wine tasting

Be a wine pro (or how to fake it)

Let me start this off with a little good news/bad news. The bad news is, no how-to article will teach you how to be a wine pro. The good news is, the only way to talk about wine & sound like you have a clue is to: 

1. DRINK MORE WINE. 

It is 100% true that whenever I taste a new wine I learn something. It can be anything from a new combination of flavors that I love, to ‘Oh wow, this wine compliments what I’m eating so well.’, to ‘OMG, I definitely never want to drink this again.’ 

You can read books about wine, and flavor profiles of different wines. A simple Pinterest search will bring you an info graphic that tells you that the flavor profile of a particular Cabernet has red currant notes with some tobacco on the back, along with a leathery mouthfeel. I’m here to tell you that the light will not go on until one day you experience that leathery mouthfeel. The bottom line: it doesn’t take a lot of work. Just drink. 

2. Listen to the guy at the store.

This tip will usually work if you’re buying your wine at a reputable place. In general, most serious wine drinkers will love to tell you about their favorites, recent finds, and what they would drink with certain meals. If you have a general idea of what you’re looking for (i.e. a wine to go with some steaks I’m grilling, a good wine to take on a picnic) they will generally steer you in the right direction. Example: one summer I walked into my local spot looking for a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand (if you’re looking for a refreshing summer wine, this is a great choice). My spot had 6 of them; so I asked the guy which one he would recommend. Without hesitation, he recommended Kim Crawford. I told him if it was terrible, I would be back to give him a piece of my mind. He laughed & told me I wouldn’t be. He was right. It was excellent & Kim still holds a spot in my summer wine rotation. 

3. Experiment 

Try different wines with different foods. It’s fun, and every once in awhile you will have a ‘there’s a party in my mouth’ moment. And it will be glorious. Many wineries and higher-end shops will offer hands-on events where they pair their wines with different foods. I once hosted one with aphrodisiacs that was outside the box, but a fun way to spend an evening.

4. Don’t follow the rules.

Are there “rules” for wine? Sure. But much like ‘don’t wear white pants after Labor Day’ you don’t have to follow them. Drink what you like. If you only like sweet white wine, then drink it with your steak if that’s what makes you happy. If you want to put a couple of ice cubes in your Chardonnay, ignore the side-eye and do it. Don’t like room temperature red wine? Chill that puppy in the fridge for a bit. 

For more wine, food, and snark follow my Pinterest feed! 

What’s in my glass: WBC Row Hard Root Beer and Blumenhof Chambourcin AKA: The night I forgot to drink the wine…

Had dinner with some friends Friday night. Bleu Cheese stuffed burgers, spinach salad, pasta salad, fries for the kidlets. I, naturally brought the booze and my daughter prepared her “precious little apple babies” for dessert.

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Here’s a pic of the booze I brought…

On the left is a growler of Row Hard Root Beer from Weston Brewing Company.  On the right, Blumenhof Winery’s 2012 Chambourcin. The Chambourcin was given to me by a grateful co-worker for whom I covered a shift. She did some detective work and figured out that Chambourcin is one of my favorite varietals. I thought it would be the perfect compliment to the yummy bleu cheese burgers. The root beer is getting a ton of great word of mouth, and my friend’s hubby is something of a “drink geek” so I thought it would be fun to try…

We cracked open the growler. In preparation for it’s sampling my hosts had graciously provided chilled glasses. We poured three glasses and resumed pre-dinner chatting. I was happy to find that the root beer did not disappoint. I’m not sure quite what I was expecting– beer with a slight root beer flavor? But this tasted JUST LIKE ROOT BEER. Which I love. There was a very slight beer-ish aftertaste. But it was quite delicious. In fact, I believe one of the first statements I made after tasting it was that if O’Malley’s Pub was not serving root beer floats made with Row Hard that they were really missing the bus. Guys, if you are not, MAKE THIS HAPPEN.

The mishap of the night was that I enjoyed the root beer so much that I poured myself a second glass and completely neglected to taste the Chambourcin. I did give it a sniff when I was first uncorked. The nose was unremarkable. Some fruit, a good bit of oak, the earthiness that I enjoy so much in a Chambourcin was all but nonexistent in the bouquet. It was also much lighter-bodied than other Chambourcins I have enjoyed. I am disappointed to say that’s all I can offer in review of this wine. But I have learned my lesson. Never will I forget to taste the wine again. You have my word.

