Posts Tagged ‘wine tasting’
You’ve seen the classy black and red Riedel cartons at kitchenware retail. They have an elite aura and great appeal as gifts. But do you know the story behind them? The Riedel name and family has been synonymous with glassware for over 250 years and 11 generations. But it wasn’t until the 1960’s that the company began to focus in earnest on fine wine glasses. A handmade Sommeliers series was launched in 1973, introducing for the first time a revolutionary concept: that glass size and shape directly affects the wine inside.
The current generation, Georg Riedel, took the idea further by developing “varietal-specific” glasses to enhance individual wine varietals. Today, Riedels’ Vinum glasses are machine-made, making varietal-specific tasting more affordable and accessible to wine lovers everywhere.
Riedel Tasting @Trione Vineyards & Winery
I participated in a Riedel seminar recently at Trione Winery in Geyserville, CA. Trione produces fine wines from the Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley of northern Sonoma county. The Trione portfolio is perfect for the Riedel tasting experience. Each of vintner Scot Covingtons’ wines is true to it’s varietal character while showing consistent quality and structure. Scot makes a Trione Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet, matching the 4-glass Vinum set.
Each place at the tasting table was set with 4 wine glasses, a water glass and a plastic “Joker” glass. The 4 glasses comprise Riedel’s Vinum set:
- Burgundy/Pinot Noir
- Sauvignon Blanc/Dessert Wine
Wine Delivery System
Riedel speaks of a glass as a complete wine delivery system. The Chardonnay glass delivered the pure fruit, refreshing acidity, light oak, and warm finish of the Trione Russian River Valley Chardonnay. The wide rim and deep bowl harmonizes these four strong characteristics into a balanced whole, with no one overpowering the others. As a test, we poured some Chardonnay from its glass into a narrow Sauvignon Blanc glass. The oak had no room to breathe, and the taste was completely off. Same wine, completely different taste experience. And of course, when we poured Chardonnay into the Joker glass, there was virtually no aroma, and no sense of oak in the mouth.
We went through a similar ritual with the Trione Sauvignon Blanc. The Riedel glass delivered crisp fruit and yeast directly to the taste receptors from a narrow rim, narrower bowl, tall-stemmed glass (keeping the heat of the hand away from the wine). In contrast, the Pinot Noir glass has a wide bowl with a narrower rim, bringing the fruit quickly to the top, as in “fruit forward”. Pinot Noir in the Sauvignon Blanc glass was a real disaster. The narrow delivery system passed the wine straight through to the back of the palette where the bitter receptors are. Hard to believe it was the same wine.
We also had a lesson in decanting and cleaning of wine glasses. Riedel recommends using no soap, rinsing wine glasses in very hot water and drying with a non-linty towel (microfiber works well). Towels can be boiled in hot water or washed without detergent to keep fragrances away from contact with the porous glass.
Find yourself a Riedel Seminar
Varietal glassware completely changed my tasting experience and awareness. I highly recommend the Riedel Seminar, and it’s also a great way to start your collection of varietal glasses. Each Riedel tasting includes the 4-glass Vinum set. To find a Riedel seminar near you, do a google search.
Better yet, come to Barrel Tasting Weekend on Sonoma’s Wine Road. Trione Winery and over 100 other wineries open their cellars and barrels for 2 weekends in March. The March 5th Barrel Tasting weekend pass is available with a Riedel seminar (and glasses). Tickets here.
As contributing editor Katherine Parker wrote earlier this week in her article on Wine Goings-on in and around town of Sonoma August 7-8th, Simple Hedonisms has teamed up with the ten artisanal wineries of the Eighth Street Enclave to offer two different drawings for free tickets.
This one-day event will feature both current and new releases as well as library offerings, barrel tastings, and food pairings. Tickets include all food and wine plus a souvenir wine glass. Even if you don’t win, for $30 its a heck of a value for a day out – try and have a quality date with food and wine for less than that!
Enter to Win a pair of tickets ($6o value) by responding in comments below to these three simple questions, which you can find by clicking on the wineries on from the main web page for Eighth Street Wineries.
