Remember when wine was reserved for snooty dudes who clinked their stemware in leather-bound studies?
Michael Hesebeck remembers that time and the Main + Abbey beverage and food manager is doing his best to bring fine wines to a younger generation.
"People think it's too intimidating or they think it's too stodgy," he said. "In reality, neither is true."
Indeed, Hesebeck said he fell in love with vino after sampling a Zinfandel at a backyard barbecue.
"Now, that's a perfect setting for wine," he said. "Food and wine go great together."
Currently, Hesebeck is assisting in the planning of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino's new Wine Bar. Slated to open in May, the wine bar will feature more than 125 labels as well as 40 selections available by the glass.
"It's going to be amazing whether you're a true wine aficionado or a complete newcomer when it comes to wine," he said.
Why do you think younger people are now interested in wine?
"Pop culture has something to do with that and so does the rise of the celebrity chef. People are seeing chefs on television pairing different food with a wide variety of wines. The audience wants to be a part of that culture. Indeed, the concept of going out is as much about entertainment as anything else. When you see documentaries (like 2012's 'SOMM,' which revolved around four aspiring sommeliers studying for an exam) attracting a wide audience, then you realize wine is entertaining."
What are some beginner's mistakes people make with wine?
"The biggest mistake is that there are concrete rules about wine. People think that if you eating meat, you have to drink red wine. If you're eating chicken or fish, then you must drink white wines. Those rules don't apply anymore. Just drink what you like like or drink what you're in the mood for."
Since you mentioned it, what wines are you currently in the mood for?
"I really like Belle Glos Dairyman, a 2014 Pinot Noir from Sonoma County (California's) Russian River Valley. The Dairyman is bright crimson in color and has the taste of berries and cherries. If you're into cabernet, you can't go wrong with (2014's) Conn Creek. Made by one of the wineries that led the renaissance in the Napa Valley, the Conn Creek is a mix of red and black fruits. It's delicious."
Do you have a "sleeper" wine that people should be on the look out for?
"That would be the 2015 Peter Yealand Pinot Gris. What makes it interesting is that it's from Marlborough, New Zealand. Marlborough (which is located on northeast tip of New Zealand's South Island) is considered the country's premier wine region. The Peter Yealand Pinot Gris has a crisp, refreshing taste of pears and honey. It goes well with light meats and is also very good on its own."