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This post is sponsored by La Crema but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.

Everything You Need to Be Your Own Sommelier

written by CHRISTINA HERBST

This post is sponsored by La Crema but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.

The Everygirl product selections are curated by the editorial team. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission, at no cost to you. We only recommend products we genuinely love.

Source: Cassie McCook
Source: Cassie McCook

It’s a tale as old as time: I used to be a girl who loved going out to cocktails right when the clock struck 5 p.m. on a Friday. But now that I’ve hit my mid-twenties, I’ve come to find that I’d much rather pour myself a nice glass of La Crema wine and spend the night in with my fiancé. I love making a night of it by throwing on some jazz music, taking out our finest wine glasses, and throwing together a makeshift cheeseboard to start the weekend off on a relaxing note.

There’s something so much more elevated to romanticizing your night in with a high-quality wine on your rooftop patio vs. pouring yourself a glass in whatever glassware you have on hand. I’m here to show you how to do the latter, but first, you need the right wine products that help you become the sommelier you didn’t know you were. Here’s everything you need with expert tips from a certified sommelier, Emily Pickral:

Meet the expert
Meet Your Expert
Emily Pickral
For the past 20 years, Emily has held various sales roles in the wine industry, working for importers, distributors, and California wineries. Emily has worked for Jackson Family Wines since 2014, and she currently serves as the Director of Sales for Jackson Family’s field marketing team. Her passion for learning about wine encouraged her to embark upon the Master Sommelier diploma. She was the 19th woman in the world to earn the title and is one of 256 Master Sommeliers worldwide. She also has a Diploma from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and a BA in Literature from the University of Virginia.

Build your wine collection

Curating your own wine collection is the number one step to becoming your own sommelier. But first, you must discover your personal taste preferences. I found mine by trying new wines while dining out and attending a few wine tastings over the years. The more you adventure out, the quicker you’ll find out which one resonates with your tastes. After some very important, hard-hitting research, I realized that I gravitate towards sweeter, lighter wines like Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Rosé. They also pair well with many of the dishes my fiance and I whip up at home or the takeout dishes we order nearly every weekend in our household. But I always like to have a stash of deeper, bolder, and richer wines—like Pinot Noir—for my friends who prefer reds.

When selecting your first few bottles, Emily suggests choosing three wines from the following categories: whites, reds, and sparkling. For whites, you’ll want to stock up on Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Dry Riesling. As for reds, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel do the trick—I often serve these for classy dinner parties. And it doesn’t hurt to have a sparkling on hand (you never know when you need to pop a bottle for a special occasion). Prosecco, Champagne, and Lambrusco are Emily’s sparkling suggestions. I’ve been keeping a few of these at the ready since we’ve been throwing engagement parties left and right for our friends.

For my elevated wine collection, I always reach for the best of the vine: La Crema. Hailing from the heart of California wine country, La Crema’s wines are carefully and thoughtfully made without manipulating the grapes—providing you with a natural, authentic pour every time. Head Winemaker, Craig McAllister, says it best: “There’s an authenticity to our wines—we allow the grapes to fully express themselves without manipulation in the winery and they’re made in traditional ways. We barrel-ferment Chardonnay and punch it down by hand, as it was done in La Crema’s early years.” This lends to their signature spiced, vanilla bean flavor profile that you can taste with every glass. Even if you’re not an expert sommelier (yet), you’ll notice the difference.

wine products
La Crema
Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc

La Crema's Sauvignon Blanc is a fresh, vibrant, and crisp blend. With flavor notes of lemon grass, passion fruit, grapefruit, and kiwi, this is an essential white to have in your bar cart. It pairs nicely with a themed brunch, salads, and homemade pizza.

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wine products
La Crema
Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Everyone needs a Pinot Noir on rotation, and this one from La Crema drives a long, firm finish. Ideal for special occasions, this wine brings together flavors of red cherry and plum with hints of espresso and cocoa nibs, making it the perfect companion for a chocolatey dessert.

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wine products
La Crema
Saralee’s Vineyard Blanc de Blancs

Bubbles make everything better. This balanced 2017 vintage bubbly boasts flavors of baked apple, fresh Meyer lemon, lime, and hazelnut. Serve with seafood, like buttery lobster, or a light dessert like creme brûlée.

Use code LCEVERYGIRL to receive 15% off + free shipping when you order four or more bottles!

