“A man will be eloquent if you give him good wine.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

In 2015, the US consumed more wine than any nation accounting for 13.43% of world consumption. According to the Wine Institute, in 1996 Americans drank 1.89 gallons of wine per resident by 2016 that figure grew to 2.94 gallons, a 55% increase in one decade.  The numbers reflect how wine has become a foundational component of the American life with over 7,700 wineries across the country.

In the plethora of excellent wine bars that is Lake Country, the jewel of the local wine world is Vino, Etc., in Oconomowoc.  For more than seven years, Vino Etc., has been a go-to place for a good selection of the grape, yet many customers are first time wine drinkers.

The experience of first walking into a wine bar can be daunting.  From behind the bar, I’ve spoken with many husbands and boyfriends corralled into "date night at the wine club”; while she peruses the wine menu, he’s checking the cooler and searching for taps.  He has that, “I have no idea what wine to order and I don’t want to look stupid, so I’ll order a PBR.” look on his face. 

I get it. 

There is a first time for everything and although your idea of wine drinkers might settle somewhere between beard scratching, philosophers and White Zinfandel guzzling mother-in-laws, if you’re willing to explore, I guarantee you’ll find the world of wine just as satisfying as every other libation.

It isn’t as complicated as some wine connoisseurs want you to believe. Here are a few pointers when taking your first step into the World of Vino, Etc.:

  1. Don’t be intimidated, be smart - Belly up and ask the bartender what he recommends as a good wine.  This is not a trivial request.  This is where you decide if the person on the other side of the bar is a tender or a sales person.  If he goes right to the “special” or house wine, shun this recommendation, it’s a sales pitch.
  2. Basic Suggestions - If you are a bourbon drinker, I recommend one of the ‘bigger’ red wines like an old vine Zinfandel, Cabernet or Pinot Noir(Red).  Strictly a beer chugger? Go with a Merlot or Syrah.  If on the other hand you like fruit flavors, try a Sauvignon Blanc(White) or Chardonnay.
  3. Ask for a sample - regardless of where you start, demand samples.  The best wine houses understand that building a client base involves allowing customers the room to explore and discover for themselves, a favorite.
  4. Buy a glass - It should go without saying that if you’re in a wine joint enjoying samples there is an implicate understanding that you’ll be purchasing at least one glass. Not doing so isn’t just economically challenging, it is rude.
  5. Let the your glass breathe -  Yes, inhale the aroma and sip the wine, don’t chug.  Wine typically ‘opens up’ as it sits in your glass.  I once took my time, approximately 60 minutes, to complete one glass of Zinfandel and experienced multiple flavors during that time.
  6. Price Point - There is no reason to purchase in the higher price bracket, before you can appreciate the difference between ‘entry level’ wine.
  7. Find what you like - When you find Merlot tasty and interesting, start with Merlot if you like Pinot, start the night with Pinot.  There’s a classic saying, “I don’t know art, but I know what I like.” Wine is art.

Finally, wine is more popular than ever, not because people are stepping up to a higher understanding but because wine has become more approachable in price and general availability.  

Today, there are perfectly fine bottles of wine for as little as eight dollars and wine bars dot the landscape where once there were none.  Vino Etc., helps first time and seasoned patrons explore the many corners of the world of wine.Come in and  experience for yourself.

Come in and  experience for yourself.