Archive for August, 2010

Through the wine glass…and other tales of wine tasting

August 5, 2010

There is often a lot of discussion controversy about the use of specific wine glasses in wine tasting; does a wine glass make a difference in how a wine tastes?  Does size really matter?  Or in this case, does SHAPE matter more?  Personally, I think that size and shape are critical for discovering the nuances in some of the finer wines, and particularly good Pinot.  Different shaped glasses aim the wine at different points in your mouth, therefore highlighting flavors more strongly than others.  All this with the shape of a glass.

But what do you do when you don’t want to have 17 individual wine glasses?  Is there really ONE glass that you can use for ALL red wine?  Or all white wine?  Not that I drink that much white wine these days… Personally, I have many all purpose wine glasses, but I still ensure that all of my Pinot Noir is served from Pinot specific glasses because I want to make sure that the subtleties of the wine are captured when I take a sip. I have often been in the situation where all wines are served in hotel type glassware, or “occasion” glassware – the kind you get at a wine festival for example, and not enjoying the wines I was recently at a bar having a glass of Pinot that was served in a small Chianti type glass, and it just left something wanting.  I know the wine was better than that.  Enter a different wine glass, and the expereince can dramatically change.  So, fo rthat purpose, I have many generic, mostly Bordeaux shaped glasses that I use for every day, a few different shapes of Pinot glasses, and a lot of event glasses that I avoid except for parties.

Andrea Robinson, wine expert and master sommelier, has developed a new wine glass called “The One” that promises to be the only wine glass you need.  There is one for red wine, and one for white one, and the red glass closely resembles some of the lesser known Pinot glasses I have seen.  To determine if I would be able to use just ONE glass for all of my red wine needed, I selected two control wines:

A Pinot Noir, because that is what I drink most of right now.  A Syrah, because that is the thing I drink when I’m not drinking Pinot Noir or Rose.

To control the taste test, I chose a Pinot Noir that I knew I liked.  I did that because I didn’t want to run the risk of opening a sample or a wine I wasn’t familiar with.  I also selected a Riedel Pinot Noir glass, the large classic Burgundy balloon, and a generic Pinot Glass that I got at Pinot Days last year.

I sipped.  I sniffed.  I tasted.  I sipped some more.

First:  The Riedel, my go to Pinot Glass, actually accentuated to omuch of the bitter spiecde and wood characteristics of the wine.  I was a bit mifed at this since I knew I loved this wine.

Next, I tried the generic Pinot Days glass.  mmmm there was my old friend, the rich spicy juicy raspberry Pinot.  That was more like it.

Finally, I tasted the wine out of Andrea’s glass.  Ok it was good, but the cherry berry cola accents were too strong for my taste.

Ok, let’s let the wine sit for bit.

Same thing.  So, score one for generic, zero for Andrea.

Next, my sample set was a syrah.  Again, a wine I know and love.  This time I selected a generic event glass, with the basic Bordeaux shape, but smaller.  I also selected a Cost Plus Connessieur stem, which is made by Spiegulau, which is now owned by Reidel.  Pretty much the same line up as the Pinot Noir blind sample.

For this wine, The One faired just as well as a generic tasting glass.  The wine was lovely, and the nuances of flavor were showing through.

One thing that I really love about these glasses, all shapes and sizes being said, is that they are tough.  I am really hard on my glasses.  I knock them over (frequently).  I bang them in my sink.  I crash them against

dishes.  The One did NOT break!  For that reason alone, I would buy some for general use.  At $50 for a set of 4, they are reasonable, especially if they last through a party or bashing them around.

The verdict:  If you are a Pinot Noir snob, I’d make sureyou have a couple of specialty glasses on hand for that purpose.  I am picky about my Pinot Noir glasses, and I do believe that different shapes impact how you percieve the flavor of a wine, particularly if you have  a developed palate.  the reason this happens is that different shapes target the wine on different centers of taste buds in your mouth.  There is a lot of controversy abuot these tounge maps, but I find that for me – it’s true.

