Wine aficionado Janet Trzecinski finds the most enjoyment of the wines from her bountiful cellar in sharing them with friends, often for good causes
For Janet Trzecinski, enjoying wine isn’t about the type, though she likes the reds.
It’s not necessarily about the food to match the wine, though she loves a serving of beef with a merlot.
It’s not about where she is or when she pops open a bottle.
“To me, the best bottle of wine is the one that’s shared with friends,” she said.
Trzecinski is short on neither. She has 300 bottles of wine in the basement of her Port Washington home and friends across the country, many of whom she made during trips to Napa Valley, Calif., in the past decade.
Trzencinski has held several wine tasting parties at her home, which she offered as auction items at fundraising events, and plans to delve deeper into her hobby after retiring in June from her job as Port Washington High School’s secretary.
But a wine snob she is anything but. Trcezinski is more of a wine rebel.
“I break all the wine rules,” she said.
Just the other day, Trcezinski enjoyed a glass of red wine with fish. The color of the meat is supposed to match the color of the wine, but Trzecinski doesn’t subscribe to that theory.
“If I like the wine, I’ll drink it with anything,” she said. “I mix it up. Why not? Everybody tastes things differently.”
Trzecinski said people’s tastes evolve as they age, and she is no different. Graduating from the starter wines like Sutter Home’s white zinfandel she developed an affinity for pinot noir and now likes merlot.
She used to dislike chardonnay, but now likes the citrus-flavored versions, not the buttery oak flavors “like everyone else loves.”
Analyzing wine, however, is not her specialty. Trzecinski will read tasting notes as she’s trying a new wine but can’t identify all the flavors.
“I cannot break down a glass of wine into all those fruits,” she said. “Blueberries with a hint of tobacco, that ain’t happening in my world.”
Although her cellar has many pricey wines, Trzecinski said price isn’t necessarily an indication of how a wine tastes.
“Could I do a blind taste test? I’d love them all,” Trzecinski said.
But Trezcinski only drinks Napa Valley wines today. She paired down her wine club memberships from 12 to five, with shipments all coming from California wine country.
One of the keys, she said, is the quality of the grapes. The best wineries find the best soil for their crops.
“You can grow grapes anywhere. It doesn’t mean they’re going to be good,” she said.
Each Napa Valley winery she visits has its own club and offers shipments of their products, though she has two wine suitcases in which to take some home as well. She is a member of one futures club, in which wine is purchased while it’s aging in the barrel and not yet bottled.
Clubs package their wines in decorative wood boxes. Trzecinski’s niece’s husband turns some of the boxes into wall hangings that decorate her home’s wine room.
Along with corks and decorative wine glasses — one that has a sand hourglass timer indicating when to get more wine — her room has a map of Napa Valley with pins to mark the locations of wineries she has visited.
It’s on those trips, one per year for the past 11, that she meets friends from across the country. Some wineries let visitors blend their own wines, which Trzecinski said “is like chemistry class. You’re sitting there with a beaker.”
After experimenting, the group votes on the best mixes and each gets a bottle to take home.
“It was fun. We got to stick the cork in it,” Trzecinski said.
Trzecinski said she occasionally buys some wine at Total Wine in Brookfield and at Coscto, which has reasonable prices.
For those afraid of trying uncommon wines or don’t want to buy entire bottles, group gatherings come in handy, Trzecinski said.
“If you want to try wine, get a few bottles and some friends together and try a little,” she said.
Trzecinski did just that last Saturday, when she hosted a wine-tasting party for the highest bidder in the annual Port Washington Historical Society Gala auction.
The menu started with sauvignon blanc and then three chardonnays with Brie and fruit toppings. Her favorite is a buttermilk blue cheese with orange syrup, which Trzecinski said goes with any wine.
Then came the reds — pinot noir, merlot, cabernet and some high-quality red blends.
Red wine should be served at room temperature, Trzecinski said. “The flavors are better,” she said. “And allowing them to breathe is important. Let it sit, or decant it.”
Food pairings include tenderloin that Trzecinski serves cold, cheeses and Italian meats.
Different foods, Trzecinski said, change how wine tastes.
The parties capture Trzecinski’s theory on how to best appreciate wine.
“I think it’s more about the experiences, that I’ve had, the memories,” she said.
Trzecinski has a decorative piece of wood with a saying that encompasses her belief:
“Wine. Because no great story ever started with a salad.”
Image Information: Janet Trzecinski selected a California red blend from among the more than 300 bottles of wine in her cellar. Photo by Sam Arendt