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wine products

Graphics by: Caitlin Schneider

Elevate with wine essentials

Whether you’re enjoying a night in or leveling up your hostess game, these wine essentials are a must for your bar cart. Thankfully, you don’t have to break the bank to get high-quality wine products either. Emily suggests searching at both home retail and kitchen stores to compare prices for glassware and wine accessories. Besides the basics like wine glasses, openers, and stoppers, I’m also snagging a decanter and aerator to allow my wine to breathe and absorb oxygen, which ultimately improves the taste. While both have the same purpose, I’m planning on using a decanter for hosting and the electric aerator for small groups and personal use. Here are the pieces that I’ve personally stocked my bar cart with:

Amazon
Corkscrew Wine Bottle Opener

To crack open your finest vino, you'll need a reliable opener. I've found that using a winged corkscrew is easiest to handle since they pull the cork right out without as much force as a traditional corkscrew opener. I never have to worry about the cork breaking in the bottle.

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wine products
Crate & Barrel
Electric Aerator

This aerator is ideal for personal use and smaller group sizes with its easy-to-use, tap-style dispenser that fits right onto the bottle. Just press for perfectly aerated wine.

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wine products
Williams Sonoma
Marble Wine Stoppers

Don't worry if you don't get to the bottom of the bottle. You can always use this chic marble stopper to keep your wine fresh and flavorful for your next pour.

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wine products
Crate & Barrel
Wine Decanter

This stunning decanter adds some extra visual appeal to any bar cart. Its angle-cut rim makes it simple to pour away after you've let your wine breathe.

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wine products
Pottery Barn
Modo White Wine Glasses - Set of 4

These modern glasses take a fun spin on the otherwise traditional rounded glass. I appreciate that they're made of a heavy-duty crystal glass that prevents chipping or breakage.

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wine products
Pottery Barn
Modo Red Wine Glasses - Set of 4

I was obsessed with my white glasses so much that I had to grab a set of red ones, too. They make any occasion, from date night to girls' night, feel classier.

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wine products
Amazon
Vacu Vin Wine Saver

This handy tool vacuum seals your wine so it stays fresher for even longer. By using this wine saver, you can keep your bottle of vino for up to 10 days.

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wine products
Amazon
Champagne Stoppers

Bubbly gals, this one is for you. There's no more pressure to finish a bottle as soon as you open it—just use this champagne stopper to keep the bubbles going.

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Lastly, learn the lingo

Wine talk doesn’t have to be intimidating. I used to shy away from using lingo for fear that I sounded like I had no idea what I was talking about (which to be honest was partly the case at the beginning of my wine journey). But over time I’ve learned that once you get past that feeling, you’re able to clearly communicate what you’re looking for to the experts when you’re shopping for a new bottle. And it makes wine tastings even more fun.

Emily suggests determining what you are smelling and tasting around four primary categories:

  1. fruity or savory
  2. acidity vs. tannin
  3. texture and body
  4. finish

Here are questions you can ask yourself when testing out different pours:

  • When examining the wine’s aroma, do you smell certain fruits, like berries? Or do you sense savory characteristics that may lean toward sour foods like green apples?
  • When tasting the wine, does your mouth water due to the acidity level, or do you find that the wine dries your mouth out given the higher tannins that may be present?
  • Describing the texture and body is identifying how the wine feels in your mouth. Light-bodied wines sit in your mouth more like a delicate tea, while full-bodied wines fill your palate with texture and intensity.
  • The finish is often the defining factor between a mediocre and an awesome-tasting wine. Following a sip, are you left with a hint of tartness, spice, heat, or bitterness? Does that taste linger or does it disappear quickly? All of these can describe the finish of a wine.
wine products
Amazon
Wine Simple: A Totally Approachable Guide from a World-Class Sommelier

Build upon your wine knowledge with this easy-to-follow guide. Each page is filled with tangible tips, and helpful infographics, to help you deepen your knowledge on winemaking.

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If you’re still trying to learn the ropes, Emily suggests bringing your questions to professional sommeliers, exploring different regions through your glass, attending different wine events in your city, and being adventurous when ordering a glass at a restaurant each time you dine out—most restaurants offer a sample, so don’t be afraid to ask! There’s always something more you can learn from experiencing it firsthand. And just like anything, becoming your own sommelier takes a bit of time and practice, so don’t be discouraged if it takes longer than you’d hope to build up your wine collection or learn the difference between aerating and decanting your wine. It’ll come to you before you know it!

This post is sponsored by La Crema but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.