Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wine Tasting For Beginners: How To Develop Your Wine Palate

The tricks to tasting wine are to start in a room without other odor or scents in it (e.g. no perfume, flowers, food).  If you concentrate better in silence then have the room be silent if you need background sound then do that, but don't try to carry on a conversation and identify flavors/scents at the same time.

Of course, the most important thing is to have a well developed palate and the best way to get that is practice, practice, practice.  You should practice with fresh produce, spices from a spice rack, flowers, and everything you eat.  Try to focus on smells and flavors when you are consuming them.  When the aroma of blossoms on your neighbor's tree wafts by try to retain that scent in your memory.  There are also kits that contain extracts of various scents associated with wine.  These are powerful tools, but very expensive (I've only seen them at colleges).  They really help because its one thing to identify the scents when the object is in front of you, but just having a vial of clear liquid makes your brain focus what the olfactory is picking up.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Robledo is by appointment only. So plan accordingly, except that their tasting room is as big if not larger than the average tasting room. So you could probably call on your way there. I didn't understand why it is by appointment only as there wasn't anything personalized about the tasting. The tasting room is a little nicer than the average bar style tasting room in that they have hand crafted wooden tables and chairs inside (large tables for groups and small tables for couples) as well as a counter. The staff was friendly but busy at 2pm on a Saturday. There are two flights of tastings: $5 for 5 tastes or $10 for 6 tastes of the more expensive wines. Each flight has one white and one Port. We shared one of each, but I didn't end up tasting all of them.

Friday, June 17, 2011


The tasting room is new, quite small, and there isn't a winery attached. We ate a couple sandwiches from Vineburg Deli on their patio which was very windy. The sandos were delicious. When I worked at Sebastiani back in 2008, I ate lunch at that deli two to three times a week. It is still a solid deli.

Anaba has 10 wines to taste and you pay $10 to taste 5 of your choice. The tasting fee is waived if you purchase a bottle. Here are my tasting notes for four of their wines. We also got their rosé, but I didn't try it because the tasting room attendant said it was sweet (the person I was with prefers sweet and off-dry whites). He later said it was dry to the customers that came in after us. I didn't taste it so I don't know, but I really don't like tasting room staff that change their descriptions for different customers.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Gloria Ferrer

As we walked up to Gloria Ferrer in their Spanish-styled building nestled into the hill, the wind was gusting. We were welcomed by a friendly staff. They informed us that instead of a normal tasting room experience, they operate like a wine bar. Which is a little unfortunate since I like to try several wines when I go wine tasting. They have their still wines priced for 2 oz tastes, full glass, and bottle. Unfortunately the sparkling wine is by the glass or bottle. I guess with a large enough group and sharing everyone could taste each bubbly without having to buy more than one glass. Judging by all the people there, this strategy has not hurt their business.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wine Tasting for Beginners: Tasting Rooms

For those who haven't been wine tasting, I highly recommend it.

Most wineries will let you taste a selection of their wines in their tasting room. Tasting rooms are usually on site, but some wineries (usually in remote locations) will have tasting rooms in high traffic areas. You usually get to try 4 to 7 wines with prices ranging from free to $20 for the tasting. Some places will waive the tasting fee if you buy a bottle, which I have always felt is the best business policy. A taste is usually around 1.5 oz. some places use automatic pour spouts which limit the pour to a specified amount while others free hand it which usually leaves you with more wine in your glass. So, when you break it down you are usually getting about 2 glasses of wine for $10 which is cheaper than most wine bars.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Why I Dislike Numbered Wine Rating Systems

Here is an example of why I dislike numbered rating systems. Here is a description for a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc that was rated 89 which is a great score for a $12 wine:

"Oceanic and mildly green on the nose, with grassy notes and appealing citrusy scents. The palate is juicy, crisp and zesty, with flavors of fresh lettuce, lime and green herbs. Finishes light and pretty." - Wine Enthusiast

Now, if I just saw the score I'd probably pick up the bottle. However there isn't much that is appealing to me in the description. I've never seen oceanic in tasting notes before, but it brings to mind a salty drying seaweed smell which isn't very appetizing to me. I'm also not into grassy, green flavors in my wines, but I do know that some people like them so I can't really fault that. I haven't tasted this so I can't tell you the structure or the finish, but at 89 with those flavors they better be phenomenal!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Leth 2009 Grüner Veltliner Klassik, Austria

Leth 2009 Grüner Veltliner Klassik
from Fels Am Wagram, Austria

I picked this one up on my recent trip to Berlin. It cost about 10 euros. The funniest part about this wine, other than the name, is that when it is a little too cold it smells exactly like Martinelli's apple juice. This wine is in the trocken style which means it is dry. It is a medium tier of quality known as qualitätswein. For Leth, "klassik" seems to have the same connotation "estate" does for Californian wineries.