With all the foods on sticks we ate, it’s kind of hard to believe we had enough room in our stomachs to have anything else. But somehow we did. I think we had a pretty good strategy with choosing those foods we would share, thereby saving stomach room for those things we just couldn’t pass up to eat on our own.
Since my birthday was the first day of the fair, I jokingly said to Sam at one point that I want to eat the fried pickles with birthday candles in them. She didn’t forget this and actually brought birthday candles and matches, put them in my fried pickles, and together Sam and Jason wished me a happy birthday.
I think people passing by were slightly confused by this, but it was probably the best birthday treat I ever had. These were the regular fried pickles, but I also had some of Sam’s which had cream cheese sandwiched in between two pickles, then each little sandwich is battered and deep fried. SO GOOD.
In the Agriculture building there was a section devoted to Minnesota wineries. I had no idea there were any wineries in MN, but we had to try some, so we ended up with this sampler of 6 kinds of wine. Obviously in a MN shaped holder.
1 - Potter John’s White from Falconer Vineyards
2 - Sippin from a Slipper from Glacier Ridge Vineyards
3 - The Wine-ing Farmer’s Wife from Fieldstone Vineyards
4 - Frontenac Gris from Parley Lake Winery
5 - Prairie Smoke from Northern Vineyards
12 - Raspberry Wine from WineHave Vineyards
You were able to pick the 6 wines you wanted to try with this sampler out of 13 different varieties. I just picked all the whites – there were five – and then a fun one for the sixth choice. It was really hot, so we went with the lighter varieties. The Frontenac Gris and The Wine-ing Farmer’s Wife were my favorites. I don’t like really sweet wines, so they were a little drier. The Raspberry Wine was super sweet, but fun to try because it was different than all the others.
It wouldn’t be a State Fair without giant vegetables. Here’s the 1st place pumpkin from this past year.
Then in the Dairy Building there was butter bust sculpting. Artist Linda Christensen sculpted 12 busts, one for each of the 11 Minnesota Dairy Princess of that year and 1 for Princess Kay of the Milky Way (title awarded to the winner of the MN Dairy Princess competition). Each bust starts with a 90 pound block of butter that takes hours to carve. One bust is created each day for the duration of the 12 day fair.
I had my first experience with fried cheese curds at the fair. Definitely a once in a while kind of food. So yummy. And so not good for you.
Then there was the MN State Fair legend, Sweet Martha’s. This booth has been at the fair for 25 years, and operates only out of the fair. Pretty impressive. They now have cookie dough you can purchase at the grocery store as well, but it’s amazing the business they do during this 12 day period each year. We got a bucket that was overflowing with 4 dozen chocolate chip cookies. After we just could not eat any more, we saved some and had them for breakfast the next morning.
My favorite picture, taken by Jason.
The fair overall was so much fun, so here are some highlights:
Pictures above clockwise from top left: Ducklings, just a few days old, in the birthing barn. Me with a cow that was walking down the street. Princess Kay of the Milky Way finished butter bust. Me and a giant pickle on the side of the fried pickle stand. Cheese curds sign in the food building. Jason and I supporting MN turkey by being some. Giant Sing Along that played every day, it was surrounded by groupings of microphones so you could just jump on and sing with everyone. Jason playing Wheel of Fortune in one of the arcades – he got a tootsie roll and a green crayoned shaped eraser with his ticket winnings.
Thanks to my awesome friends for taking me to the fair two days in a row when I visited! That about covers the fair, but more posts from my Minnesota trip are coming up!
I have a problem with any food related group buying deal. I get three every day to my inbox: Groupon, BuyWithMe, and Living Social Boston. If it’s something more unique – a festival, showcase, or experience – you can pretty much bet that I’ll purchase it. And that’s how our wine tasting and jazz cruise on a yacht happened.
On a Sunday afternoon we boarded the Princess Yacht from Rowes Wharf in Boston. We grabbed a table near the jazz band. The band consisted of two guys in costumes. Not really sure why they were wearing the outfits they chose, it didn’t really seem to fit the feel of the event. But they were good, so I’ll let the weird jackets and hats go.
I’m not sure what I had in my head for the trip. Wine tastings generally mean to me that someone will be telling you about the wines as you taste them, or be available to answer questions. This was more get-all-the-wine-you-can-before-we-get-back-to-the-dock cruise.
