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Sensual Wine Tasting Tips 101 – Stop and Smell the Rosés

I took a survey on olfactory pleasures: What are the best things in life to sniff?
Some said they love the smell of a campfire on the beach.
Others like garlic sautéing in olive oil.
Many prefer the subtlety of clean air the morning after a lovely rain.
Quite a few enjoy the fresh pine scent of a Christmas tree.
I asked my boyfriend what he likes to sniff and he said… Well.. never mind what he said.
But by far the most popular reply was, “A glass of great wine!”

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Wine holds a beautiful mystery which can be deeply explored with a swirl of the glass and a twitch of the nose. Properly sniffing the wine’s aroma prior to tasting it, will bring forth a plethora of fragrances from your scent library allowing the many flavors to be revealed. Whether you prefer the earthiness of fresh dirt or love the aroma of sweet cherries, chances are you will find your opthalmic ecstasy in a glass of fine wine. But before you slip into wine bliss and share the Nectar of the Gods with Dionysus, you must first release yourself of common sins that many wine mortals are guilty of and learn to bring out the best in your spirits.

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Do Not Hold The Wine Glass By the Bowl

Eeeek…I’m guilty!! I know it’s a taboo and not recommended, but I sometimes tend to hold my glass by the bowl too. It can be as comforting as caressing a mug of hot cocoa with two hands on a cold winter day…mmmm. However, I vow from this day forward, I will never do this again (certainly not in public), and neither should you. If you want to hold the glass by the bowl, I suggest you take your snifter over to the Cognac Club where it is considered desirable to warm your glass with your own awesome body heat.

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I used to believe the wine glass was a poor design; I have knocked over, spilled, and broken more wine glasses than I’d like to confess. Combining stemmed glasses and wine is like pairing yoga and stilettos; they can both be tipsy turvy once you start having too much fun.  So can you imagine my delight when stemless wine glasses came to Target? Not only did I look hipper, but I had no other choice than to cup the bowl. However, numerous wine years ago after I started thinking outside of the Chablis box, I realized that the stem of the glass is there for good purposes. For one, your body temperature is a hot 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. If you wrap your paws around the crystal clear bowl of your spotless stemware, you are not only making your glass look like a greased baking dish, you are dramatically altering the temperature of your wine. Red wine should be served from 62-68 degrees Fahrenheit and white wine is chilled anywhere around 49-55 Fahrenheit (depending on the type). So unless your are tasting in Antartica, please keep your heating pads off the glass.

Learn to Do the Twirl

Come on try it…Oxygenate your wine. Wake it up. Take your glass by the stem, the axis for your wine whirligig, and release the complex aromas to enjoy the full spectrum of your vino. Don’t be shy, give it a whirl. Gently spin the wine around in a circular motion and expose its legs (the streaks left on the glass that clue one in on the alcohol content). If you do it right your glass will be barely moving but your wine will be rocking & rolling, but not rockin’ like a Black Sabbath concert. Be gentle and rhythmic like a Billy Ocean tune with a touch of samba. It’s okay if you aren’t a master spinner at first…baby steps please. Soon you will get the technique just right…little circles. You’ll want to start practicing at home with your glass on a table, and then again while you are standing up. I personally don’t stand and twirl often; I’d rather sit n’ spin. It’s actually quite fun and in the wine world it is socially acceptable.

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Just Do it! Sniff the Wine!

I’m not suggesting that you sniff like a blood hound on a search & rescue mission, but after mastering the art of holding your glass, and refining your swirling moxie, you now MUST put your whiffer to work. Give your tastebuds some foreplay. By sniffing the wine prior to drinking it, your taste buds will be turned on and ready to receive. Hover your nose just above the rim of your glass and gently breathe in the aroma. What does it remind you of? Can you describe the bouquet? Swirl it around in your mouth and let the notes linger on your palette. See how long the flavors last and notice how they change from the tip of your tongue to the back of your mouth. Keep from taking another sip for a few moments; savor it. Remember, we aren’t shooting tequila so don’t just toss it back. Your nose and tastebuds are companions that enhance each other in the sensual experience of wine tasting. Allow them to interplay with each other, like lovers do. Together they will help you discover the essence of the wine and your personal preferences, thus leading you to, what I call, wine nirvana.

