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It’s Time to Retire These 5 Wine Descriptors

Paso Robles Wineries Wine Descriptors

What’s in a word? Well, a whole lot. Ever realize how using “lazy” words can really bog down a conversation or even make it harder to get your point across? Consider these two descriptors of a sunset—“nice,” and “breathtaking”—and tell me which you prefer. Chances are, you gravitated towards the latter, which makes its point crystal clear. The sunset literally took your breath away with its beauty (men: take note with your love letters—paint a picture!) Similarly, Instead of using ho-hum words for wine descriptors, go for crisper, more specific alternatives. It’s, like, really super great and junk!

1. Sweet

Unless we’re talking about dessert wine here, you’re never going to find a wine that is best described as “sweet.” Just don’t do it! I mean, it makes sense why you would make this mistake. You may be responding to the wine’s fruity notes, and confusing the two entirely. Before you decide that a wine is “sweet,” ask yourself, “Is it fruit forward?” “What fruit do I taste?” “Does that fruit taste candied or ripe?” “Is it more like a jam or fresh-picked?” Often, ripe, just-picked robust fruit flavors like lychee, pear, pineapple, watermelon, and strawberry can translate as sweeter than, say, a wine that is reminiscent of tart blackberries.

2. Oaked

Oakiness has gotten a bad rap as of late, and for good reason. Oftentimes, sub-par winemakers will over-oak their wines in an effort to mask defects or poor quality in the wine. Your bargain barrel offerings may even contain oak chips in lieu of real oak aging (that’s a whole different story). For this reason, calling a wine “oaky” or “oaked” can cause a winemaker to wince in pain. Instead, consider what kind of toast you are experiencing. Is it like a buttered piece of rye bread, a light caramel flavor, or the heady vanilla scent that comes from a particularly expensive New French Oak barrel?Sculpterra Buy the Wine

Try: Sculpterra Winery’s 2015 Chardonnay, which features a delicate whiff of oak in the form of a roasty almond allure (also featuring fresh pear and apricot flavors perfect for summer).

Click Here for Mapping and Directions to Sculpterra Winery & Sculpture Garden


3. Perfumed

Any woman will tell you that there are more kinds of perfume as there are stars in the sky. From a musky sandalwood cologne to a vibrant lilac-rosewater spritz fit for Spring, perfumes are not all created equal. Swirl your glass and take in the bouquet beneath your nose. What is the “top note” of this wine? Is it spicy, with elements of cardamom and ginger, musky like tobacco or vintage cigar box, earthy like fresh soil and decomposing leaves, or perhaps savory, with elements of charcuterie and baked nuts?

Try: A perfumed beauty: Clavo Cellars’ Grenache Blanc Oracle, with fresh aromas of honeysuckle, eucalyptus leaves, dried stone fruit and lavender.

Click Here for Mapping and Directions to Clavo Cellars


4. Good

If you’ve ever watched a two-hour animated flick with a nine-year-old, you know that “good” is a subjective term. Perhaps your kiddo loved that extended singing and dancing scene featuring CGI animals, but you were probably yawning and checking your watch within the first ten minutes. Before you call a wine “good,” consider what you—in particular—like. What fits your criteria for a “good” wine? Is it balance, originality or classic appeal? Once you know what makes your taste buds tick, you can make a far more convincing case for what’s delicious and what’s just OK.San Marcos Creek Vineyard Buy the Wine

Try: Want to try something really “good?” Enjoy San Marco Creek Vineyard’s 2015 Estate White Merlot, which is off-dry with a delicate peachy color and aromas of white stone peach with pink grapefruit and tropical notes.

Click Here for Mapping and Directions to San Marcos Creek Vineyard


5. Varietally Pure

When a wine is said to be “varietally pure” it usually means that it is in keeping with the grape’s most natural flavor profile (i.e. a fruit-forward Cabernet Sauvignon or a peppery Syrah). That said, there are so many different ways that a varietal can shine within the realm of its natural charms. For instance, that Cab—depending on the region where it was grown—could be juicy like a bing cherry or tart like a cranberry. That Syrah, if grown in a cooler climate, can boast more white pepper than black. Yes, it’s good to know what certain varietals are “known” for, but never let that stop you from diving deeper into how the terroir has transformed that signature grape.

Dubost Buy the WineTry: Dubost Ranch Winery’s single varietal offerings, including viognier, petite syrah, and cabernet sauvignon. You’ll find plenty of adjectives to describe these luscious local wines.

Click Here for Mapping and Directions to Dubost Ranch


This blog was written by Hayley Thomas Cain, food and wine writer for SLO New Times and You can reach her at [email protected] or follow her on instagram @flavorslo.

If you’re looking for a place to spend the night in Paso Robles, checkout:

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La Bellasera Hotel & SuitesMake ReservationsLa Bellasera Hotel & Suites is an elegant boutique hotel nestled in the heart of Central Coast Wine Country. Influenced by Mediterranean and Italian architecture, the luxurious accommodations reflect the aged sophistication of the Central Coast region and the relaxed nature of the California countryside.



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JUST Inn at Justin VineyardsMake ReservationsEnjoy the elegance, style and natural beauty of California’s Central Coast at the JUST Inn®. Surrounded by vineyards, our JUST Inn Suites offer luxurious appointments like fireplaces, Tempur-Pedic®mattresses, Frette linens, hydro-spa tubs, and range in size from 600–1,200 square feet. An overnight stay includes breakfast and a tour of the winery and caves.


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