A Wine Geek in Cyberspace: A Guide to the best wine sites

As I race to use up my “take it or lose it” vacation hours, I’ve lollygagged around the house some lately. During these rare leisurely moments, the Internet occupies my languid mind, offering brain food for my wine-geekish cravings. People sometimes ask me which sites are the best for learning, so I parsed through the mess to ensure that I have an answer.

There are quite a few good ones. Most wineries, although there are exceptions, use websites as a shrine to their greatness, offering only smidgens of education. But general wine sites designed for enthusiasts cram you full of useful, as well as useless, wine information. Take a look at these when you have a free and yearning moment.

If time isn’t an issue, call up wine-lovers-page.com. Robin Garr, a 25-year veteran journalist with an adoration for fermented juice, binds together a huge community of the wine obsessed. Her site features hundreds of wine reviews, numerous columns from a smorgasbord of wine writers, and, for those who like to speak their mind, densely populated online discussion groups. Wine-Lovers-Page mantra: “We are dedicated to the premise that fine wine is a feast for all the senses — including the mind. And that you don’t have to be a snob — or wealthy — to appreciate wine’s pleasures.” My sentiments exactly.

The ultimate of wine geek sites is winespectator.com. Although the writing is high-fallutin’ wine snob and decidedly skewed toward aged collectors, the site provides fodder for exploration. It’s dedicated to all things Wine Geek: wine industry news, vintage charts, a fancy, expansive wine ratings database, and even a link to launch your career in the wine biz.

One huge exception to the winery-website-with-no-useful-info statement is aboutwines.com. Diageo Chateau and Estate Wines Company, a business that markets several wineries around the world, features an enormously useful wine fact database. Click on “Reference” to cruise wine regions, study the wine and food pairing primer, and get fluent in wine with the extensive glossary. Two other winery websites worth checking out are kj.com (Kendall Jackson) and robertmondavi .com. Although most of the education trails lead back to one of their products, the information is pretty broad, especially their terminology and food/wine pairing sections.

A relatively unknown yet practical feature found on most winery websites is the “Wine Finder,” which tells you where to buy, or at least who distributes, their wine in your area. If you’re at a loss for finding one of the wines written about in “Corkscrew,” just log on to that winery’s site.

If seeking the demented and unexpected, call up bonnydoonvineyard.com. I won’t say anything else except you gotta see this one.

To peer into the mind of someone with lots of time on their hands, click on winelabels.org, a site dedicated to wines with weird labels and names, and also some from places not normally associated with traditional wine, like China. Bizarre labels to see: Smoking Parrot, Frog’s Piss and White Trash Wine.

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