City Wine Tours was founded in 2011 with the mission, “To make learning about wine as fun as drinking it.” Tours are available in SoHo and the West Village of New York City as well as the North End, South End and Back Bay neighborhoods of Boston. Each tour is approximately two hours in length and includes two stops at carefully selected restaurants with six different wines to sip and light bites to sample. Wine ambassadors are experts in the field of viticulture with advanced certificates to show their sommelier status. Each wine ambassador has his/her own unique style of presenting wine education; however, the goal is to learn how to taste, pair and buy wine.

Gil Bauer, our wine ambassador leading the West Village walking tour fell in love with food and wine in a way that “Never existed before” after spending a year in France.

The first stop on the Saturday afternoon tour was to A.O.C. L’aile ou la Cuisse, a French restaurant on the corner of Bleecker St. and Grove St. located in the heart of a historic neighborhood. We sat at a table in the back of the whimsical bistro and Bauer began by explaining the language of describing wine through sight, smell and taste. The wine tasting began with Ammonite Crémant De Loire, a dry brut from the Noir Valley in France. Bauer introduced guests to the 5S’s in wine tasting: See, Sniff, Swirl, Sip and Summarize. We nibbled on a charcuterie plate and sampled the next offering, Bott Geyl Points Cardinaux, a white blend from Alsace, France with fruity tones. We discussed the flavors and aromas that were present in the wine, some expressing apricot while others detected hints of pear. Swirling the wine is important because it releases oxygenation therefore it brings out the aromas from the wine being bottled up. To swirl, one must hold the stem of the wine glass between two fingers and make tiny swirls in a counter clockwise motion with the right hand or a clockwise motion with the left. After our swirling lesson, Bauer joked while we practiced, “Looking at wine isn’t as enjoyable as drinking it.” Our final wine at this destination was Domaine De Grisy Bourgogne Cotes D’ Auxerre, a pinot noir from Burgundy, France. We discussed the viscosity of wine and how it feels as it swirls around your mouth. As a sommelier, Bauer has an extensive background on wine complete with fun facts like, “An expert can detect about 4,000 different smells.”

The final stop on our tour was Tio Pepe, about a 5-minute walk from the previous destination. Tio Pepe is a lively Spanish restaurant located in the West Village on West 4th St. that has been a neighborhood landmark for over 40 years. By this time, we were warmed up and ready to learn about the ceremonial wine opening ritual of presenting and smelling the cork. The purpose of the ritual is to verify the selected bottle and inspect the condition of the cork. Did you know that when ordering a bottle of wine at a restaurant, you can only send it back if it is defective, not if you don’t like it. The first wine we tried was Oro Valei from the Albarino region of Spain. This wine was red and fuller body which could be paired with a heavier dish like steak or a lighter dish like fish. The next wine we tried was Don Jacobo Rioja, a rosé that could be described as light and easy to drink. We sampled some shishito pimientos with this wine. Our final tasting was a Don Jacobo’s Rioja Crianza. This is a traditional red rioja made from the tempranillo grape with a spicy, peppery taste. This selection paired well with the flat bread pizza that we shared with the table. The most important takeaway gained from the experience was expressed candidly by Bauer, “Don’t let experts tell you what to drink. Find out what you like and drink it.” Truer words were never spoken.

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