Since there didn’t seem to be much of an order to things, we just jumped in, grabbed some wine and some appetizers and enjoyed the music. A few people seemed to think the pita chips and grapes were meant to be a full meal. It was kind of amazing to me how much they brought back. Two people at our table literally had 5 plates full of the snacks in front of them. We had a small plate between the two of us to snack on. They must have been super hungry.
We had a good time on the cruise and enjoyed the wine and the conversation with our fellow cruisers. The view was lovely too. I always love seeing Boston from the water. Such a pretty city.
With an open mind, this was a great afternoon. Anyone walking on and expecting a very high end experience with servers for each table would have been disappointed.
I would not have purchased tickets to this on my own, but because they were discounted it was a great Sunday afternoon event. Tickets are regularly priced at $110 each and BuyWithMe had them for about $50 each. I am all about a good deal. What girl isn’t? Cheers!
I first heard about Finale when I moved to Boston. A restaurant that focuses on dessert first? Brilliant, if you ask me. It’s been on my list of places to try for a while. We finally got the chance when Sam came to visit and our original dinner plans didn’t work out. Finale was right around the corner at the Park Plaza, so we decided to cross this one off our list.
Since we were trying a new place, we also decided to try a new taste. Both Sam and I sampled some Ice Wine (which neither of us had even heard of before) to start. Ice wine isn’t too hard to figure out. It’s made with the juice from frozen grapes, which makes it super sweet. Interesting tastes, but for both of us the sweet, almost syrupy, wine was not a favorite.
To be fair, dinner was good, but nothing too amazing. We really just got through dinner to get to dessert. Also, we were there during Aquapocalypse, so no water for us.
There was no way to get just one dessert, so we opted for the sampler to share between the three of us. There were two different versions of sharable sampler plates, but we chose the seemingly more traditional “Dessert Sampler” over the “Fantasia”. This gave us Creme Brulee, Chocolate Mousse, Strawberry Shortcake, Whoopie Pies, Hot Fudge Brownie Sundae, Cheesecake, Boston Creme Pie, Raspberry Sorbet, and Apple Pie a la mode.
Then we dug in. Everything was very yummy (except the Whoopie pies, which were rock hard. We couldn’t get a fork in them without immense force, so we gave up.) Our personal faves get a shout out:
I would absolutely head back to Finale for dessert, but would probably skip dinner next time. I wasn’t totally impressed by the atmosphere. This could absolutely be a personal preference but, somehow I expected a little more ambiance from Finale. Somewhere a little more romantic. Either way, the Chocolate Mouse was awesome. And the little pieces of chocolate with “finale” written on them was really fun. That’s enough to bring me back.
Go get some dessert and enjoy!
Dane and I celebrated our 3 year anniversary of dating about two weeks ago (Yes, I know we’re married now. But 3 years! We had to celebrate). He decided to surprise me and made reservations at Tresca in the North End, which is on our Restaurant Wish List. When we got home from work, we set off and I didn’t know where we were going.
If you’ve ever walked by Tresca in the North End, it’s the one with one table outside on a balcony overlooking Hanover Street. I knew as we were walking up that it’s where we were going once we crossed the street onto Hanover. Unfortunately, it was cold and started raining just as we were getting there so we didn’t get to sit outside. Instead we chose a nice corner table and went out onto the balcony after dinner.
On a Monday night, Tresca was almost empty which was lovely. Our waiter was fantastic and gave us the daily specials (and both of us ended up ordering one) along with some wine suggestions (again, which we ended up ordering). The atmosphere was comfortable, but also sophisticated, which was perfect for our anniversary dinner.
We couldn’t help ourselves and had to start with some calamari. The portion was huge and so delicious.
I ended up ordering ravioli stuffed with sausage, cheese, and broccoli rabe. Not sure what the sauce was but there was definitely garlic and wine in there. Dane ordered the seared wild boar with a blueberry, wine, and balsamic vinegar reduction.
We ate slowly and sipped our red wine together. Everything was absolutely delicious and we loved being able to take our time and enjoy it all together. Afterward dinner, we went out to the balcony where we would have been eating, if not for the rain.
We’ll certainly visit Tresca again. Here’s hoping Dane will try again and surprise me this summer with a reservation at the table outside!
Please join me in welcoming back Marissa, my go to person for all things wine related. You may remember her post about wine tasting 101 from a few months ago. I asked her back to give us her picks for wines from Trader Joe’s, a store that has a special place in my heart for their affordable wine selections. Leave your love for her!
