La Jolla sommelier from LJ Crafted Wines has tips on developing your wine palate



Think of your palate as a living, tangible thing, like a physique, or a muscle. Your palate can be sharp, “on its game”or in need of practice. While it’s OK to subject yourself to “wine monogamy” by drinking the same wine nightly or weekly, challenge yourself to become an adventurous wine taster.

Let’s get started. Evaluating wine is a complex, multi-sensory experience. Palate development is linked to training your olfactory sensory system. Next time you are drinking wine, coax your palate and brain to make the connection between sight, smell and taste to create your own personal impression of wine.

Take the time to follow these four steps and make note of what appeals to you in a wine, but also what you don’t enjoy.


• Clarity: This is the degree in which you can see through the wine

• Color: Is the color light or dark, ruby or crimson?

• Other: Observe if there is any rim variation, sediment, gas, or tears/legs

2. AROMA SEQUENCE: Try to distinguish or detect these aromas:

• Fruits: Berry, citrus, dried fruits, melon, apple, pear, tropical or stone fruits.

• Earth: Barnyard, forest floor, musty, petrichor (wet stone)

• Other: Floral, spice, nuts, herbs, vegetative or animal notes

• Faults: Check the wine for “faults,” or any deviation from what is normal. Cork taint, volatile acids or oxidation can be assessed by the funky odors of wet newspaper, band-aids, vinegar, rogue yeast or envelope glue smell.

3. TASTE SEQUENCE: When the wine is in your mouth, assess these qualities:

• Sweetness: The presence of unfermented residual sugar on the palate

• Body: The impression of weight on the tongue. (Does it feel like whole-milk or non-fat milk?)

• Tannin: Astringent/bitter chemical compound found naturally in the skins and seeds of grapes.

• Structure: The relationship between the elements that make up a wine’s backbone

• Texture: The tactical/physical sensation on the palate


• Complexity: Number and amount of aromas, flavors and nuances and how they interact.

• Balance: Relationship between aromas, flavors and the wine’s structure

• Finish: A wine’s flavor, texture and the sensation that stays on the palate after the wine has been swallowed.

• Length: Amount of time the perception of a wine stays on your palate

Take the next step. So you enjoyed a glass of wine and made mental notes of what you smelled, tasted and felt on your palate. How do you know if your palate has developed? The next step is up to you. Go to your trusted fine wine shop owner down the street and tell them you enjoy a full body tannic Cabernet Sauvignon but want to branch out. They might have you try a Nebbiolo from the Piedmont region of Italy. If you like the earthy qualities of Pinot Noir, maybe a Tempranillo from La Rioja might become your new favorite summertime barbecue wine.

If you need more of a personal experience, come by LJ Crafted Wines in Bird Rock and join me or one of my fellow associates in walking you through a wine tasting. Our winery specializes in vineyard specific, small batch wines from Sonoma and Napa poured directly from the wine barrel. A few of the unique wines we serve are Viognier, a full-body white wine with aromas of peaches and cream, and native to France’s Northern Rhone Valley; Albariño, a high-acid grape with striking notes of white peach and tangerine, native to the Rias Baixas region in Galicia, Spain; Petit Verdot, a grape that’s famous for it minor role in the red blends of Bordeaux. Currently, my favorite wine is our Grenache, a dry, earthy plum and cranberry driven wine with overtones of white pepper.

— LJ Crafted Wines is at 5621 La Jolla Blvd., La Jolla. Hours: 3-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; noon to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. (858) 551-8890.

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