Update: I spoke to Corey Weinfurt from Weston Brewing Company this morning and he offered me a bit of insight on the Row Hard Root Beer as well as the Pedal Hard Ginger Beer, which were both collaborations with The Root Sellers. These have been in development for about a year, the Pedal Hard released in June, the Row Hard available this month on tap (and in growlers). In the coming months they should be available for purchase in 6-packs. I am very excited to try the Pedal Hard as well and will be bringing my growler over for it soon! 

Credit to The Root Sellers for the pic of the taps at the UNICO Microbrew Festival at Zona Rosa.

Wino Field Trip: Sideways Roundtable at Weston Wine Company

Soon after I completed my last Wino Field Trip post the opportunity for another one came up. A friend, and fellow professional wino mentioned an event at the winery she pours at: Weston Wine Company. I’m always game for 1) trying new wines and 2) checking out interesting events that will let me try new wines so I headed over to check it out once I finished pouring for the day.

Disclaimer: I am not a fan of Sideways. In my line of work people are constantly asking if they can drink the dump bucket and giggling and saying things like “Just like in Sideways— heh heh heh…” For an entire year I heard this, having never seen the movie. Unable to find the movie, I read the book. Finally, one day a customer actually mailed me his copy of the DVD. Perhaps I need to revisit the movie, but I just don’t get what all the hype is about… but I digress…

This event is the first in a series of quarterly “book club” events. When we arrived we each received a packet with book notes, a listing of the Sideways inspired foods being served, and tasting notes on the five Sideways connected wines we would be tasting as well as an order sheet (should we want to take home any of the wines) and a coupon for a free glass of wine.Then we were pointed in the direction of a table of Sideways inspired grub: Tri-Tip, Pinto Beans, Garlic Bread, and Strawberries (with angel food cake!) Once we filled our plates, it was onto the wines!

Alta Maria Sauvignon Blanc 2011

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This was the first stop on our Sideways tour. Alta Maria’s tasting room is located right next door to the Los Olivos Cafe where the quartet dine in the movie. This vineyard also has a personal connection for Weston Wine Company owner Colleen Gerke, a California girl, as she attended high school with the viticulturist. The only white wine of the night, this was a soft, tropical, Sauvignon Blanc with notes of honeydew melon at the start with subtle citrus rind behind and ending with slight mineral tones. It was especially tasty with the strawberries.

Byron Pinot Noir 2012

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Next, was the first of two (of course) Pinot Noirs. In Sideways, Jack is drinking a Byron in the car on the way to wine country. The movie Byron is a bubbly that is no longer produced, but since this is Sideways, a Pinot Noir is an acceptable substitute. It was a fairly typical Pinot Noir, with red fruit notes, some slight spice, and smokiness. Pleasant between bites of tri-tip.

Vinum Cellars Pinot Noir 2011

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Here’s my actual tweet about this wine. I actually wrote the words “wear like cologne” in my tasting notes. Juicy, ripe cherry, on a backdrop of earthy vanilla. Layered and complicated. Just like me. 🙂 Funny Sideways tie-in too: apparently these grapes are grown near where Miles throws a fit and gets out of the car in the film.

Fess Parker Frontier Red

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So Fess Parker (AKA Fass Canyon) is where the infamous dump-bucket-drinking scene (AKA the bane of my existence) takes place. Fess Parker was the actor who played Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone in the 50’s and 60’s and this is his winery. We sampled the Frontier Red which is a blend including Syrah, Mouvedre and others. In the film, Miles is not a fan of this wine, which had a nice flavor of caramelized fruit, but heavy-handed oak.

Zaca Mesa Z Cuvée 2009

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Zaca Mesa is up the street from Fess Parker (of wine-bucket-drinking fame) and the Z Cuvée is a Syrah, Grenache, Mouvedre blend and an old favorite of WWC owners Jason & Colleen Gerke. Inspired by the wines of Côtes du Rhône, this wine had aromas of plum, unique spice notes reminiscent of gingerbread, and a toasty oak finish.