Wine nirvana is not alcohol induced; it is reached by practicing the above wine tasting tips and finding a wine that satisfies all your senses. A good wine is a wine that YOU love. But how will you know if you love the wine if you aren’t fully acquainted with it. Price alone doesn’t indicate a good wine; there are plenty of good wines in the twenty dollar range and lower. The artist in me is enticed by clever names and beautifully designed labels with touches of gold leaf, but that in its self doesn’t make a wine fine either. So whether you go through life with your Reidel stemware half empty or half full, take a moment to stop…. swirl…. and smell the Rosés…. and the cabs..and the rieslings etc etc..along the way.

Bon Apéritif!

Heather Vine Wine ~~

I love writing about and photographing wine, food, fashion & travel.  I split my time between my home near Temecula Wine Country, our villa in Baja Mexico that is close to Guadalupe Wine Valley or wherever fine food and wine are found. If you are looking for a unique touch for your photography, writing and promotional needs, I’d enjoy working with you.

Photograph of the 5 little piggies was taken at Peltzer Family Farm & Cellars in Temecula, California.

All photographs and text are copyright: Heather Van Gaale





Temecula Chef Volker Lutz

The beautiful and sexy wine blog Must featured one of my portraits of Chef Volker Lutz. The blog by friends Michael & Karon Cartwright celebrates art, wine and cuisine in Temecula & Southern California. Check it out to stay updated on who’s who in wine country.

chef portrait by wine photographer Heather Van Gaale
Temecula chef, Volker Lutz, tosses the pasta during a food and wine pairing at the beautiful Weins Winery

Temecula wine country – world of wine event – california

The annual World of Wine event in Temecula wine country, hosted by the Temecula Wine Growers association included the participation of over 30 wineries! The weather was a perfect 80 degrees and we had a blast going on the self-guided tour taking pics and sampling food and wine.  Bummer there isn’t a compartment in my camera bag for a wine glass. Luckily I had my friend Tina there to help with my equipment and hold my glass of wine while I snapped pics.

We started our day in the cool barrel room at Ponte Winery. They had a fabulous pairing with Pinot Grigio and crab cakes with cilantro!

temecula wine country travel food and wine photos by heather van gaale of the wow event by the temecula wine growers association

Longshadow ranch (pictured above bottom row)  has a casual old-west vibe  with Belgian draft horses, a ranch style picnic area and a barn that is awesome for wedding and events. The bbq pork and potato salad paired well with the syrah and their country style atmosphere. I even spotted the first growth of the season on a young vine.

Down a quiet dirt road surrounded by citrus groves and vineyards, Lorimar Winery (pictured below) held open barrel tastings! The excitement & anticipation of their grand opening coming soon was in the air as everyone sported black mustaches in honor of the Tuscan style winery. We had a blast hanging out there and sampling their red wines straight from the barrels.

Pictured below right is co-owner Lawrie, with the stunning new Lorimar Winery in the distance.

temecula winery lorimar at the world of wine event by photographer heather van gaalelorimar winery photo by wine photographer heather van gaale at barrl tasting event wow


chef vulker lutz chef portrait for food and wine temecula photographer vangaale


We also enjoyed visting Wiens Family Cellars. It was fascinating watching  Chef Vulker Lutz  work his magic for the perfect pasta and red wine pairing. If any drops I’m using the five second rule!

Some wineries participated in the wine cork art contest.  Wiens vespa cork sculpture gave a super fun photo op for guests to enjoy! No drinking and driving Tina!!

live coach tina fin at wiens winery by temecula travel photographer heather van gaale

Pictured below is the always happening South Coast Winery Resort and Spa.They served Dutch Gouda from my family’s cheese farm The Winchester Cheese Company, along with a fig salsa and duck pruciotto. The food was presented perfectly and begged for a photo, I took a few but my camera was drawn to the chef! I love photographing chefs! I’m a sucker for a great cook. Especially cute ones with an official hat and tattoos.

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Wilson Creek Winery (pictured above) served an amazing duck taco with a mandarin salsa paired with peach champagne..oh my! They also had an incredible Lion sculpure meticulously crafted out of cork by Jeff who works at the winery. Rosie Wilson’s friend was chillin’ with his shades on happy to hear that pork wasn’t on today’s menu.

Temecula is like Disneyland for wine lovers, you need the three day pass!! It is impossible to get to all the wineries in one day. We only made it to 10 wineries. Fortunately WOW is a two day event.

By the time we got to De Portola wine trail the event was ending but the lighting was great. We pulled over and did an impromptu shoot in front of the super scenic and vibrant hot pink flowers at Leonesse until dusk.

scenic pic of temecula wine country by wine photographer heather van gaale