- Whats the website price for the Ty Caton 2008 The Ridge George’s Malbec?
- What wine release from Tin Barn just won Double Gold medals at the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition 2010?
- Name either of the two two less common white wine Rhone releases from Parmalee Hill, named after Daughters. (White Rhone wines rock, branch out!)
A drawing at 1pm Friday August 6th will be held.
2. Second Chance to Win: Drawing from Simple Hedonisms Email Subscribers
This drawing will also be at 1pm this Friday.
Enjoy and Remember:
Winners and Attendees: enjoy the event and remember the four mantras of Simple Hedonisms for Wine Events:
- Drink/taste responsibly: Ten wineries pouring 3-4 wines adds up to a lot. Consider paying that unemployed summer teen a few dollars to drive you around!
- Dump/Spit: If you are serious about wine tasting to experience and compare wines; consider learning to use a spit cup, as industry people do, or dump regularly wine you don’t wish to consume. If you had four 1 oz tastes at two wineries, that’s already two full glasses. Its scientifically proven that your sensory analysis is impaired; you have gone from tasting to drinking. (Which if following rule 1 is fine, have fun.)
- Its a Business, Not a Charity: These are small wineries who stay in business by selling their product, not large corporations. Think $30 covers their costs for an event like this? Not even close. Try a wine you like, purchase a bottle to take home. Many of these wines will only be available at the winery anyway.
- Bring a Cooler: In summer months, load up a cooler in the car with a few beverages and a place to store your purchases, even at a event like this where all wineries are close. Heat is like kryptonite to wine.
Sonoma Valley and surrounds are characterized by family-owned wineries large and small. Here are a few weekend events offering a chance to taste artisan and estate wines of some of Sonoma’s family vintners. You’ll find the winemakers on hand to answer your questions too. (Check Simple Hedonisms for tips on how to plan for a day of wine-tasting.)
August 7 – 11:00am-4:00pm. On Saturday August 7 you can taste wines from 10 artisan wineries matched with top-notch food pairings, converse with the winemakers, even meet the winery dogs – all in one warehouse complex in Sonoma. Over the past year, Sonoma’s 8th Street Wineries collective has grown from 8 to 10 wineries, representing at least 15 different varietals – most of them Sonoma-grown. The wineries are independently owned, most wines are limited production, and many of them are unavailable to taste – other than a at few exclusive restaurants. This bi-annual open house is a chance to experience hard-to-find wines and the unique personality of each winery warehouse. You’ll find the winemaking philosophy of each producer reflected in their workspace.
Doors open at 11:00am when you pick up your “Passport” and enjoy some tasting at renowned MacRostie Winery. After visiting MacRostie, cross the street to visit 9 more wineries. Get your Passport stamped at each winery, and submit it for the wine raffle when you leave. Three names will be selected to receive 3 half-case selections from the 8th Street Wineries.
Rosso Pizzeria will bring their wood-fired pizza oven for pairings at Tin Barn and Kamen Estate. Sage Fine Foods of nearby Cornerstone Sonoma, and John McReynolds — chef and olive oil meister at new 8thStreet winery Stone Edge Farms — are among the other purveyors. Each warehouse sets up their own food station, so expect some yummy surprises.
Eighth Street Wineries is an informal collective comprised of [winery/winemaker]:
- Anaba Wines /Jennifer Marion
- Enkidu Wines / Phil Staehl
- Kamen Estate Wines / Mark Herold, Katy Wilson
- MacRostie Winery and Vineyards / Steve MacRostie
- Parmelee-Hill Wines and Vineyards / Steve Hill
- Stone Edge Farms / Jeff Baker
- Talisman Wines / Scott Rich
- Three Sticks Winery / DonVan Staaveren
- Tin Barn Vineyards / Michael Lancaster
- Ty Caton Vineyards / Ty Caton
Many awards and accolades are attributed to this collective of wineries. For instance, Tin Barn was awarded 5 medals at this years’ San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, including a Double Gold for their 2007 Zinfandel from Russian River Valley. In recent news, new member Kamen Estate was cited in a New York Times article on California Syrah.
