BY MARIE ANDRUSEWICZ -- You’re interested in drinking good wine, but not quite ready to join the foodie set, with their goat cheese-stuffed figs, and their locally-sourced organic produce stashed in their public radio tote bags.

The Bellagio’s Master Sommelier thinks you should relax.

“What I always try and get across to our guests is that wine should be fun. You shouldn’t make it something highfalutin, or something that’s out of reach. It’s a beverage on the table – you can have a great time with it,” says Jason Smith.

And Les Kincaid, host of Wines Du Jour, says the best way to get started is to go to a tasting and give those peppery merlots and sparkly Proseccos a swish.

“You’ve got an opportunity to talk to the person who is pouring the wine, that knows about the wine – not only the cost and where you can get it, but what kind of food it goes with and so forth,” says Kincaid. “And then have the opportunity to taste it. If you taste it and you like it, you can write it down and search for it at your local retail store.”

Still, there are some wine-tasting basics you should know before you head out to a tasting. For example, prepare to experience synesthesia.

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“You taste it with your nose,” says John Curtas, food critic. “A great wine is going to have a great bouquet and it’s going to jump out at you and it’s going to be full of fruit or terroir – you know, that strange little word that means the ground it grew up on ... a better wine is going to have a better bouquet.”

Now that your senses of smell and taste are comingling, get ready to merge your senses of taste and touch, for an experience the experts describe as “mouth feel.” This characterizes how full-bodied the wine is. Wines with a higher alcoholic content have bolder flavors. This fullness of flavor is sometimes characterized as “chewiness.”

“I describe it as something we all can relate to,” says Smith. “If you think of light –bodied wine as skim milk, medium-bodied wine is whole milk, and then you get something very chewy, I think of it at the heavy cream level. It’s that weight on the tongue – mouth feel.”

Ready to get started? Here are our expert’s picks for respectable wines around 20 bucks.

Les Kinaid, Host, Wines Du Jour, CRN Radio Network

A good quality red wine from California is J. Lohr – these are very good quality wines. They have a lot of vineyards in Paso Robles and there up in the northern part of California. So that would be one brand, if you want to look at brands. I’d rather look at the varietal.

Jason Smith, Master Sommelier and Wine Director, Bellagio Hotel

For pinot noir I think MacMurray Ranch would work well, from the Sonoma Coast – great balance. It’s not going to be one of those wines that is too full in body. It might be a nice introduction for red wines, and it would work with a lot of things that may be on your table.

John Curtas, Food Critic, Eating Las Vegas

I’d go to a place like Total Wines and say ‘where are your Santa Barbara pinot noirs and chardonnays?’ I think there’s an awful lot of great producers there in the mid-price range – off the top of my head, Sanford, Zaca Mesa, Fess Parker.




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