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Now's a Great Time to Pair Wine with an Experience

by The Wine Guys, Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr


As we write this column, most people are confined largely to their homes as the coronavirus continues to spread across the country. Like you, we have a lot of anxiety over what the future holds for us and our families. It is a time for introspection and care, but it’s not a time to panic or to lose touch with friends. In fact, it may be time for a nice glass of wine.

It’s tempting to drink more than we should in the face of adversity, so be careful in how much you consume. It has been proven that wine – more so red than white – has antiviral qualities, but there is a tipping point when the health risks are greater than the health benefits.

While in the past, we have written extensively about pairing wine with food. Today, however, we’d like you to think about pairing wine with an experience.


Just before the pandemic was declared, we and our wives were enjoying life in Florida.  We’ve been writing this column for more than 30 years, and our cellars are chock-full of memories of those times. As the news got progressively worse, we decided to retreat into some great memories by pairing wines in Tom’s cellar with past experiences. We opened the 2005 Mastroberardino Radici Taurasi, a wine made entirely of the ancient grape variety aglianico. Early in our friendship, we spent a day in New York City with Carlo Mastrobernardino and learned a lot about Italian wine in general. We also opened the 1982 Gruaud-Larose, a Bordeaux of epic proportions. After reading predictions of the 1982 vintage, we went shopping together in Washington, D.C., and bought several cases – quite an investment for us at the time. The Gruaud-Larose was the most expensive at a “hefty” $13 a bottle. The wine is worth hundreds now, but we never bought it for profit. It was Tom’s last bottle, and he shared it with great friends and a lot of nostalgia.

We bring this up not to brag but to say that we shouldn’t be waiting for a perfect time to enjoy a special wine. The time is now.

Perhaps you have a bottle you are saving from a recent trip to Napa Valley or somewhere in Europe. You were told to lay it down for a few years and are patiently waiting for that time to come. But that wine will taste good now, too. Sit down to a nice candlelit dinner and pull out the photos of your trip. Share the wine with the memory.

If you don’t have a wine collection, you can visit some of your favorite wineries online. Because their tasting rooms are closed, many are offering incredible deals for shipping.  Some are even waiving shipping costs. Wine club business is also soaring. Firstleaf reports a 400 percent increase since March 1.

If you don’t have a memory, make one.  There are a number of books that will give you some great ideas. We just read Kermit Lynch’s “Adventures on the Wine Route.” It is full of some great stories the importer experienced while traveling around France to find wines for the U.S. market. Buy the book, then go to his website and select some of the wines he writes about.

Many of your local wine stores are still open, too. A staff can help you find a wine that is more than just a beverage. What about tasting wines from the California producers who beat the French in the 1976 Judgement of Paris tasting?  Find the movie “Bottle Shock,” or read George Taber’s “Judgement of Paris” book. Plan a night around this theme.

Now that you have the time, fulfill your desire to learn more about wine. Besides books, there is a wealth of material on the internet. You could concentrate on a region – say, Napa Valley – or a grape variety – cabernet sauvignon – and compare a couple of bottles that marries your new knowledge to the wine. Make it fun – pair a zesty sauvignon blanc from New Zealand with a fruit-driven sauvignon blanc from California. Compare notes with spouses. Or, share your impressions with friends on Facetime or another app. Host a virtual wine tasting!

A lot of celebrities from movie stars to professional athletes are putting their names on bottles. You can buy an excellent rosé called Muse de Miraval from a winery owned by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Download “Mr. and Smith” and see them perform together while you sip their wine.

Drew Barrymore (pair with “Charlie’s Angels”) and Francis Ford Coppola (pair with “The Godfather”) are other Hollywood celebrities making wine.

Want to dream of your next vacation once it’s safe to travel again? Get started with the planning. Read books and search for travel stories online. Pair your dream with a wine from that region.

What are you waiting for?

Wine picks


  • Hacienda de Arinzano  2016 ($20). The Arinzano property dates back to 1055 and is thus the oldest wine property in Spain and one of the few to be recognized with the Pago Status, Spain’s highest winemaking designation. This tempranillo is an incredible gem for the price. Lush and silky with fruit forward, red berry flavors.

  • Dominio Fournier Ribera del Duero Reserva 2014 ($50). Made entirely from tinta del pais grapes, this luxuriously textured reserva is incredibly delicious. Fruit forward in style, it shows off juicy, hedonistic flavors of dark fruit with oak-inspired hints of vanilla, spice and cocoa.

  • Tenuta Regaleali Rosso del Conte 2014 ($70). This blend of nero d’avola and perricone hails from the Palmero region of Sicily. Aged in new, 225-literFrench oak barrels for 18 months and bottled for another 12, it has depth, concentration and a lot of dark fruit flavors.

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