Current releases, new releases, library wines and barrel tastings are offered. The price of $30 per person ($20 for wine club members of any 8th Street winery) includes tastings, pairings, and a souvenir wine glass. Parking is free and once parked, you can walk from winery to winery. Each winery will also have special discounts running this day. The most recent open house in February drew over 700 guests. I was there and can’t wait to return. The quality of the wines, enhanced by foods and conversations with the winemaking families make this a memorable experience. Come early for best selection and savory food pairings. Purchase advance tickets here.
Tip: Check back with Simple Hedonisms on Tuesday August 3rd for a contest to win free tickets!
August 7th and 8th, 12:00-5:00pm. This year’s Barrel Tasting will be held at the Muscardini Estate ~ Monte Terra, where guests can enjoy an afternoon in the courtyard, by the koi pond and under the oaks. Tickets are a steal at $20 – including a tour of the Estate Sangiovese vineyard, live music, delectable food and wine pairings, and special wine discounts. 2009 futures from the barrel as well as current releases will be tasted. Buy tickets here.
August 7 at 7:00pm. Saturday is Movie Night at Sonoma’s Gundlach Bundschu Estate Winery. This evening features the 1996 film Swingers. Gun Bun’s annual night under the stars features a high-energy local band at 7pm, followed by the movie at dusk. Bring a picnic and a blanket and enjoy an evening under the stars. Wines available for purchase. $10/pp advance tickets to film; $15/pp tickets at door. Buy tickets here.
August 8th, 6:00-10:00pm. Sonoma’s own Epicurean Connection hosts an evening of food, wine, dancing to live music that is sure to be PRIMAL! Lolis Eric Elie, a New Orleans based writer and filmmaker and recognized expert on New Orleans food and culture, is the author of Smokestack Lightening: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country and co-producer of the documentary based upon the book. Elie most recently joined the staff of the HBO series Treme. He also produced and wrote the PBS documentary Faubourg Treme.
Memphis Minnies, The Epicurean Connection & Wild Thyme Catering and Events will cook a Barbecue dinner. Highway 12 Winery and Vineyards & Spann Vineyards will pour their wines, and beer will be available from Moonlight Brewing Company & Uncommon Brewers. Local group The Hellhounds will play for dinner and dancing. The event will be held at Wild Thyme. Cost is $45 per person, and includes screening, dinner and dancing. Tickets are available at The Epicurean Connection, Wild Thyme & Readers’ Books in Sonoma. For more information, call 707-935-7960 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Proceeds from this event benefit Southern Foodways Alliance.
2010 Wine Road Barrel Tasting: Article 3 of 4
It’s almost here! The first weekend of Wine Road Barrel Tasting. Yes its TWO weekends: if you live in the Bay area and love wine, plan for both weekends, at only $30 a weekend, it’s the best bargain in town! (Personally I think the price is too low, but that’s me.)
What exactly is barrel tasting?
Won’t licking barrels give me splinters?
In all seriousness, consumers can benefit in understanding the underlying premise that shapes this 32 year old Wine Road event.
(For additional insight, you may also want to reference more recent article My thoughts on Wine Road Barrel Tasting. )
What Barrel Tasting Is:
The premise of barrel tasting was to let consumers have a sneak preview to an early wine still in production, and in some cases (not all) also buy ‘Futures’ or advance sales of the future release, at a discount, or in cases of allocation, ahead of release. This is a win-win; the consumer can save substantial money on varietals or brands they buy regularly. The winery gets cash earlier in the process. Cash flow has always been key to winery operations, and certainly is as important as ever in today’s financial climate.
