No one wants to look foolish when ordering wine, but if you’re not used to drinking it, a wine menu can be overwhelming. If you’re planning a trip to Napa Valley, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the basics of ordering wine at a restaurant. Take the opportunity as a learning experience that will introduce you to something new and exciting.
Meal Choice and Preferences
Red or white is the first step. Some people have a strong preference for one or the other, while others use their meal as a guide. For instance, white wines generally go well with a lighter dish such as chicken or fish, while red wines are best suited for heavier dinners like steak. If you’re having lunch out, white is usually the best option.
Glass or Bottle
If multiple people at the table are having wine, it’s generally more cost effective to purchase a bottle. If your table can agree on a bottle, that’s great. Otherwise, it’s best to stick to a single glass so that everyone can have what they want, and you can sample various wines.
One of the wonderful things about Napa Valley is that the menus are always changing. Wine menus are typically arranged by the wine type or region, and listed by price range from lowest to highest. If you notice that the vintage year is added on the menu, then you know that the menu is updated regularly.
Ask for Recommendations
If you know what you like to a certain degree, you can ask the waiter for suggestions. If you want to stick to a certain budget, then it’s best to narrow down your search and ask the waiter to recommend the best one. In fact, in Napa Valley, some restaurants have a sommelier that is dedicated to serving wine.
Receiving the Wine
If you ordered a glass of wine, take a moment to swirl the wine and let the flavors mix in. Smell the aromas of the wine, and hold the wine glass at the stem instead of at the bowl where your hand could interfere with the temperature of the wine. If you ordered a bottle, verify that the label matches what you ordered. The cork should be slightly wet, and when opened, the wine should smell fruity. This is all part of the experience.