Cracking the Wine Code

Uncorked Truckee. | Lou Phillips

There was a great movie a few years back, called “ Windtalkers,” about how the U.S. Military recruited Navajos to transmit messages in their native language to confound Japanese code breakers in World War II.

The good news is that your local, passionate wine purveyor loves to help you have a great wine experience.

Perusing the wine review sections of the world’s most-read wine magazine the other day, I couldn’t help but think that the average wine-magazine review and rating sections are at least as hard to interpret. In the issue I was reading, there were 26 Oregon Pinot Noirs reviewed: 24 of these were rating-clustered between 90 and 93 points; 22 were priced between $40 and $75 and most had production levels of a few hundred cases. In addition, the wine descriptions fell in a narrow bandwidth to say the least. This usually ends up being borderline useless for even knowledgeable consumers.

Uncorked Truckee. | Lou Phillips

The odds of any particular outlet having any of these wines are miniscule. The next point is the obvious rating inflation. For evidence I will simply quote the number-rating criteria of the magazine, citing only the point range in question: 90 to 94 points indicates an “outstanding wine of superior character and style.”

Mind you that overall, this issue rated 425 of the 600 total wines reviewed as being in this category. By the way, this is not unusual for other publications. As for the prices, all 26 wines are above the vast majority of wine purchases. The lack of value of the homogeneity of the descriptions speaks for itself.

Dean Schaecher at The Pour House. | Lou Phillips

So what’s a wine lover to do? The answer is good news because it starts with human interaction. Your local, passionate wine purveyor loves to help you have a great wine experience. Even if his or her palate and suggestions might be a bit off target, he or she will be willing to figure out what your palate craves, what your price points are for everyday and splurge wines, and will generally guide and accompany you on your wine journey.

The price of entry into your personal wine club is just the time you spend curating with whom you want to wine travel. I can tell you after decades as a sommelier and wine consultant, our mountain paradise is chockful of passionate wine gurus. And feel free to ask away; they know your questions will help them learn and grow.