If you’d like to try The One by Andrea Robinson for yourself, I have a set to give away, 1 white, 1 red.  Just leave a comment and tell me why you need a new wine glass!  I’d love it if you wrote about your opinion as well, but that’s not required.


Automatic Tasting Programs

August 3, 2010

It’s the week after the Wine Bloggers Conference, and I’m at home, recovering, and preparing for my new job to start.  As luck would have, I was invited to participate in the 2nd Blogger Tasting panel at Ridge Monte Bello, and headed on down to the mountains above Silicon Valley to see what Christopher Watkins, blogger and Chief Monte Bello Dude, had in store for us.

Christopher Watkins ponders the sanity of letting us inside...

We were greeted with a series of vertical tasting flights from the ATP series, which is the club only wine that Ridge produces.  These wines are winery direct, and are often only available to club members upon release, so this was really a special tasting.  We started with the 08 Mikulaco Chard, which is a small property on Monte Bello.  The fruit here is normally allocated to some of the other chardonnays that Ridge produces, and this is only the second vineyard select wine made from the vineyard.  There was vanilla, guava and tropical fruits, toasted caramel and a mineral finish of stone fruit, particularly peaches, and golden raspberries.  It is fermented in 15-20% new French Oak, with the remainder in 1-3 year old American oak.  I really appreciate a subtly oaked Chardonnay, and as you probably know I’m often a member of the ABC Club.  This was a bit to tropical for me, but enjoyable all the same.

Next up we move to the 02 Carignane from Buchignani Ranch. This is the northern most property Ridge sources from, and is only planted to zin and carignane, the old school field blend classics.  True to it’s nature, I tasted blueberries, blackberries, bay leaf (I know, but I swear I did!), bittersweet chocolate and an herbaceous tobacco finish.  Paired with the 02, we tried the 05 Carignane.  Again, there was a heavy herbal profile, with mint, eucalyptus, and spice box, and a bright berry bust with a tannic backbone.  It was quite spicy and showed a fair bit of earth.  Finally, we had the 08.  This was much fruitier, with smoky blackberry, bright purple color, and juicy red berries.

Next up, we went rogue Rhône leaving Sarah Palin at home – with the Fity-Fity.  This is my pet name for the SyrahGrenache blend from Lytton Springs, and I think they should relabel it, don’t you?  I meanr really.  With the blackberry pie and fig spice on the 06, this could be dessert.  I also tasted chipotle chocolate, coffee, and dried blueberries.  YUM!  I could drink this all day.  In fact, I need to arrange this.  Paired with the 06 we tried the older 05.  This was much earthier, with dark mushrooms, smoke, and stewed fruit.  I didnt’ care for it at first, but I left some in my glass for a bit and ti grew on me.  still, the 06 won my heart.  BUY  the 05 just needs some air so TRY

Ah syrah.  Where have you been my whole life!  First, the 03 Lytton West.  With 9% viognier co-fermented, this is an old school Rhone classic.  The aromatics of the viognier add to the loganberry and chocolate flavors with jasmine and honeysuckle notes.  It’s little sister the 05 was smokey and spicy, and much more subdued with more fruit and less complexity.  For this reason, I give the 03 a STRONG BUY and the 05 a HOLD.

Big Love means Petite Sirah.  This sneaky grape, aslso known as Durif, makes for some wild wine.  The 06 Dynamite Hills comes frmo 65 year old vines in York Creek, and I had a really hard time getting a nose.  It had some chewy smoked almond flavors, with salted plums (you know, those Asian dried salted thingys) and firm tannins.  Not my fave.  It’s 03 counterpart was more to my liking with blackberry and plum compote, with smoke and blackpepper, black fruit and spice.

Part of the joy of discovering wine is tasting the same wine, with different vintages, side by side.  I adore verticals, and you should try your own!  Wine is a living creature, and develops over time.  Something for the better, sometimes not, but how will you know unless you try?  See what happened to Dave Tong of Santa Cruz Mountains wine Blog when he tasted the older vintages?  I rest my case.

Of course, Dave's British so he's already a little crazy but...

I really love doing these pairings, and special thanks to Christopher for having us and putting out the good cheese!