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Had a Glass 2015: a guide on how to approach wine

Review: author James Nevison is part of Cooks with Books at the Whistler Writers Festival
Cheers! Writer James Nevison teaches the best way to approach wines. Photo submitted

Whistler hosts the 2015 Writers Festival from Oct. 15 to 18. Pique is running reviews of books by attending authors to celebrate. For information and tickets:

Half a dozen girlfriends on a Saturday night raise their glasses. More than a dozen wine bottles sit in the not-so-far distance. Some are uncorked, tattooing red rings on the kitchen counter. Others are sealed in the fridge.

We are a noisy bunch by midnight. Everyone is eagerly on their feet with glasses held over empty cheese and charcuterie platters.

"To the Bayshores Wine Club," says Bicycle Sweatshirt Girl, raising her champagne flute with a hot pink manicured hand.

An impromptu toast for an impromptu night now turned club, which all started with a seemingly innocent little book.

Be warned. The purchase of B.C.'s No. 1 wine guide, Had a Glass 2015, has serious implications — like regular parties, tastings without spit buckets and white jeans soaking in milk in the kitchen sink.

The Globe and Mail best seller was born out of author James Nevison's belief that wine should be something enjoyed daily not just uncorked for special occasions. (I believe "hell ya" was the Mom-of-Three-Teenage-Boys response to that one.) The buyer's guide showcases great value wines, from $10 gems that taste like $15, to $20 bottles that wow.

But Had a Glass 2015 is more than a budget-friendly wine guide. The introductory chapters are a quick read, covering basics such as how to taste and navigate wine labels to food pairings and breaking out of your comfort zone.

The wine guide has shopping ready broken down into categories like red and white. Each wine suggestion is paired with a review, as well as food and occasion suggestions.

Select wines were found at the BC Liquor Store at Creekside. Wine lover Anita Cairns helped me decide whether to up or down grade from $10 and $20 picks. My four bottles came in at $57.79.

"Team Value" was rallied and ready to be pitted against "Team Osoyoos" — pricier wines from a recent holiday.

We brown-bagged a blind tasting that night. Nevison's pick, Paul Mas Voignier France ($12), was proclaimed a heavenly patio sipper, while the Quails' Gate Rose ($15) was poured down the sink. Osoyoos' Pentage ($27) and La Stella ($21) won out. The David and Goliath of the evening were Beringer cabernet sauvignons.

Nevison recommends pitting a winery's humbler bottle against its rising stars. We uncorked Bounders' Estate ($15) alongside Knights Valley ($42). The $15 bottle won by a landslide. Even Lulu Lady, who would scoff at bringing anything under $25 to a dinner party, would gift this bottle. (Mental note: invite Lulu Lady to more dinner parties.)

That's the thing about wine. No matter what the price, label or content, it all comes down to personal preference.

And the only way to cultivate that is to explore. Had A Glass 2015 makes that easy with affordable wine suggestions. It's a starting point leading to greater things — like drinkable wedding receptions and starting your own wine club.

Nicole Fitzgerald (a former journalist turned creative writing student) will be MCing Tasting the Divine: Cooks with Books Friday, Oct. 16 at 6:15 pm at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler as part of the Whistler Writers Festival. Tickets are $15. The chefs' reception showcases James Nevison (Had a Glass 2015) as well as Emily Wight (Well Fed, Flat Broke) and Susan Musgrave (A Taste of Haida Gwaii).