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3 questions with Chris Woodrow, wine sommelier

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If chianti, cabernet or even moscato rings bells within your heart, you may want to know this guy. Chris Woodrow is the owner of Vin Master Wine, the newest hangout in the city's vibrant South End community. The Philadelphia native, who's made his home in Charlotte since 1994, has a palette for wine similar to his take on life: casual yet refined. Pairing beautiful blends of aged organic wines with low-pressure displays and contemporary, Uptown décor, Woodrow describes life as a wine sommelier and discusses his relaxed approach to wine and the city.

Creative Loafing: What are some of the biggest misconceptions about wine?

Chris Woodrow: One of the biggest mistakes that I think people make is pursuing what they think they should drink instead of just drinking what they like. Don't go by the ratings; find what you like and drink that. People worry too much about what works. There are no real rules to wine — just make sure you're drinking in moderation. Another misconception is sticking with what's familiar. A lot of people will walk into a wine store and get intimidated by all the bottles, regions and choices, and the natural instinct is to grab what you're familiar with and go. That's why I designed my displays to be less intimidating. As a wine sommelier, I'm trained to help people choose pairings. I like to share my knowledge and organize things to make you take a step out of the familiar and into the unknown.

What makes some of the wines you offer so special?

I have a chemical engineering background and was intrigued by the chemistry aspect of wine. I started drinking it and realized that wine from one vineyard can taste totally different than that from a vineyard right next door. To find great wines that really express their flavor, man's involvement should be minimal. I try to bring in as many sustainably produced wines as possible, including a lot of the European wines. I choose wines from vineyards that do what's right for the land and have done so for generations. My experience as a sommelier allows me to narrow down your options to what I think are some of the best, and from there, the choice is yours.

Describe your zen wine experience and the one wine that captures the spirit of Charlotte.

My zen wine experience would be me sitting on a beach somewhere with my feet in the sand and a bottle of white chilled next to me — probably a nice chilled riesling or albarino from Spain. Not swirling or analyzing, just slowly sipping, enjoying the day. As for the wine that captures the spirit of Charlotte, I would have to go with the Frog's Leap cabernet. It's structured and rigid but a little soft around the edges. At first impression, it has a little funkiness, but when you sit with it for a while, you start to see where some of its bright eccentricities are.

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