As the warmer weather arrives, we’re craving small gatherings — up to 10 people, of course — and sipping wine on the patio. Whether you’re heading to an intimate soirée or planning one of your own, Paul Patel, owner and operator of Green Hills Corkdorks, offers some wine selections, pairing suggestions and more.

Your Top Wine Questions, Answered

What do you recommend serving alongside a cheese board?

There are so many factors that play into this question. If you invite friends over for an impromptu wine tasting and have a gourmet cheese board prepared, I suggest having five wines. I recommend sauvignon blanc for fresh, lighter cheeses; chardonnay for lighter, more flavorful cheeses; a pinot noir; a cabernet; and then a sauternes for stronger cheese like stilton or blue cheese.

Cheeseboard and charcuterie with glass of red wine

A stellar cheeseboard served with perfectly paired wines is a springtime must-have.

RELATED: Calling All Cheese Lovers!

What should we bring to a get together when we don’t know what sort of wine the host likes?

People lean more toward red wines than anything else. The majority of casual wine drinkers will appreciate a good pinot noir, and its light tannins will be flexible with whatever is being served.

If we intend to serve older vintages, when should we expect the wine to be at its peak?

It depends on the wine varietal and vintage. Ninety-five percent of the wines on the market today should be enjoyed in the first one to three years for a white wine, and one to five years for a red wine. If you are looking to begin a wine collection, cellaring takes specialized knowledge that our wine concierge team will be happy to help develop.

What fun fact about wine should we have in our repertoire?

It’s useful to know the most common appellations. For example, champagne is only made in Champagne, France. If it comes from anywhere else in the world, it’s technically a sparkling wine. Prosecco is Italian, cava is Spanish, and champagne is French. The name “champagne” is so historically protected that the French Agricultural Board fights against it being used to describe everything from nail polish to cars.

champagne poured from bottle

Looking to have a champagne starter? It’s only true “champagne” if it comes from Champagne, France.

What is the number one wine you recommend if we’re looking to splurge?

I would recommend the Revivalist from Hickinbotham Vineyards.

What is orange wine?

First of all, it is not a wine made from oranges! There are two ways to make orange wine. It can be white wine stored in a large ceramic container that goes through an oxidation process, or it can be white wine given an orange hue through extended skin contact during the fermentation process. People like it because there is little interference in the natural winemaking process. If you like a sour Gose-style beer, chances are you will like an orange wine.

What is “natural wine,” and how does it differ from your average wine?

All wines are natural, and this is the most up-for-debate wine conversation of the century. The standard answer is that “natural” usually means a wine is made with organic methods or that unfiltered wines are made with no added sulfates. This is the most talked-about subject, and everyone’s opinion differs. You could pop open any wine magazine to page 15, and people will be discussing natural wines!

Wine being poured from a bottle at an outdoor event

According to Paul of Green Hills Corkdorks, the most talked-about topic in the wine world right now is “natural” wines.

RELATED: What To Drink When You’re Not Drinking: A Mocktails & Mixers Round-Up

We see “co-fermented” wines popping up on menus — what does that term mean?

This term means there are two different wine varietals that may be batched separately but fermented together. The reason for this is to bring out different flavors and richness in the wine. Typically, a lot of sparkling wine houses will co-ferment and blend wines to create a more interesting flavor profile

What are your favorite wines as we transition into warmer weather?

Rosé is always wonderful during spring, especially provençal rosés with fresh mineral attributes (although there are few things better than Oregon pinot noir!). Crisp whites from the Loire Valley are also great for almost any occasion.

What are the best wines we can get for under $30 for 2020?

Here are my top five:

  1. Beaulieu Vineyards Napa Merlot, 2014 for $25.99
  2. Small Gully Mr. Black’s Concoction Barossa Valley Shiraz for $22.99
  3. Damien Coquelet Chiroubles Beaujolais Cru for $29.99
  4. Hugel Classic Dry Riesling for $23.99
  5. Quinta do Infantado Douro Red for $19.99

What’s the best piece of wine advice you can offer us?

Wine is like jazz; you don’t have to have secret, in-depth knowledge or an enlightened understanding of wine to know what you prefer. You don’t have to be embarrassed about what wines you like. If you don’t know what you like, that’s what Corkdork’s wine experts are for — to help you discover the flavor profiles that suit your palate. As long as you like what’s in your glass at the end of the day, that’s the most important part.

Thanks, Paul! Learn more about Green Hills Corkdorks — including hours, more pairing suggestions and more — at corkdorkswine.com. And always drink responsibly!

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