But not an insurmountable one. The following is a list of my favorite websites for reference, wine news and wine geek fun.
Yumyuk brings wine education to the masses. With cool, down-to-earth verbiage and simple instructions, this website is invaluable for the dazed and confused. It's user-friendly, interactive and educational. Do a fun "taste interview" which helps you figure out which wine reviewer on their site most fits your preferred taste profile. Then explore the recommended wine section with your newfound knowledge. Move on to the unconventional food and wine pairing section that might make your eyebrows raise, but will certainly teach you a thing or two. This site could easily burn several hours of work time.
This is the beefed-up online version of the subscription-based wine magazine, The Wine Spectator. Although sometimes referred to as "The Wine Speculator" due to alleged influenced-by-the-advertiser articles, this website is super useful for straight-up wine info. It not only gives you the magazine's info for free, you can explore wine dictionaries, wine trivia and pretty much anything else wine-related. The content is a bit high-brow, but the info is comprehensive and wine-geek entertaining.
Free the Grapes is a nonprofit, grassroots lobbying organization that is trying to lift the restrictions on interstate wine shipments to consumers (for an in-depth look at this, watch Corkscrew in upcoming weeks). The site educates you on what laws your state has for wine shipments from wineries outside your state. Read it and weep, it's ugly out there.
A virtual playground of well-written, approachable wine information, the jam-packed Wine Lovers Page tempts everyone from the wine novice to the connoisseur to uncover nuggets of knowledge. Founded by wine writer Robin Garr, this comprehensive site is the assemblage of many years of fervent wine worship. I especially enjoy the "30 Second Wine Advisor" section that offers a brief synopsis of a recommended wine and its region. You can also sign up to receive this info by e-mail. Armed with several wine columnists' opinions, the site offers straightforward articles delving into different regions around the world, as well as varietal studies. Other entertainment includes surveys, wine label decoders and a wine "questionary."
Going for the obvious wine site name, wine.com provides direct shipping of wine to states where it has licenses. In the Southeast, they provide service to North Carolina and parts of Florida. The selection depends on your state, but they do carry some hard-to-find wines. It's pretty easy to use too. You can search by varietal, region or winery name and they stock cool gifts like unique corkscrews and fun wine books.
Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco, Non Vintage ($12) : A sparkling wine from Italy, the "non vintage" means it's a blend of several years of wine. Smells like a yummy, yeasty beer on the nose, and bursts out with lime and lemon flavors in the mouth.
Buena Vista 2000 Merlot ($9) : Delicious fruit explosion in the mouth. Sexy and luscious blueberry and cassis flavors linger long after a sip is finished.
Il Circo 2000 Uva di Troia "La Violetta" ($15) : The first Italian/American joint effort by Bonny Doon Vineyards, the powerfully fragrant red wine meets and exceeds the BD reputation: fun, quaffable and fruity. Made from the indigenous ancient Italian grape Uva di Troia.
Taylor Eason is a regionally based wino who studied the juice in France and Italy. Comments? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.