Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Wine Lovers: It's Time to Rethink the Little Black Book

There are lots of jokes out there about "little black books," the pocket-sized notebooks where you could list all your romantic triumphs, phone numbers, and seduction strategies. But I think it's time to rethink the little black book from a wine-loving perspective.

If you are a wine lover, you probably have wine information written on the back of your driver's license, on post-it notes, Trader Joe's receipts, ATM slips, and (if you are me) occupying lines in your check book that are supposed to keep a tally of your (diminishing) bank balance. What you need instead is a little black book that will become your mobile wine operations center and can be used to record everything vinous in your life.

It is imperative, I think, that the book be sturdy enough to survive being tossed into the trunk, your purse, or the stress of being sat on. It needs to be attractive enough that you don't feel like a complete dork carrying it into a tasting, and small enough that you don't leave it home rather than schlep it across town. I've found that the pre-fab "wine journals" never fit the bill, because they think I want to keep track of stuff I don't give a hoot about.

Instead, get yourself a Pierre Belvedere faux-leather notebook ($21.95 at Jenni Bick Bookbinding) which comes in a range of colors including (if you must) burgundy. Mine is black, and I carry it with me everywhere. This book is small without being minute at 4 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches. It has ruled pages that are relatively thick (no bleed-through), and the pages are perforated so that if you make a shopping list you can tear it out if you want to and throw it away. There is a handy little sewn-in bookmark to keep your place. And the covers are stiff without being bulky and slightly padded so they are easy to hold. This is a book that doesn't slip out of your hands.

What can you put in your little black book? Here's a sampling of what's in mine:

the number for the best local pizza delivery
menus and wine pairings for the week
a list of recipes I want to try from Nigella Lawson's Express cookbook
lists of wine moved up to Sonoma; list of wine moved to LA
wines I think I want to try from Trader Joe's to check on Quaffability
list of the next 12 wines coming up as "ready to drink" in Cellar Tracker
list of recommended champagnes
Wine Book Club ideas

The possibilities are endless, and once the book is filled up it can sit without embarrassment on your bookshelf, a permanent reminder of how far you've come in terms of your wine knowledge and enjoyment. If one of your resolutions for 2008 was to keep better track of your wine information, get yourself a little black book. If you use it faithfully, it will become the most frequently consulted "wine book" you own.

9 comments:

Jill said...

Great suggestion. I use a moleskine notebook and love it.

http://www.moleskine.com/eng/_interni/catalogo/Cat_int/catalogo_notebooks.htm

Orion Slayer said...

Great idea, especially the suggestion that it be small enough to tote around. I've kept a spreadsheet, but I never have it with me when I need it most. I'm going to a wine tasting tonight and a notebook like you suggest would be perfect for making notes.

John Witherspoon said...

Hey Dr Debs
Thanks for the link for a new little black book. I have a stack of little books I have filled up with daily wine reviews, winery visits, etc. But I definitely need to have one that can fit in my pocket though, and I would like to put a list in the front of it that contains all the wines I have had with a "ref" to which notebook the actual review is in. That way at a restaurant or wineshop I can remember for sure which vintage I had or if I even had the wine.
Take care John

Joe said...

Hi Debs - I use pretty much anything for notes when away from home, and when lacking for paper and a pen I happily punch away at my blackberry (then I can email the notes home...). But at home I use tasting sheets - I have a mountain of those (I never throw them away...) in a file folder above my desk. It will never be organized.

gopaz said...

Debs,
Great post, as I constantly struggle to keep my life organized, wine notes included. I've bought several small spiral books over the years, but continually find myself using index cards instead. You would think that carrying a single solitary book would be easier, but it seems that my mind appreciates chaos. xi

Velvet Fog said...

I have a little brown leather book that I put notes in. I also keep a list of wines that I'm looking to find. People think I'm crazy when they see me in a wine shop pouring through my book trying to remember what I'm hoping to find.

Dr. Debs said...

Great comments, everybody. I think that they reveal how personal all this is. As someone who needs to SEE everything to know it exists, computer files don't work for me. I did the index card thing for a while, but kept using them for coffee coasters and losing track of them! Velvet Fog, I think people always think wine geeks are crazy in wine stores. We tend to shout out loud, talk to ourselves, etc. Pulling out a notebook is probably pretty banal in comparison.

Tim said...

I'm a technical guy, so it's spreadsheets galore for me. I keep all my notes on a spreadsheet on my computer, which I will eventually build into a database.

For portability, it's the iPhone. When I'm at a restaurant and have a new wine that I like I've got my iPhone in my lap and I'm trying to subtley take notes. Then I take a picture of the bottle (which is hard to do in a subtle way). It's also hard because the iPhone doesn't have a flash, so I'm positioning it next to a candle to try to get enough light. It can get rather comical. But it works for me. :-)

jodi said...

i too started taking pix of wine labels with my iphone to remember wines. while traveling in italy (and taking pix of lots of labels with our iphone) a friend of mine and i had an idea to create a mobile wine application that enables you to research, remember, and purchase wine from your mobile device. we launched Drync on the iphone a couple of weeks ago and it's doing great! we hope you'll check us out!!