For those who may think that Yelp.com is a mafia controlling the flow of information for restaurants and bars while basically offering a “protection money” plan to skim out bad reviews (it is), Google Places has taken a large jump forward a couple of months ago to take Yelp on. They’ve launched specific cities and are expanding quickly. As such, their Google Places San Francisco is a huge, rolling ball of events currently that most anyone can get in on if they write reviews for the system.

Naturally, we wanted in on this so we wrote reviews, and eventually went to a wine tasting run by The Right Blend. Founder, Clarisse Fourmeaux set up a series of three tastings at the Google offices in San Francisco, that focused on comparing Sauvignon Blanc vs. Chardonnay in one, Merlot vs. Pinot Noir in another, and Zinfandel vs. Cabernet Sauvignon in the last. It’s important to add that her approach with the tastings was to introduce people to various general concepts about wines and reduce that fear factor often associated (and intentionally created to boost prices) with drinking wine. Because, as Dr. Vino mentioned in a recent article, why is that beer drinkers drink with ease while wine drinkers are generally a terrified lot, corralled in to thinking that Robert Parker’s idiotic 50-100 point rating system is the only way to know if a wine is good.

We went mainly with the idea of drinking some new wines, maybe learning something, and generally trying to keep our mouths shut to see how a random group of people reacted to the wide range of wines (both Old World and New) that Clarisse had picked out for each event. The results were interesting. For instance with the first tasting, there was this Starborough Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand which the majority of the group thoroughly loved. I would probably never have picked it to drink with this thick diesel nose that it has. But, aspects of the wine really appealed to some people, which Clarisse said was a typical reaction.

If for no other reason than that, it was worth it to go to this tasting because at “proper” industry tastings you get everyone swirling, spitting, and pontificating. You don’t really get anyone drinking and really just enjoying the wines, which is an aspect to the whole wine review industry that’s missing. We’re just happy that there are others out there, like Clarisse who think that this is important and we should approach wine as an enjoyable alcohol as opposed to some golden fleece of a liquor.