Much like training to climb a mountain, it takes a lot of strategy to comb a wine buffet. First there are is the proper equipment. Wine glass, check. Small plate, double check. A tour guide named Shlomo, triple check.
Despite the commoditization and very high prices of some Bordeaux, there remains a level of winemaking and perfect matching of grape with soil and climate that sustains its importance and relevance in today's fine wine world.
Chile has been a strong source of value-priced wines since the late 1980s. It is now the world's ninth largest producer of wine -- ahead of both Germany and Portugal -- and the fourth biggest source of wine imports to the U.S. after France, Italy and Australia.
If California were a country, it would be the world's fourth largest wine producer, after Italy, France and Spain. Long planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc are also big varieties for us too.
The wine world includes a lot of small, family-owned producers. Many produce good wines, and a multitude don't. Occasionally, however, the results are outstanding -- truly among the ranks of the region's very best.