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Local Pro Tips: Navigating A Wine List Like A Boss

Eddie Osterland, courtesy photo

San Diego's own Eddie Osterland is America's very first master sommelier; his book, Power Entertaining, includes the Top 10 wines under $30 to try before you die and tips for the ultimate food and wine pairings. Osterland, who has been honing his expert wine knowledge for over 25 years, drops by Eater to share eight tips for ordering wine like a boss.

1. The Sommelier is your new best friend!: Don't pressure yourself to know the wine list from front to back in order to impress your dinner guests. Take the time to come to your dinner reservation a little early and introduce yourself to the sommelier or call him a week in advance. Ask him for his top recommendations and tell him your budget and desired taste profile. Your new BFF can also help you with pronunciations and a little background info on the wine selection, or even design a food and wine pairing for you. When it comes time to order, you'll look like a pro!

2. When in doubt, stick to California Coastal: From Burgundy to Bordeaux, keeping track of different varietals from around the world can be tricky. Luckily we live in one of the most abundant wine regions in North America. Great go-to regions include Sonoma, Monterey and Napa Valley.

3. When it comes to pairing, weigh your wines!: What to pair with a light fish or a robust cut of meat? You want to make sure the weight of the wine matches the weight of the food dish. Use these simple guidelines when referring to the tasting notes on a menu: light-bodied wines are like skin/nonfat milk, medium-bodied wines compare to two percent and full-bodied wines are like whole milk. The heavier the dish, the fuller the body!

4. Stick to the bottle: Ordering wines by the glass is a more diverse option because you get to try lots of different wines, but understand that you get six glasses of wine from a bottle. Buying by the bottle is always a more cost effective choice. Wines by the glass are how restaurants make big profits!

5. Don't pick by the price: Never a judge a wine by the price tag. Some hidden gems can be found in the lower budget areas, high-priced wines won't always impress your guests but impeccable quality will!

6. Order correctly: We've all had that awkward moment when ordering for a table when you don't know how to pronounce something or the wine title is ridiculously long. A good rule of thumb is to know the wines are listed as : Winemaker, Name of Wine, Region, Year Harvested. Just say the winemaker and the year and you'll be golden.

7. Tips for large parties: With parties of 6-8 or more, ALWAYS stick to the bottle. In fact, ask for magnums! They are impressive and don't need to be expensive if you have a good sommelier taking care of you. It's always helpful to take care of your sommelier — discreetly slip him a $20 cash tip and you'll get VIP treatment.

8. Set the scene: Don't forget to ask for the restaurant's BEST glassware. Many restaurants have better stemware than what is placed on the table initially. And don't forget to have them use decanters for your reds. Decanters add a touch of theater and drama that you don't see enough in restaurants.
· Eddie Osterland [Official Site]
· All Wine Coverage on Eater [~ESD~]

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