The vino therapist: Master of Wine Tim Hanni has made it his life's mission to help consumers defy commonly held beliefs surrounding wine enjoyment. Still think you should drink white with fish and red with steak? No, Hanni writes in his new book, "Why You Like the Wines You Like: Changing the Way the World Thinks About Wine" (New Wine Fundamentals). Rather, Hanni helps enthusiasts evaluate their palates based on everyday preferences for things such as salt, milk and coffee. He encourages consumers to drink the wines they like with the foods they like (what a concept!). Catch his presentation at Women for WineSense's event, Wine on America's Holiday Table. The event runs 5:30-9 p.m. Dec. 12 at Markham Vineyards, 2812 St. Helena Highway North, St. Helena. Details: $95, includes a tasting of five wines and a multicourse dinner by Wine Valley Catering; www.timhanni.com.

Winter on the wine road: If your New Year's resolution is to get up to Sonoma more often, what better opportunity than the 22nd Annual Winter WINEland on Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday Weekend, Jan. 18 and 19. Meet winemakers, taste limited production wines, new releases and library wines at more than 180 wineries in northwest Sonoma County, including Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley. Some wineries will also offer food and wine pairings. Details: $45 weekend, $35 for Sunday only and $5 for designated drivers, i.e., nondrinkers, plus service charge and tax. Tickets may be purchased at wineries the weekend of the event, but prices will be $60 for the weekend, $45 for Sunday and $10 for designated drivers. www.wineroad.com.

Mmm, microbes: A new UC Davis study debunks the widely accepted belief that terroir -- a vineyard's unique blend of soil, water and climate -- sculpts the flavor and quality of wine. Results from DNA sequencing revealed that there are patterns in the fungal and bacterial communities that inhabit the surface of wine grapes, and these patterns are influenced by vineyard environmental conditions. In other words, the microbes on wine grapes have their own terroir. Confused?

As noted microbiologist David Mills in the Department of Viticulture and Enology explained in a news release, "The study results represent a real paradigm shift in our understanding of grape and wine production, as well as other food and agricultural systems in which microbial communities impact the qualities of the fresh or processed products."

He said further studies are needed to determine whether these variations in the microbial communities produce detectable differences in the flavor, aroma and other chemically linked sensory properties of wines. The findings appear online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Learn more at www.pnas.org, or simply ponder the data over a glass of wine.

-- Jessica Yadegaran