I was somewhat skeptical about inviting a sommelier to my home for a personal wine tasting. For me, much of the pleasure of visiting tasting rooms is the journey: driving through verdant countryside, discovering cellars off the beaten path, picnicking in the vineyard. By comparison, the idea of sipping wine at my kitchen table didn’t seem as glamorous. Plus I’d have to clean my house for guests. Not exactly the escape I was looking for.
How wrong I was. Within five minutes of welcoming sommelier Tracy Whipple of Your Wine Flight Attendant into my home, I knew I was in for a memorable evening.
The typical gig goes something like this: Whipple prepares a customized flight of wines and food pairings and brings them to your home. You (and any guests you invite) sip and nosh while Whipple walks you through the wines, talking about their profile and back story. She even supplies the wine glasses. Whipple doesn’t sell wine, so there’s no pressure to buy. The focus, instead, is on tasting, learning and conversing.
Whipple charges $20 per person for an in-home tasting. The price can rise depending on the wines, and food is extra. You can request a theme—say, Spanish reds with classic tapas—or leave the flight and pairings up to Whipple.
For our tasting, Whipple selected five bottles made from Rhône Valley varieties, which she paired with beautifully plated cheeses, a piquant venison sausage, dried fruits, nuts and crusty walnut bread. As my husband and I compared tasting notes with our guests, Whipple regaled us with stories about the winemakers and gave us a primer on French versus California styles of winemaking.
Between sips of a luscious Le Clos du Caillou Côtes du Rhône 2004 Vieilles Vignes and a figgy 2008 Mourvèdre-Syrah from Holly’s Hill Vineyards, Whipple shared her personal philosophy about wine.
“It’s poetry, it’s sociability—that’s what wine really is,” she said. “I don’t want it to be snobby. I want it to be happy.”