It’s easy to walk into Trader Joe’s and head directly for the $3-buck Chuck. And granted: you won’t likely be disappointed. But, if you’re eager to try something new (bond with mom! impress your date! wow your friends!) and still find wine shopping intimidating, here’s a shopping list that won’t steer you wrong.
In honor of Spring fast approaching, this list focuses on non-vintage-specific zingy, casually-drinkable, bright, white wines, along with a few meals you might want to try them out with. All this, and their price points keep them well within party wine territory.
King Shag Sauvignon Blanc ($8). Okay, this wine is really what I’d classify as a perfect summer white, but: who can wait for that? This is my absolute go-to wine at Trader Joe’s. It’s tasty, crowd-pleasing, and as I already mentioned: inexpensive. Tart, but smooth.
Best pairings: A shrimp cocktail, or any kind of non-spicy sushi. The acidity in this white will really intensify any spicy dish, so try to stick to fresh, simple flavors. Or, if you’re me, Keebler Club crackers with Cracker Barrel cheddar as I make my real dinner.
Caves des Perrières Pouilly Fumé Sauvignon Blanc ($11). The perfect wine to treat yourself to mid-week after a hard day, this is also the most expensive in the bunch. But this wine’s label makes it look even more expensive than it is, which makes it perfect to bring as a hostess gift to a party you know the wine won’t really be appreciated, but instead drunk after everyone else has had beer #3, or #5, or #12. I first drank this wine while reading Julia Child and Alex Prudhomme’s My Life in France on my couch last summer. The harmony of wine-with-book cemented this wine’s place in my heart, and my dreams of visiting the Loire Valley were at an all-time high.
Best pairing: A chicken or Cornish game hen roasted with sliced lemon and shallots, a tuna or salmon steak, or a homemade pesto over pasta topped with goat cheese and pignoli nuts.
Echelon Chardonnay ($9). Categorizing this as a heavy white feels a little dishonest, because it has some significant acidity to it, making it more refreshing than other headier chardonnays. That quality makes this wine pretty versatile, which is why it shows up on more than a few restaurant wine lists. With notes of pineapple and pear, the Echelon chardonnay is YUM-MY. That’s a technical term. Learn it. Use it. Love it.
Best pairing: A pasta dish with olives, any cut or preparation of pork with pears. The sweetness and acidity will work with salty-sweet dishes. I’d also drink this in these last few days of winter with a kale and cannellini bean stew.
Pancake Cellars Big Day White ($6). I love this wine. It’s cheap, and simple, but I love everything about it from the taste to the packaging to the price. 60% Sauvignon Blanc, 27% Chardonnay, 12% Gewürztraminer, 1% Pinot Blanc, this is truly the mutt of white wines. It tastes most like a Chardonnay, despite its second place in the laundry list, and you should buy a few at a time for your personal, at-home happy hours this spring.
Best pairing: Spring mix salads, baked chicken with artichokes and roasted red peppers, any creamy sauced-pastas, hummus and toasted pita points, mushroom risotto, soba noodles in a peanut sauce. I could go on. This wine is cheap enough to try with just about anything and then decide if you like it or not.
If you’re new to wine, you’ll probably notice that I ignored the “rule” of whites with pasta, reds with meat. Why? Because, in short, that’s complete junk and you should try to forget you ever heard it. Try instead to focus on pairing lighter dishes with white wines, and heavier meats and sauces with red wines. Think of it like bringing personalities together: you’ll do well gathering people who like to make jokes with people who like to laugh—not uber-shy wallflowers. You don’t want the wine to overpower the food, or the food to overpower the wine. You want them to come together harmoniously, play nice, and grow to be best friends.
As always, happy drinking!
A few weeks ago Dane and I headed over to Central Bottle in Cambridge for an evening hosted by how2heroes featuring 4 different wines and 4 different desserts. We’d never been to Central Bottle before, but I’ve been a fan of how2heroes for awhile. I saw the invite on Facebook and signed myself right up. Only $10 for all that? Done and done.
First of all, Central Bottle and Provisions is a really cool shop. You can find a vast array of wines along with different cheeses and other items to pair with your libations. Every Thursday they host a Wine Bar, pouring a different wine, and you can also find Wine Tasting Classes and other collaborations like the one with how2heroes from time to time.
