A Year of Wine 

Now a month into 2010, this year holds numerous opportunities to learn about, explore, and taste new wines. The year promises to be filled with winemaker dinners, tastings, and large and small events. One of the better ways to seek out these events is on the website localwineevents.com. Promoters from across the globe post wine events on this site for free. Visitors also can sign up for e-mail alerts that notify them when new events in their area are posted.

One of the most exciting series of events in Memphis is the Brooks Museum's "Art of Good Taste." Each year the museum hosts winemakers from across the country and around the world during a series of some of the most well-organized events in the Southeast. This year's theme, "La Dolce Vita," will showcase the vibrantly beautiful wines of Italy and some of the best wineries, including Badia a Coltibuono. From the wine dinner with Silver Oak and Twomey to the Grand Auction on May 8th, this series has something for every wine and food lover at every price point. Many of the region's best restaurants will be serving samples of their cuisine, making it a perfect opportunity to get acquainted with them as well.

Make sure to sign up for the e-mail newsletter, Twitter account, or Facebook page of your favorite restaurant and wine shop. This will keep you up to date on new menu items, wines, events, and specials that they may only send to people on those lists. Many times throughout the year, retailers receive highly allocated and highly sought-after wines that they sell out of before they even hit the sales floor. Snatching up a few bottles via Twitter or e-mail is a perfect way to build up your collection.

The best way to learn about wine is simply to drink it. When eating out at a restaurant, scan the wine list for something you haven't had before and order it. If you aren't quite sure about it, ask your server or the manager to give you some information. Start with something by the glass so you don't have to commit to a full bottle. Or better yet, select a half bottle if you are dining with a companion.

"Many of our guests love the fact that we have a wide selection of half-size bottles," says Rusty Prudhon of Napa Cafe in East Memphis. "It's a perfect way to have a variety of different wines throughout the course of a meal, especially if you want to pair each course with an accompanying wine."

Develop a relationship with your favorite wine shop and ask advice and follow suggestions on new and interesting wines. Purchase a journal or use your computer or handheld to write notes about new wines you taste. That way you can remember what you liked or explore more about a particular grape type, region, or producer.

No matter what your budget, there are good wines to be tasted and enjoyed. If possible, save up a little money or go into your favorite shop with a budget and ask them to put together a case or a few bottles that you've never had. Ask for a little info on each wine so you have a starting point. You have a whole new year to explore wine. Make it a good one!

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