What Barrel Tasting Isn’t:
What it isn’t meant to be: a drunk-fest. This event obtained a bit of a reputation for being a party festival (in part to the low ticket cost); which is a shame, given its deep tradition and intent. I implore consumers to have fun, behave respectably. All in all the number of incidents are few, but it only takes one to sour everyone’s experience. This isn’t charity folks – many of the Wine Road wineries are small business, family owned, working long hours as artisans to make a living. They are here to pour for you and to ultimately sell some wine. Stick to Happy Hour for drinking specials and parties. Wineries shouldn’t hesitate to promptly deal with inappropriate behavior. FYI it’s a criminal offense, that can cause them to be shut down, to serve someone who is visibly impaired. There are a few extra California Highway Patrol on duty that day for the added safety of all, for those rare outbreaks of rash behavior.
Ok, What exactly am I Tasting?
Barrel samples are unfinished wine tastes, that’s why its coming from the barrel. I have heard complaints of ‘Its not good wine’ or ‘I don’t care for the taste.’ Look at what I just wrote – it’s unfinished. It may be nearly ready for bottling and taste familiar, it could be another year+ in barrel still. I do encourage everyone who is learning about wine (you never stop learning by the way) to try a few, experience it, and gain an appreciation for wine as it evolves and changes. Some wineries even do interesting things, like Kendall Jackson is, to sample the same pre-release of wine, in different barrel toasts, for comparison. Ask the winemaker questions; don’t worry about if it may seem basic – most wine makers love to share knowledge on wine making.
I think a few samples suffices for many; don’t hesitate to skip varietals (wine types) you don’t like, dump, or spit. You aren’t offending the wine maker, if anything he knows you are more serious taster then. So then why would I be going to wineries if I don’t try the barrel samples?
It’s ok to skip a barrel sample at some stops; all wineries are still pouring something else, and many offer food pairings and other fun activities.
Of course there is my usual diatribe on using a Spit Cup; both encouraging wineries to hand out, and people to use. After two winery stops, your palette is now influenced by alcohol and you are drinking, not tasting. At least dump wines you don’t like; wineries aren’t offended.
You can also consider driver services like WeDriveU, where bonded drivers drive you in your car. Similar local services can be seen posted on Craigslist (check references). For that matter, press your unemployed 18-24 year old into driving you around for a reasonable hourly rate, and buy them a $10 Wine Road DD bracelet.
Not all wineries participating in Barrel Tasting sell futures. There is additional work, tracking involved that some opt not to due. The reputed Wine Road King of Futures is David Coffaro Winery. If you are interested in futures, you should plan a stop here and check out the “Crazy Coffaro Futures Program.”
If you are new or hesitant on buying futures, start with wine producers whose wines you have drunk regularly, and know it appeals to your palette. (In which case you should consider the wine club anyway.) You may also be offered to compare the current release with the barrel sample – this is a another great way to buy samples, if a winery or winemaker is new to you.
Feel free to ask the wine maker questions: has the wine changed much in where the fruit came from? Russian River zin is very different than Dry Creek. Did the vineyard source change, even in the same appellation? Have you made any substantial changes to the wine production methods; barrel program, yeast, cold soak etc etc.
Ok, decided you like the wine, want to save some money, and stock up. (Usually a minimum purchase is required.) Now what? The winery will collect the money for the purchase, and record your name, contact information, and give you a receipt. Wineries keep good records, but as a precaution, SAVE it. If you use a online or smart phone calendar for reminders, put a reminder appointment now to prompt you for the expected pick up month, so you have peace of mind you won’t forget. The winery is of course going to contact you, but this way you are double covered.
When its ready for release, pick it up, crack open a bottle to celebrate the money you saved, and the support you gave to your favorite winery – win win!
Come back tomorrow for a special article on selected Wineries offering special incentives on sales of existing inventory (aka bottled wine.) Take advantage of special pricing and stock up now too!
It’s almost here! You can feel the excitement in the Social Networking circles of Facebook and Twitter, amongst the wine people. Tickets have been flying off the shelf, Beth Costa, Executive Director of the Wine Road reports.
In case you just emerged from a Rip Van Winkle like sleep, we are talking about this weekend’s wrist-banded tasting event, the Winter Wineland. Over 120 wineries, some only open for events and appointments, are offering special wine and food pairings, and a variety of entertainment, and wine specials. Online ticket sales are now closed, but you can purchase them at the door of any winery: At the door prices will be $50 Weekend, $40 Sunday Only, $10 for Designated Drivers.