Despite the fact that there was “no effing Merlot“– (I don’t care what Miles says, I like Merlot) I’m glad that I checked out this event, and double-glad that no one thought it would be funny to drink the dump bucket. I’ve got What to Drink With What You Eat all loaded in my Nook (it was already on my Goodreads list) to prep for the next “Book Club” night on 10/25.

 

Wino Field Trip: Windy Wine Co.

 I had heard about this winery several years ago, but while I was checking out the list of 2014 Missouri Governor’s Cup winners something jumped out at me and I knew I would have to make the trip (just about an hour from my home) and check out what these guys were doing for myself. What was the gamechanger? Peanut Butter and Jelly Wine. It brought home the GOLD. I needed to go and experience this wine for myself.

Being in the wine-selling business makes it challenging to go and check out other local wineries; and to find friends who aren’t working to accompany you. Last Friday worked out perfectly. Dropped the kidlets at summer camp for the weekend, grabbed a girlfriend who was willing to sham out of work for the day, and made the pilgrimage out to Osborn, MO

We were doorbusters, as in we arrived just as they were opening at 11AM. The tasting room is where their vines are, so it’s kind of remote but lovely. I had my game face on and was ready to taste some wines!

Here are some highlights:

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Tyrannosaurus Red brought home a Silver Medal from the 2014 Missouri Governor’s Cup

Tyrannosaurus Red: This wine has a lot going on. That’s actually what I said when I took my first sip. It’s a blend of Norton (the Missouri state grape and not usually my favorite) and Chambourcin (another locally-grown grape with a delicious earthiness to it). T-red is aged in American, French, and bourbon barrel oak. According to Kraig, the vintner, the bourbon barrel imparts flavors of “rich vanilla and smooth toasted spices”. What I really enjoyed about the T-red was its complexity- layer upon layer of flavors. An undertone of soft earthiness, then vanilla, spice box, black pepper, and cherry notes each take their turn on your palate. A bottle of this one followed me home!

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White Chocolate Strawberry won a Bronze Medal at the 2014 Missouri Governor’s Cup

White Chocolate Strawberry: This wine had me skeptical. First of all, I detest white chocolate. Really, it’s not even chocolate at all. According to the FDA a chocolate should contain cocoa solids as well as cocoa butter. Also, in the realm of all berries, strawberries are probably my least favorite. Strawberries aren’t actually berries either, but that’s another blog post. I was fully prepared to have my friend, who likes both of these things, evaluate this wine more fairly than I could. Boy, did this wine prove me wrong. The strawberry wine was just sweet enough, and just tart enough. Like eating an actual strawberry. The white chocolate was more of a mouthfeel than a flavor. A slight sweetness, behind the strawberry and a softness in your mouth at the end. A very nice surprise.

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Peanut Butter and Jelly brought home a Gold Medal at the Missouri Governor’s Cup!

Peanut Butter and Jelly: I was so excited to try this wine. In fact, it was a big part of the reason I made the trip. What an unusual, creative idea! Last year, when I was doing wine pairings for the Missouri Wine passport program, I was pairing Concord wine with peanut butter pie! I was all over this! Just for the record, I have no idea how I felt like there was actually peanut butter on the roof of my mouth at the end of this wine. Here is the tweet I sent after my tasting: 

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Mmmhmm, Definitely brought one of these home…

We were also fortunate enough to try a sample of the Mango Mead that wasn’t even bottled yet (nice and summery) and it was super-nice of them let us test-run a Mediterranean platter of pita, crackers, hummus, veggies, and feta.

The munchies they hooked us up with! You had me at hummus....

The munchies they hooked us up with! You had me at hummus….

We are already planning our return trip to try out some of the fall wines such as Campfire Mead (I’m told it tastes like toasted marshmallow!) and to let our men try some of the beers they have available brewed by Black Belt Brewing Co. I’m not a beer gal, mind you, but I really liked the Ninja Breakfast, a milk stout that had a gentle flavor and was not overly heavy. 

Thank you for your hospitality Windy Wine Co –you’ll be seeing me again soon!