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The annual year-end column is normally a listing of my Top 10 wines of the year. Not this year, there are too many lists out there already. Instead, much like the days as an old newspaper editor, here is a collection of random thoughts you might test to improve your palate and wine enjoyment.

Grape Sense LogoDrink Different
Since launching Grape Sense in 2007 I’ve probably written “drink different” hundreds of times here and on the wine blog. Specifically, get into a wine shop or liquor store with a wide selection of wines and don’t rely on the grocery for all your wine purchases. Shops with a good selection of wine will have plenty of choices you’ve never tried.

For example: If you dislike Chardonnay, try the unoaked Chards and splurge a little on Chablis. Seek out French Rhone red wines. Novice wine consumers would be hard pressed to find better value wine than the delicious French Rhones made of Syrah, Grenache, and Mouvredre. They’re wonderful with food or on their own and often in the $12-$16 range.

Drink more South American wine in 2015. Argentina and Chile continue to produce wines which seem to improve with each vintage. Everyone knows of Argentinian Malbec but look for a Bonarda for something different. Bonarda will often have many of the same taste characteristics but a bit more of a smoky hint on the palate.

Don’t be afraid of Indiana wines. Nothing frustrates me more than the “oh, those are sweet wines” response when Hoosier wines are mentioned. Yes, most big Indiana wines haul in the vast portion of their bottom line from sweet and fruit wines. But Bill Oliver, Ted Huber, and others are making drinkable dry reds which get better with every vintage.

Educate yourself
Most wine drinkers want to enjoy a glass now and then and probably don’t have the same interest as a wine writer. But to really understand wine visit a vineyard anywhere and take a vineyard tour. You’ll learn more about wine surrounded by grapes than you will in 20 tasting room visits.

Lobby your Legislator
Indiana is the last of the 50 states banning Sunday alcohol sales. The issue is going to be addressed in the coming legislative session. It’s finally time. Grass roots support makes a difference when it’s overwhelming. If you don’t think so, just think back to last year’s incredible reaction – pro and con – to the legislature’s actions on the gay marriage fight. Your voice matters.

Wine Travel
A wine vacation can be lots of fun and you’re almost always in a beautiful location. A simple trip would be a nice two or three-day visit to Traverse City. Explore the wineries of Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas. If you’ve never been to Napa/Sonoma, make 2015 the year you check that off your bucket list. Whether you are a casual or very serious wino, Napa/Sonoma is a terrific vacation.

Or just take a Saturday and visit two or three Indiana wineries.

My favorite wine trip is Oregon’s Willamette valley. The Pinot Noir is world class, the food is amazing, and the vineyards are stunning. You’re also just a little more than an hour from one of our country’s most beautiful natural wonders, the Columbia River Gorge.

I’ll be leading another trip to that area in June after last year’s very successful first visit. More details to come soon.

Ask Questions
Thanks to all the readers who wrote in 2014 asking specific wine questions, wine travel questions and more. I’ll always respond. My email is at the bottom of today’s column.

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