Ok, 120+ wineries, 5 hours each day. HOW does one pick where to go? Some turn this into a marathon event to see how many they can fit in one day; others like to visit their favorites, and others like to try all new places. My personal preference is to fit 5-7 in a full day, with a mix of old and new. (Article 4 will be my iten.)
The Wine Road web site has some GREAT tools and tips to help you. Stop looking at Twitter and read carefully:
1. The full list of wineries and their offers.
NOT all wineries participate. In yesterday’s recommended stops, why didn’t I recommend say Iron Horse, or A. Rafanelli? Both great Wine Road wineries, but not participating in this particular event. Click HERE to open the 11 page PDF of the participating wineries and their offers. Read through these and look for things new, or interesting. The Wine Road has some new members as written in my first article, so check some of those out perhaps.
2. Use the Wine Road’s great Sorting guide.
The Wine Road web site has one of the best navigation tools for its members I have seen. If you click HERE you can use the drop down menus at the top to search by Wine Type, Region, or Amenities. One of my favorite things to do is to search for wineries, under amenities, that are open by appointment only and fit in a few of those. (Acorn, Siduri, Windsor would be good examples.) Make sure you reference the list you printed out in step one to see if they are participating! On a hunt for a new Pinot or Cab? Sort by varietal.
3. Plot them on the Wine Road’s great Maps
Ok, so you have marked off a bunch of stuff. Lets start to plot them on a map. If you are one of those marathon tasters, you don’t want stop one to be deep in Forestville, and stop two to be at the top of Geyserville. You can start first HERE at the main map page. This is an interactive map for each of the regions, and a special section for Healdsburg. Click on one of these and you enter into a detailed map for that appellation. This map is great because all of the member wineries are on it, and you can click on a winery, to launch to their own website.
During this stage of final planning, this is one of those times I actually (rare) prefer paper. If you don’t have one of their maps (get the new one, lots of new members!) you can look HERE online at the large overview map and save it as a PDF, which is what I’d recommend.
4. Support Members Old and New
There is often a buzz to try all the new wineries and members. I’d like to also recognize, and ask you support member wineries who have been supporting Wineland for over 18 years. Their ongoing support has been the backbone that helps everyone, and consumers and new wineries benefit from their foundation.
- Geyser Peak
- Field Stone
- Alexander Valley Vineyards
Other Tips in General
I have a number of suggestions from the Wine and Food Affair event article. All of these are still relevant – rather than repeat them all, take a quick read. The Wine Road Wine 101 section has lots of great educational reading, including a section on Wine tasting, all relevant, helpful info.
One of the common complaints of people who avoid multi-winery events, is wineries become too packed and you can’t experience it fully.
Its true, you likely aren’t going to get to engage the winemaker in a 30 minute passionate discussion of toasting techniques for barrels, this isn’t the time to wine geek if its busy. But generally the first hour or so is slow, then picks up, so start promptly at 11 at one that most interests you. Visit some off the beaten path. If you don’t like crowds, don’t hit the denser concentrations of wineries, like Healdsburg, at the Peak of the day.
Learning to use a spit cup that I carry around was one of the biggest improvements in my wine tasting experience. If you are serious about wine tasting and education, learn it. (I just don’t personally care for spitting into a bucket, especially at a busy event.) Its also ok, and recommended, to dump your taste if you don’t want to finish it. After the equivalant of less than 2 glasses of wine, 4-8 tastes, your palette and sensory evaluation abilities are diminished, at this point you are drinking, not tasting. And thats ok if thats what you want, and you have a driver. Just be cognizant. wrist banded events are meant to be fun, but not wild parties.
Space at the tasting bar, isn’t your personal manifest destiny. Share the space. Stand in columns, hug your loved one, maximize space so all can get their pour. Groups sprawled all over the bar like they own it are a big pet peeve.
This is a great chance to stock up on wines not sold retail, as well as take advantage of special offers many will have. If you really like something, buy it! Wineries aren’t charities, and these events cost them. Its also a great way to re-live the experience later when you open the bottle.