We headed over and got settled with our first pairing: Chocolate covered strawberries and a sparkling wine, Poema Cava Brut (Spain). I love that the strawberries were covered in red chocolate, made it that much more luscious.
Next up, palmiers with El Maestro Sierra Pedro Ximenez sherry. The sherry was sweet and much heavier, almost syrupy. Great pairing with the light and nutty palmiers. I wanted to eat about 73 of the palmiers. They were so good.
Third, mini cheesecakes topped with a maraschino cherry paired with a Cossart Gordan Rainwater Madeira. Again, this selection was heavier on the palate and sweet, but great with the light delicious cheesecakes.
And last (sadly there were but four amazing pairings, which I do realize is actually great but I could have gone on tasting forever), mini chocolate and raspberry cupcakes with Quinta Do Noval Fine Ruby Porto. These cupcakes were absolutely amazing. Raspberry is my all time favorite fruit flavor for a dessert. Pair that with chocolate and there’s nothing better. To be totally honest, I remember nothing about the wine, because the cupcakes were just that good.
I think I’ll have to do some of my own pairings for our next gathering. I can already think of a few things I’d like to try. OK, and then there were these other fantastic little mushroom pate appetizers. The founder of how2heroes urged us to try them, and it was so good. Another great idea for our next dinner party.
We’ll be looking for upcoming events at Central Bottle to attend. Everything was fantastic, thanks to both how2heroes and Central Bottle.
This is the third in our series called “Taste Testing” for our blog. We’re looking to compare our favorite things to find the best of the best! Send us your suggestions of what we should test out!
After talking with the lovely Marissa and reading the guest post she graciously wrote for this blog, it seemed only natural to do a little wine tasting. I have the new found appreciation for evaluating wine (even if it’s very basic) and wanted to put it to the test. I emailed some friends, and they kindly agreed to join in as my guest judges. I’m sure it was because they’re just amazing friends. Appetizers, a cheese plate, and free wine probably played no part in their decision making process.
Since we’re very new to the whole world of wine, we wanted to start with some very basic (and not so expensive) choices. We decided to go to a place that many people may have heard of, Trader Joe’s. They always have a wide selection of wine in a wide selection of price ranges, and we chose to go with the most accessible price range of $5 and under. Believe it or not, there were plenty of styles to choose from. We went with all red wines because it’s still winter and red wine seems cozier.
The contenders were (left to right): Tres Pinos (California), Aquila D’Oro (Italy), Condesa de Sarabella (Spain), Trader Joe’s Merlot (Chile), and Nero d’Avola (Italy).
I poured for my four guest judges to they didn’t know which wine they were tasting. Each wine was rated according to Marissa’s four step guide on a scale of 1 through 5 (1 being awful and 5 being spectacular). First was “the part where you swirl your wine around in the glass” focusing on the legs and color of the wine. Next, “the part where you shove your nose in the glass” to rate the nose, or bouquet, or the wine. Third, “the part where you drink” and evaluate the mouthfeel, taste, and finish of the wine. Last, “the part where you finish your glass and think about how much more awesome life is with wine in it” which was the overall rating that was out of a possible 15 points, and was the first three scores added up.
Here’s how they did
#4 Tie between Aquila D’Oro and Condesa de Sarabella
The tasters felt similarly about these two wine stating for both that there wasn’t much distinct flavor but too much bite in the finish. One taster especially disliked the aroma of the Aquila D’Oro and said “it tastes like $5″. I did some research on both to find out more, and most tasters suggested opening the bottle and letting it sit for a while before drinking the wine. This seems to bring out more of the flavor and pleasant aroma. Maybe something to keep in mind for next time.
#3 Trader Joe’s Private Label
I picked up this wine because I had never seen Trader Joe’s own label of wine and wanted to include a South American wine. Overall, the color and mouthfeel were good to the judges. It was lighter than the previous wines and a bit more fruity.
#2 Nero D’Avola
This wine, named for a grape that’s popular in southern Italy for wine making, was slightly sweeter and more fruity. Some thought it was also dry, but all of the judges seemed to like it. Only three points separated this from the first place wine.
#1 Tres Pinos Tierra Roja
This wine is actually a blend of four different kinds of grapes, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Syrah. This definitely gave the wine a nice fruity flavor and pleasant aroma, although with a touch of acidity (which I’ve learned are the tannins). This is the wine everyone wanted more of after the tasting, and that really is a good indicator for me.
