Look Like a Wine Connoisseur: Tips from Salt Creek Grille’s Hugh Preece

National Drink Wine Day


This sponsored article is brought to you by Salt Creek Grille – Princeton.

You know how to drink wine, but do you really know how to taste it? In honor of National Drink Wine Day (February 18), wine connoisseur Hugh Preece, operations partner at Salt Creek Grille, has offered up a few simple tips to help you appear as though you have years of wine knowledge under your belt. Salt Creek Grille features an extensive, award-winning wine list representing hundreds of varietals from around the globe, with something for every taste—from light, crisp Napa Valley Wines to rich and robust wines from South America and Italy, and more.

See it: Check out the color, opacity and viscosity (legs or tears). This shouldn’t take more than five seconds.

Smell it: Pick out at least two flavors and take your time identifying them. There are three types of wine aromas.

  • Primary aromas: Come from grapes and include fruit, herbal and floral notes
  • Secondary aromas: Come from fermentation and yeast aromas
  • Tertiary bouquets: Come from aging, oxidation and oak, such as baking spices, nutty aromas and vanilla

Taste it: Use your palate, keeping in mind that two elements make up taste: flavor, like lemon, raspberry or coconut, and structure, aka the level of sweetness, body, alcohol, acidity and tannin. The taste of wine is also dependent on timing. There is a beginning, middle (mid-palate) and end (finish).

Conclude: Did the wine taste balanced or out of balance? Did you like the wine? Was this wine unique or was it unmemorable? Were there any characteristics that shined through and impressed you?

Try out your tasting skills with these recommendations.

Damilano Barbera d’asti Barbera, Piedmont, Italy 2014: The Damilano Barbera has an intense purple-red color and is fruity with light, spicy notes. On the palate, the wine is ethereal with notes of currant, violet, cherry and a touch of vanilla, with a persistent finish. This wine is excellent when paired with swordfish, burgers and especially with Salt Creek Grille’s bacon and goat cheese flatbread.

Finca de Arantei Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain 2014: Pale, straw-lemon in color, the wine displays refreshing aromas of peaches, apricot, jasmine tea and wet stone. On the palate, the flavors are equally rich and accompanied by vibrant acidity, long length and lasting finish. Typically, the Albarino goes well with ceviche and sushi, and this is why it pairs so well with Salt Creek Grille’s ahi tuna stack, which comes sashimi style, stacked with avocados and cucumber wasabi.

Hugh Preece, wine connoisseur and operations manager, Salt Creek Grille, Jersey Bites
Hugh Preece, wine connoisseur and operations manager, Salt Creek Grille

As operations partner at Salt Creek Grille, Hugh Preece has over 25 years of restaurant management, community leadership and philanthropic experience. Having overseen the very first meal served at Salt Creek Grille – Princeton, Hugh has played an instrumental role in the restaurant’s growth since its launch in 2006. Today, Salt Creek Grille – Princeton is a local favorite, known as much for its fresh fare and inviting ambiance as it is for its role in the community, through partnerships with Princeton sports teams, University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, and local businesses, as well as ongoing support for Big Brothers Big Sisters, Donate Life, United Way of Mercer County, and other charities.

Hugh is also a connoisseur of wines, responsible for Salt Creek Grille’s extensive wine list of more than 75 varietals, many of which are catalogued on his blog, Vino on the Nose. With his passion for wine, food, and entertainment, Hugh has been recognized with multiple awards including the Walt Disney Delivering the Difference Award, Operator of the Year, Most Profitable Region of the Year, and Culinary Operations of the Year.

Salt Creek Grille – Princeton
Forrestal Village
1 Rockingham Row