Are you easily intimidated by snobby sommeliers? Flummoxed by phone-book-thick restaurant wine lists? Help is on the way. We convene a panel of Bay Area wine connoisseurs to talk about how to pour and taste wine, and how to select the perfect bottle at a store or restaurant.

Debbie Zachareas, owner/partner of Ferry Plaza Wine and Oxbow Wine Merchant
Doug Tomlinson, CEO of Vino Volo airport wine bars and shops (serving SFO), headquartered in San Francisco
Jon Bonne, wine editor for The San Francisco Chronicle

  • JimmyOo

    Tasted wine this past weekend at New Clairvaux Abbey Vineyards near Corning in the northern Sacramento Valley. Fabulous!

  • Debra Jepsen Bivens

    I’m super excited about this conversation! Currently, I’m taking a Pinot Noir class at Santa Rosa Jr. College. I am truly enjoying learning about this varietal coming from all the amazing California AVA’s as well as Oregon and the Burgundian region in France. I have to say thus far, I love the beautiful, fruit forward Pinot’s from my home town in the Russian River Valley.
    Thank you.

  • Guest

    What would be good low cost wines but presentable for a party (around $10)?

  • Another Mike

    Too many wines — especially in Napa — are way out of balance, and they taste more like wine ‘n’ vodka cocktails. Isn’t the solution to overalcoholized wine just picking sooner?

    • Yes, up to the point where one has less ripe flavors. The lack of balance is not just a matter of alcohol, its about fruit,acid and tannin. A 14$ alcohol wine can be “hot” and a 16% “balanced”. Its about tasting fruit and the wine during fermentation and adjusting flavors.

  • Nicole

    I would give ANYTHING to find a remotely consumable non-alcoholic wine. Pregnant and miserable. Why can it be done successfully with beer and not wine?

    • Another Mike

      We used to drink Ariel wines with family members who could no longer drink — have you tried these? They are real wines but dealcoholized.

      • Nicole

        Tried Ariel. Found it noxious but glad it worked for you.

        Dr asked if I was craving anything, and I said TANNINS!

        • J P

          I had a pleasant experience with FRE Moscato (by Trinchero)… don’t know about the other varietals in the FRE line, however.

    • Alcohol affects flavor lending “body” and a perceived sweetness. Since beer is generally lower alcohol than wine to start with removing the alcohol affects flavor less in beer.


      You can try what they do in France – drink a little wine, enough for the taste, but not enough to ingest too much alcohol. Or, try what we do in the industry, sip & spit! All the tannins with less alcohol.

  • Emily

    My partner and I were recently at Chez TJ in Mountain View, which offers a set tasting menu. We had enjoyed a couple of new wines there that evening (one of which was Austrian), and the sommelier – who was quite young and very personable – gave us the wine list to take home with us. We were amazed to find our two favorites from the list on amazon for under $25 each! Part of me smarted at the price we had paid as I calculated the markup, but I was also impressed that the restaurant understood (and was comfortable sharing) the great values that are out there. We were also very excited to learn that we could incorporate these wines into our more everyday repertoire.

  • Arturo de Alba

    Great program, but cannot help but notice that even after several questions from Scott Shafer about wines from Mexico, the guests are just not willing to acknowledge the fact some very good wines are being produced there. Is there a line being followed here..?

    • Sommelier

      I think Jon BonnĂ© may have mentioned (very briefly) during the show that there just isn’t much Mexican wine available for purchase around here. I’m a sommelier and I look for it, but so far I have come up empty-handed. After listening to the show, I decided to rededicate myself to seeing if there is any local, Bay Area source (either retail or on-premise) that is carrying Mexican wines. A fellow somm just vacationed in Cancun and had some Mexican wines there that she really enjoyed. I definitely want to buy some, but right now I just don’t know anyplace in the Bay Area where I can. If anyone knows somewhere around here that is selling Mexican wine, please post where it is.

      • Arturo de Alba

        Thank you for the post; it is encouraging to hear. I am not personally involved in the industry, but have family in the restaurant business in Mexico City and will be happy to inquire about this.

        • Sommelier

          Excellent! Please let me know if you find somewhere in the Bay Area where I can buy some Mexican wine. I know there are good wines produced in Mexico and I really want to try some.

  • Damon Harvey

    Yes they ripen in hotter weather….Italian varietals

  • Damon Harvey

    Ahh Rose. Too many trying too many new “methods’ and coming up with bitter tannic rose which should be nice and soft.

  • Sheri

    To the person who asked about a $10 wine to serve at a party, I’d recommend Menage a Trois, a red blend available for about $9 at Trader Joe’s & Costco. We served it at our 25th wedding anniversary party and everyone liked it!

  • Sergio Lobato

    Don’t suck the fun out of the wine experience. Even cheap wine can be AWSOME in good company. How often you go wine tasting with friends and buy wine, take it home and say…. This is the same wine? All my European friends who drink lots of wine rarely drone on about wine techno babble.

  • Chris OConnell

    Just heard the end of the segment. I don’t want to be a party pooper but blind taste tests show that expensive wine is mostly a farce, or more charitably, this whole area is very subjective.

    $2 buck chuck can be put in a $100 bottle and everyone will be like: “ooh” “aah” “texture” “aroma” etc.

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