It was fun to try some new flavors with friends and to branch out at Trader Joe’s. We’re planning to do this tasting again with white wines in the spring. I think the judges are already looking forward to it!
I have definitely documented my love of cheese on this blog. At this point, it goes without saying that I might be what some would call “obsessed” with different types of cheese. Whatever. I consider it a point of pride.
I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect cheese board and I think I’ve finally settled on the one I want. Surprisingly, Dane doesn’t seem to have very strong opinions on cheese boards, so this decision is up to me. I haven’t gotten it yet though, and when I hosted a wine tasting for this little blog (at beccajane’s apartment), there had to be a cheese plate to go with the wine. We made due with a wooden cutting board, which worked out quite lovely.
So to prepare for this event, I spent some quality time at the cheese section of the grocery store. I ended up with most of my own personal favorites, and tried to get a mix that everyone would like. Is there a correct way to do a cheese plate? I don’t know, but I was happy.
The four cheese I chose were gouda, brie, muenster, and cheddar. All pretty basic and delicious. Gouda is made from cow’s milk and always comes with a rind around it that helps to keep the cheese from drying out. Brie, also from cow’s milk, is a soft cheese named after the area in France where it originated. Muenster is a mild tasting cheese made with cow’s milk, that has a signature orangey rind. Lastly, cheddar, a familiar cheese with a sharper flavor. Served with some crackers and Sfilatino from Fornax Bread Company, each was delicious in its own way.
Next cheese plate will probably include some goat cheese and a harder cheese like pecorino or parmigiana. Can’t wait to host again, when I get my very own cheese board.
What’s your favorite cheese?
Lovely readers, please join me in welcoming a guest poster who I hope will continue to give us her knowledge on this blog, Marissa. As we prepare for another taste testing (coming soon: wines from Trader Joe’s for under $5) I realized that I don’t know the basics of wine tasting. I turned to Marissa for guidance and she definitely came through!
Marissa is an aspiring sommelier living in Jersey City who knows her way around a bottle of wine. As I attempt to learn more about wine and tasting myself, I can certainly appreciate someone who takes the time to explain things in a way that I can understand. Marissa genuiunely loves to talk about all things vino-related and it comes through in a warm and welcoming way.
When I was buying wine on Christmas eve in the town I grew up in, I happened to overhear a terrible conversation.
Liquor Store Employee #1: Eh, Jack! What’s a bettah white zin? Beringah awr Suttah Home?
Liquor Store Employee #2: Aaaahh…Suttah Home, definitely.
Consulting my MA accent to English translator, this was meant to inquire who made the superior White Zinfandel: Beringer or Sutter Home. The cheap-wine-aficionado that I consider myself to be, I shuddered and barely managed not to yell out loud: Neither! I wish to help dispel this terrible rumor flooding the brains of the impressionable! You don’t have to drink Beringer or Sutter Home to keep your wine tab cheap! Or Yellowtail, for that matter. And for God’s sake, don’t be afraid of a screw cap!
No matter what your price point, there are a few things you’re looking for in tasting a wine. Wine, like anything else, can be enjoyed with only a basic knowledge, but an advanced knowledge will allow you to dig deeper into the wines, pick out the “notes” you see listed on labels and in store displays, and even bring you a curiosity of viticulture. Just like any foodie will expound upon the importance of knowing where your food comes from and buying local, knowing where your wine comes from and who is making it is all part of what you’re drinking. Wines are made all over the world because each human being and each individual plot of land offers something unique to the grapes that grow from it, and ultimately produces a unique bottle of wine.
Here are the most simple steps to get the most out of your wine.
First: The part where you swirl the wine around in your glass.
Swirls are typically counter-clockwise, but feel free to be a rebel and follow your heart on this one. Swirling in the glass helps to release the esters in the wine that have been trapped together tightly in the bottle. You’re allowing some air to get in the glass, which will help the wine bloom and really open up. As you swirl and give the wine a few moments to breathe, take a look at the following things:
Legs: Check out how long it takes for the wine to drip down the edges of the glass after you swirl it. A more viscous wine is said to have legs, as it sticks to the edge of the glass and runs down more slowly than a thinner wine would. This isn’t going to tell you anything about the taste of the wine, but generally the thicker the wine and, er, nicer, its legs, the more full-bodied (see exhibits A and B, below). Some people also call these tears, but personally, legs is much more amusing to me, and if I switched, I wouldn’t get ZZ Top’s “She’s got leeeegs…and she knows how to use theeemm,” stuck in my head every time I drink a glass of wine. What would I sing to annoy my husband instead? It couldn’t possibly be as awesome.
