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Seasons 52 has a spring cocktail with a surprise for your tongue Tammy Paolino/Courier-Post

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I had a long, solo drive the other week – eight and a half hours each way, with a few fun days in between.

Some people might dread being alone that long in the car; I cherish it. It’s a chance to listen to and learn anything I want, without my teenage sons controlling the aux cord.

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On this particular trip, I planned to listen to two things: the audiobook of Lauren Graham’s memoir “Talking as Fast as I Can” and wine podcasts.

The memoir was absolutely delightful, but it was for pure enjoyment. The wine podcasts, however, were meant to both entertain and teach me a little something about wine.

I find the more that I know about wine in general the more I can understand and appreciate wine from New Jersey. The varietals grown here come from all over the world. The knowledge the winemakers use has been passed down from winemakers over thousands of years. Their challenge is to take those grapes and that knowledge and figure out how they best work in New Jersey’s climate and soils.

So how do I learn about wine when I can’t drink it? I read and I listen. Someday, I hope to take wine certification courses, but until then I’ll consume wine knowledge any way I can.

Here are some of the things that I’ve read or listened to that have helped me understand wine in general and in turn better understand the New Jersey wine that I gush about every week.

Websites

Wine Folly: The Wine Folly Blog is excellent because it’s for someone who wants to know wine, not for someone who already knows wine. It teaches about varietals, pairings, wine regions and more. I most appreciate the infographics that make much of the information visual.

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VinePair: I learn about wine, beer and spirits on this website that covers just about everything, with easy-to-understand articles. My favorite section is “Tipsy History,” where I can learn about the history of duty free alcohol shopping or the fact that Buzz Aldrin took communion on the moon – and therefore drank wine on his historic moonwalk.

Books

“Judgment in Paris” by George Taber: The Judgment in Paris tells the story of a blind taste test in 1976 that rocked the wine world: California vs. France. Taber was the lone journalist at the tasting. His story in “Time” magazine about how top French wine experts unknowingly chose California wines as the best put California on the global wine map. In addition to telling the story of the blind tasting, “Judgment in Paris” spends several chapters dedicated to the history of wine in California and how long it took the industry to bounce back after Prohibition.

The blind tasting that happened in California is loosely related to New Jersey wines because the tasting was the model for The Judgment of Princeton in 2012. Our local wines and French wines were pitted against each other in a blind tasting. New Jersey wines did well, particularly our white wines.

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“Bacchus & Me” by Jay McInerney: This book is a collection of McInerney’s wine essays, mostly from his “House and Garden” wine column. Each essay covers one wine varietal or wine region. It takes just a few pages to get the basics about Riesling (dry to sweet) down and wrap your head around a German wine label.

“American Wino: A Tale of Reds, Whites and one Man’s Blues” by Dan Dunn. After some personal experiences left him in despair, Philly boy Dunn drove all around the United States “drinking himself to life.” He tells great stories about his experiences at wineries in places most people don’t realize make wine like Montana, Michigan, Georgia, Texas, and yes, New Jersey, where he was impressed with Amalthea Cellars wines.

Listen

Wine Skool’d: I saved up three months worth of this 20-ish minute podcast for my trip, and listening to it made the drive seem shorter. Self-taught wine lover Keith Beavers (disclosure, a personal friend) teaches with humor and creativity about everything from the origins of Chardonnay to what’s the deal with those stemless wine glasses.

Wine for Normal People: Another podcast that makes wine easy to understand. Elizabeth Schneider, a certified Sommelier, hosts a podcast that ranges from 5 minutes to over an hour and delves into wine while talking with her guests and her audience.

New Jersey wine does not exist in a Garden State-shaped bubble. Learning about wine from anywhere, in any way, can help enhance your experience at our wine tasting rooms and in your own dining room.

Robin Shreeves is the food and drinks writer for the environmental news site Mother Nature Network, and a frequent contributor to Edible Jersey Magazine and Drink Philly. She's also the co-author of “The One Year Women in Christian History’’ (Tyndale, 2014). 

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