I love to go wine tasting.  To me, this is very different than simply enjoying a glass of wine.  Wine tasting allows me to sample multiple wines in one session to learn more about a winery, a region, a varietal or even different wine making techniques.

This is easy enough to do when you’re in wine country, but what you do when you have the wine tasting itch and there are no wineries around?  I encountered this challenge last week when in NYC on business.  I wanted to reward my team for their hard work with an afternoon wine tasting.  But the closest wineries to Manhattan were just too far away.  So I came up with an idea.  I looked up restaurants that offered interesting yet affordable wines by the glass.

To keep things focused, I decided that we would do two tastings – the first was an exploration of French whites paired with different cheeses.  We went to a restaurant on Park Avenue at 31st Street called Artisinal, which is known for their amazing cheese selection.  They even have a retail cheese store within the restaurant if you want to take home some of your favorites.

The four of us purchased four glasses of wine – various whites from different parts of France – and we asked the server to split each glass into four servings.  They were extremely accommodating of our adventure, even though it meant that we required 16 wine glasses. Fortunately, it was 3 o’clock in the afternoon so they weren’t terribly busy.

They selected four cheeses to go with each of the wines.  It was a gorgeous presentation – so much so that I was too distracted by its beauty to take a photo.  Each wine tasted distinctly different from the previous. Interestingly, everyone in the group picked a different one as their favorite.  It was a great experience.

Next up was a trip to Otto, Mario Batali’s pizza restaurant on 5th Avenue at 8th street. We did the same thing as before and split four glasses of different wines amongst us.  This time, we picked red wines from different parts of Italy and paired them with pizza, charcuterie, roasted eggplant and lentils.  Again, everyone preferred different wines and we really enjoyed talking about them.  I did remember to take a photo here.

Italian Reds at Otto

What did I learn?  You can go wine tasting anywhere!  You just need some friends, some wines to share and some tasty morsels to accompany your vino.  Your first choice should be to visit a winery, but when that is not an option, find a restaurant that offers some great wines by the glass and ask them to help you set up a tasting.  If even that is not an option, buy a few bottles and do the set up yourself.  My recommendation is to focus the tasting on one thing – a region or a grape – and compare and contrast how the wines differ. In addition to having fun, you will learn more about the wines that you like furthering you on your journey of wine exploration!