m.

Fee: $20

Why hang out at a dark, dreary bar when you can spend an evening at Mitchell Pressman's bright and airy Chesapeake Wine Company? Pressman opened his wine shop/bar in Canton's Can Co. about a year ago and has been turning out wine lovers ever since.

All the wines are tasted and chosen by Pressman. You can get your wine picks to go, or enjoy them at the shop's tables set up indoors and out.

It's an amicable group at Pressman's tastings, a mix of downtown professionals and neighborhood arty types. The hors d'oeuvres are more than the normal bread and cheese. Austin Grill prepares the food, serving items such as garlic mashed potatoes, cactus salad and grilled portobello fajitas.

Says regular Andrew Sonnet, who comes to the tastings with his wife, Donna: "We either leave here with an appreciation of a wine or a bottle of it. I feel so much better, because there are a lot of wines I didn't know existed before. Mitchell's widened my world."


1000 Lancaster St.


Tastings and dinners,

from $35 to $130

A wine event at Charleston is where you take someone on a fifth or sixth date to prove that life with you will be amazingly good.

Husband and wife team Tony Foreman and Cindy Wolf play hosts for a wine tasting or dinner about every two weeks. Themes range from Italian wines to Spanish wines to a wine dinner celebrating the Chesapeake blue crab. A recent six-course dinner paired Wolf's take on Australian food with Australian wine.

"Dinners we do are about hedonism, not any silly intellectual nonsense," says Foreman. "You can't run a tasting like a lecture and expect people to enjoy themselves."

The crowd is a well-heeled 30-and-up bunch. It's a who's who of the local wine world -- from shop owners and winemakers to critics and the occasional out-of-town wine celebrity.

The group is reserved initially, but after the first flight of wines (three to four wines in a flight), the atmosphere becomes boisterous. Says Lucien Walsh of Rotunda Wine & Spirits: "A wine tasting at Charleston is a night I don't want to miss."

Wine Brats at Corks

1121 S. Charles St.


Tastings first Tuesday of every month at 8 p.m.

Fee: $10

If you want a low-key introduction to wine, with a side agenda of finding a date, try the Baltimore chapter meetings of the Wine Brats. The Wine Brats is a national organization working hard to make wine the drink of choice for Generation X. The gatherings at Corks are rollicking happy hours with wine as the guest of honor.

Tim Schriver started the Baltimore chapter with the goal of taking the pretension out of wine tastings. Wine should be drunk at any time, with any type of food by anyone, he says.

By 8:30 p.m., the back-room bar fills with a Federal Hill crowd of folks in their 20s and 30s. K.D. Lang croons from the CD player (manned by Corks owner Jerry Pellegrino) and wine is swirling like mad in glasses throughout the room.

At these tastings, you won't see much sniffing or hear complex jargon about whether the promise of the nose delivered through on the palate. Brat gatherings are more about learning how to replace beer with wine at social gatherings.

And why? Breath scented by a fruity chardonnay is more attractive than breath scented by Bud.

Kooper's Tavern

1702 Thames St.


Tastings every other Saturday at 4 p.m.

Fee: $15

Like Corks and Chesapeake Wine Co., Kooper's holds wine tastings designed to ease you out of your nasty beer-drinking ways. You're still in a bar setting, but you're among people who want to sacrifice their brain cells to a noble cause.

Owner Patrick Russell wants guests at his tastings to learn to enjoy wine. He wants them to make the switch from saying "I drink a lot of wine," to "I enjoy wine." Enjoying wine, he says, is about more than guzzling some boxed wine filled with preservatives. It means appreciating the care, artistry and hard work a winemaker puts into wines.

Held every other Saturday in Kooper's upstairs room, the tastings are great for tourists strolling by or locals looking for something different to do. The setting has a cozy old tavern feel, with sunlight streaming in the windows and a fireplace waiting for cool weather.


8293 Main St., Ellicott City


Tastings about every two weeks

Fee: $20 and up

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