Hope you found these tips useful – cheers!
I hope everyone’s new decade is off to a good start, and less frenzied than mine!
This week’s question of the week is:
If you were steering a visitor during the Winter Wineland coming up in a few weeks, what wineries would you urge them to visit?
This is a great question, one that I will answer in a few different posts. But first, for the uninitiated, what is the Winter Wineland?
This is an annual event, hosted by the Wine Road, Northern Sonoma County. I have long sung the praises of this marketing organization, which represents 150+ wineries, in the appellations (wine regions) of Russian River, Alexander Valley, Green Valley, and Dry Creek Valley. I will write a follow-on article with tips to maximize enjoyment of this event, for now I refer to my posting on the last event, Wine And Food Affair, which still apply.
With over 120 wineries participating, there are any number of ways to decide where to go; by geography, by wine type, by food offerings, by wineries not open to public normal, by your normal favorites.Are you going for 1 day, or both? Generally, 4-5 in a day is about what you can expect to experience and enjoy, unless you are jamming through, spitting, and hitting denser clusters of wineries. Wine and wine country is to be enjoyed, and leisurely, go for quality of experience, not quantity.
As a rule of thumb, the first day of an event is ‘usually’ the busiest, and the mid afternoon on times are the craziest. Plan your stops accordingly, and make popular places your first, and lesser known ones perhaps later. Some wineries and their experience will resonate with you and make you sing like a bird, others may not make you all warm and fuzzy. I think it’s a good idea to save a winery you know will be a good experience to finish on, to end your day on a high note.
I highly recommend you print out and read the detailed (11 page) list of participating Wineries, and what they are offering. Live music, food pairings, library wines: each winery has unique offers.
This years Winter Wineland has a record number of participants (kudos to the wineries for solidarity.) I think it always good to visit some of the new participants to encourage them, especially if they are new to you. But don’t forget your favorites and the steadfast regular attendees.
I certainly have my own favorites wineries: for this posting I am going to highlight some of the new member wineries, many I have not yet explored. In a subsequent post, I will write about some of my favorites, and my planned itinerary. (Day 2 is mapped out, Day 1 still in progress.)
- D’Argenzio – this new member winery, is in Santa Rosa, and is an Italian family offer Italian varietals not commonly produced in this area, including Sangiovese, Muscato Canelli and Rossat, being tasted at a special event this Saturday. They also source and crush traditional Sonoma varietla like Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, etc.
- Robert Rue – new member winery, in Fulton. A family of Growers now also turned small wine producer – Currently offering a 2005 and 2006 Russian River Zin. < 800 cases, old Vine Zins. Be among the first to visit Bob and Carlene Rue’s “just opened” Tasting Room. Taste award-winning Zinfandels paired with Mushroom Soup prepared by winery chef Kathy Bradley, and hand-made truffles by Gandolf’s Fine Chocolates.
- Souverain – new member winery. Their gorgeous Cloverdale property is offering historic Asti Tours at 11:30 am,
1:00 pm and 2:30 pm
- New Members Hart’s Desire, J. Keverson, and the Hudson Street Wineries, visit 8+ wineries all side by side, right off downtown Healdsburg. Hart’s is offering a Mediterranean Lamb Stew that will pair wonderfully with their Red wine selections. (good Pinot!) (Make sure you go around and see Holdredge too. ) J. Keverson is offering a Chipotle-Squash Soup with Fresh
Rosemary and Toasted Pumpkin 2006 Hales Zinfandel.
- Freestone Vineyards – a little off the beaten track, this new member and newer winery has a comfortable home like tasting room, and makes great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Lounge around the fire, and enjoy!
Haven’t bought your tickets yet! $40 for two days of wine tasting and food pairings! Advance ticket sales end Jan 11th, and prices go up to $50 for the weekend, so get them soon.
Thanks for reading, and feel free to post any questions or comments. If you enjoy Simple Hedonisms, sign up for (secure, private) email notifications of new posts, in the top right, so you never miss a post!