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





Wine country portrait of wine maker David Vergari

Photographing the brilliant wine maker for Thornton Winery, David Vergari was awesome. We photographed him during bud break this spring to emphasize the importance of quality grapes in order to produce award winning wines. “You can get bad wine from good grapes, but you can’t get good wine from bad grapes”, says Vergari who is passionate about the farming side of wine making as well. The blue sky after the rain, and the extraordinary fluffy clouds made it a fab day to shoot portraits in the vineyards. The sun was teetering in and out, and although I had to change my exposures frequently to compensate, it gave me a nice range of looks from soft and overcast to crispy and bright.

Upon arriving at Thornton Winery, it was gently overcast and David was already at work tending to the vineyards. I was stoked because it allowed me to get some candid shots of him in action.
Left, Arsenio, busy at work, takes time out for a quick shot. Love his smile here.
Its been a relatively dry season up until now, but it started sprinkling a wee bit during our session.
David is serious and fun all wrapped up into one. I could have photographed him all day but I only had 10 minutes with the busy wine maker..

Our session ended with the encounter of a country mouse.. or is that David’s heel click. haha jk .. Either way, the shoot was most enjoyable.

Thank you to Linda from Kissam Consulting for making all the arrangements.

Non traditional wedding at Ponte Winery Temecula California

                                                                                           Brian & Gina

As a vintage lover myself I seem to get a lot of vintage inspired weddings. Brides that have a love for vintage also love classic photography. Gina and I were a great match because I too prefer to stay away from current trends and special effects to keep the photos timeless and not dated. Wedding photos are unlike pictures in a magazine that are only seen for the current month; they are heirlooms that are viewed for generations. They can be classic but still portray a sense of place and beat bride has non traditional wedding

When I photographed Gina & Brian’s wedding I used a mix of film and digital cameras to achieve a classic and up-to-date coverage. I also shot a lot of black & white images to interpret the retro styling that was the theme of her wedding.

Gina wore a short cocktail length dress reminiscent of the 50’s by Dolly Couture. Dolly Couture specializes in vintage style gowns for the bride that wants to be unique. She paired it with a black sash,black velvet platforms  and a classic bird cage veil from Dolly Couture as well.

San Diego based makeup artist Tara Roller completed the look for all the girls with red lips,defined brows,and black liner. Not only did she have a true understanding of how to achieve an authentic 50s look, she was very professional,timely and an absolute doll.

wedding ideas groom attire with skinny ties and classic suits for a vintage reservoir dogs vibeFor Brian’s look to compliment Gina’s non traditional gown he wore a black suit with flat front trousers and a skinny tie as opposed to the traditional tux. I think they look fabulous. Brian pulls off the classic mobster look well!! The suits were from Friar Tux.

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non traditional wedding groomsmen ideas with suits and skinny tiesSeeing each other prior to the wedding can be memorable. Pictured above is Brian on the way to see his bride for the first time that day while she anxiously awaits out of his view.

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off beat bride has retro styling and wears mid length dress and black shoes The wedding colors were a timeless black & white with dramatic splashes of red. Wine country florist Fifi from Finicky Flowers designed a dramatic bouquet  with deep red roses. The roses where highlighted with crystals in the center and black ostrich feathers that added a modern flair.

Many California weddings go by so quickly that seeing each other prior gives the bride and groom more time to enjoy their day together along with friends and family.

non traditional wedding family photosNon traditional brides such as Gina understand that wedding planning doesn’t have rules, only traditions. The non traditional bride does what she believes suits her best and creates new traditions. Gina had her best friend/maid-of-honor  walk her down the isle. I love the bff energy and excitement on their faces.


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All the bridesmaids looked sexy and classic with their not-just-for-wedding mid length wiggle dresses from They were form fitting and super flattering making the wedding party photos so fun to shoot as each girl channeled her inner pin-up.

non traditional wedding with 55 chevy and retro bridesmaids dresses shot by artistic photographer heather van gaale temecularetro wedding ideas bridesmaids and pin up hairstyles ideasNo extra stretch limos here! A vintage style wedding calls for a red 55 chevy!!  Friends Laura and Todd Shobert that were in the wedding party brought theirs along for the day. We had a blast taking pictures with it! I behaved and didnt ask anyone to sit on the hood.

The wedding and reception was at the gorgeous Ponte Winery in Temecula, California. Ponte winery is super photogenic. Every corner provides a photo op. I love the cypress trees,hedges and rose gardens. The vine covered bridal room is also incredible for photos!!

The reception was held in the barrel room & coordinated by the fabulous DJ’s Steppin Out-In-Style. The DJ’s were a brides and photographers dream. I love DJ’s that keep the guests entertained and follow the pace  of the crowd all the while keeping me posted of important events!

The cake,which I crave when not shooting weddings, was from Jodees Bakery . It was a beautiful classic style with no adornment except a crisp black ribbon,red flowers and a sparkly monogram P on top.

non traditional wedding at winery in temecula california