Color: Tilt your glass to pool the wine in one corner (without pouring it out on yourself), and look closely at where it tapers off at the one side. This is best done with only a tiny bit of wine in the glass, which lets you see through the wine most easily (and not spill). You want to hold this up to the light and really look at the wine. Do you like the color of it? Is it ruby, or rather, more like mahogany? Any muddiness? Or if it’s white, is it pale yellow, or golden yellow?
Second: This is the part where you shove your nose in the glass.
Smell that wine, and smell it good.
Nose: You can probably figure this one out. The nose of a wine is the scents picked up upon smelling it, or the bouquet. You know how a sense of smell is vital to any eating or drinking experience, so consider how important really understanding the nose of the wine is to the experience. A great way to really experiment with the nose is to take one sniff right after pouring the glass. Then, swirl it around, get some air in it, and sniff again. (Careful: Not as deep this time, because you’re going to get attacked by NOSE.)
Third: This is the part where you drink.
The crowd goes wild. Take a sip, and swirl, swirl, swirl.
Mouthfeel: Again, wine-tasting manages to seem unapproachable by making a compound word out of two that I’m sure you’re pretty darn familiar with. Allow me to break this down: How does it feel in your mouth? What’s the texture like? Is the wine thin or thick? Is it coating your tongue, or easily slipping away? If it’s a dessert wine, is it seriously syrupy or lighter? If it’s a sparkling or slightly carbonated wine, what are the bubbles like on your tongue? Big or little? Think of the difference between a glass of orange juice and a glass of apple juice. That’s what you’re looking for in the mouthfeel.
Taste: Your first sip should be focused. Swirl it around your mouth (I think you’ve gathered at this point there’s a lot of swirling going on in wine tasting), quietly drawing in some air with it, and notice what your taste buds are telling you. Do you think it was aged in an oak barrel, or a steel barrel? (Can you sense a woody flavor, or is it more crisp and clean?) Is it sweet? Or even a little sour? Acidic? Smoky? Mineral-y? Fruity? More specifically, you could detect any number of things the producer used in the process: chocolate, earth, vanilla, spices, pepper, plum, honeysuckle, pear, even green olive (and I swear it’s yummy). The possibilities are truly endless. Try not to limit your expectations to what’s described on the label and trust your gut. Later, you can compare your thoughts to what the producer tells you that you should have noticed. Comparing and learning from this should help you develop your palette, but don’t worry if they don’t match up!
Finish: After you’ve swallowed, the finish is what lingers in your mouth. Does your tongue feel dry? Are your cheeks puckered? Are you left tasting alcohol, or is it only subtle, if at all? Is it a long finish? Or is it already gone and you have no idea what I’m even talking about except, wait, now you do get what I’m talking about because you understand what a finish is and there wasn’t much of one on that wine!
Fourth: This is the part where you finish your glass and think about how much more awesome life is with wine in it.
As you drink more wines, you’ll notice more than the differences between varietals (types of grapes), and instead of comparing a Sauvignon Blanc to a Chardonnay, you’ll start comparing multiple Sauvignon Blancs from different producers and regions across the world. There are thousands of ways to treat a grape, and that’s the fun of wine-tasting. Once you start to know what you like, you can knowledgeably pick out good wines for entertaining your friends, or matching a wine to a particular meal. (The true payoff of learning about wine…pairing it with food! But that’s an entirely different blog post. Le sigh!)
But most importantly, don’t forget that the only way to “know” wine is to drink it. And further, the only way to know a “good” wine from a “bad” wine is to answer one, very simple question: Do you like it? No producer, nor wine critic, nor store employee, can tell you a good wine from a bad wine, just like no one can tell you if Pepsi or Coke is better. It’s completely, totally up to you and your personal likes and dislikes. If you don’t like slightly carbonated, tart wines, Riesling probably isn’t for you. Similarly, if you don’t like heady, flavor-packed reds, don’t grab a Petite Sirah or Zinfandel.
So pour yourself a glass or two or three, get an Edith Piaf station started on Pandora (where you thumbs-down all of the music in English), and enjoy!