Wine Tastings all the time!!!

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This past week has been a crazy week of wine tastings- I loved it!  I love to do wine tastings.  To help people enjoy and understand it a little better wine, while at the same time just having a good time!  French wine, after all, is about the community you drink it with…  I have been doing wine tastings for almost 5 years now and every time it is a different group, different dynamic, different wine, but always a great time!

Wine, especially French wine, can come across as perplexing, pretentious and intimidating- especially if you taste with someone who calls himself or herself a ‘sommelier’.  Now, while I am technically allowed to use the word sommelier and have passed exams to earn that title- I often don’t.  I enjoy making wine something accessible to everyone.  I enjoy breaking down the barriers of ‘correct’ and ‘right and wrong’ techniques when tasting.  It should be about what each person finds within the glass.  The glass, by all measures, is constantly changing.  From the time the grapes in the vines are picked, to the fermentation process, to the bottle, to the continued changing in the glass, the wine is constantly changing.   Wine for each person will present itself differently, and in that same idea, every person is different.  We cannot all claim to smell and taste the same thing.

I, as a sommelier, will guide you- but I choose not give you the answers. 

After all these tastings, I am constantly surprised at how people find different smells and tastes.  This past week someone described the smell of a wine as ‘like a carrot being pulled from the ground’.  I loved that!  I will often say that a wine smells like Pike’s Place Market in Seattle, Washington because I worked there for a year and remember smelling the fresh flowers at the beginning of the day and then the stomped on flowers at the end of the day.  For me there are some wines that remind me of that smell.  To each person, wine will change and bring about different memories.  I can’t teach someone what a fresh pulled carrot smells like, nor can I explain Pikes Market at the end of the day.

It is my memory.

French wine is perplexing, but if we start with our own palate and our memories we can begin to discover French wines in a new way.  We can begin to discover what specific tastes about wine we like and how they might differ from other people’s palate.  I love to start with the palate.  With the basic question- do you like the wine?  Yes or no.  After this we start the tasting by trying to answer the very basic, yet much more complex to answer, questions of – why or why not?

This past week I have had the joy to do three large group wine tastings- a total of about 60 people.  All different palates, all different smells, all different dynamics.  It was great!  I hope to get a small post of each of the wines tastings this weekend… until then Happy Easter!

Gerard Metz 2011 Pinot Gris

gerald metz 2011 pinot gris

Domaine Gerard Metz 2011 Pinot Gris

You know what I love about Pinot Gris… its simple.  So incredibly complicated, but simple and easy to the palate.  It’s a grape not very well known outside the regions that produce it.  Coming from a clone of Pinot Noir, the varietal is planted mainly in the Alsace of France, Germany, and Italy as Pinot Grigio (however it can be found in other places as well).  This particular wine came from the Alsace region of France.

Gerard Metz makes some outstanding Reisling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris.  I drank this 2011 Pinot Gris accompanied by some toasted fois gras and seared scallops.  It was delicious!  The Pinot Gris was bright for being a grape with some creamy undertones.  The nose was fresh apricots with a little floral undertone… I wanna say like lily, but my floral smell abilities are somewhat pathetic these days.  My apologies, I am working on it.  Anyway, it had a great balance of acidity with fruit and a rounder that I love.  Normally in France they drink sweet wine with fois gras, but for my personal taste, that is a little too rich for me.  So I went with this Pinot Gris and was not disappointed!  It was great!

PS! This is a bottle you can usually find in the states- mainly east coast people, but look around west coasters!  And enjoy!

Domaine de la Mugnière 2008 Santenay

Santenay 2008

So, I have to say right away, that Burgundy makessome amazing wine, however they might be the most complicated region in France for me.  I will not lie to you- my confidence when it comes to writing about Burgundy plummets.   But I will try!

My husband and I were having dinner at a lovely little restaurant in Lyon, called Ponts et Passerelles and we were introduced to Domiane de la Mugnière.  We tried their Maranges (another hidden treasure) and were so impressed my husband ventured out to the their domaine and surprised me with a case of the Maranges and Santenay!  Lots of brownie points for him!

Santenay is one of those hidden areas in the southern most part of the Côte de Beaune. Usually, when we think of great Pinot Noirs we think of the Côte d’Or- and with reason!  However, for those us not yet able to afford Côte d’Or wines on a regular basis we need to find other options- either a low cut dress and a creepy or man or (and this is more my style) try smaller regions that focus more on the history rather than the marketing.  Santenay (and Maranges) are, in my humble opinion, two regions where you can find affordable pinot noir with a great elegance!

The Santenay I had last night was wonderful!  When drinking Burgundy reds, it is hard to find the maturity we desire in their younger wines, they almost all require a minimum of 7-10 years in the bottle before drinking.  I was most pleasantly surprised to open this 2008 and find a roundness and fruit-forwardness that I would normally only find in older wines.  It was great!  The tannins smooth and soft, yet there was still a complexity to the wine that gives me the impression it will be drinkable for another 10 years.

I think I will have to try the Maranges tonight….

La Rose des Tuileries 2010 Lalande de Pomerol

La Rose des Tuileries

Last night was one of those nights where you just want to go home and have a nice, easy drinking bottle of wine with a friend and chat.  Not think too much, but just hang out.  Thank goodness for me, my friend was to the rescue with a beautiful bottle of La Rose des Tuileries 2010.  Now just some background about Lyon, living in this region usually means a lot of Rhone Valley wines.  In general, and I am being general, I find that most of the time people in France only drink the wine that comes from the region they grew up in.  Makes sense when every region in France makes outstanding wine, but still for those of us in the habit of more variety in our wine drinking, there is only so much syrah you can take before begging from something else.  La Rose des Tuileries comes from Bordeaux, the AOC Lalande de Pomerol to be specific, merlot to be precise.  It was like a breath of fresh air!

To give you a little background on the chateau, it is located between the small towns of Néac and Lalande de Pomerol, France with the actual vines that make the wine surrounding it.  This particular wine comes from the AOC Lalande de Pomerol, which is known for making amazing merlot blends.  It is 80% merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc, harvested by hand, then ages in oak barrels for 12-14 months.

Last night we cracked open the bottle and found a well matured, remarkably ready to drink wine.  It was a fruity explosion in the front palate, then the smooth finesse of merlot down the back of my throat leaving just enough on my tongue to beg for more!  Regrettably, we did not have anything to eat with it, but the dirt expressed through the terroir of the Lalande de Pomerol in the wine was begging for meat!  Either way, as the wine opened up, the expressions of fruit surrounded my mouth and each sip stayed longer and longer on the back of my throat.  Definitively a bottle I want to try again in 5 years!

Getting here….

Minervois

Anyone trying to understand and appreciate wine knows that you can’t get anywhere without France.

Anyone who has ever tried to understand and appreciate wine knows that France is incredibly difficult!

Enter me.

I am a California girl, born and raised next to the Napa Valley wine country.  My passion for wine really started when I turned 21 and starting sharing a glass of wine with my dad after I got off work, or came home from school.  It seemed like a great way to forge a relationship with my dad- as we all know by now… with a little bit of alcohol everyone can become friends!

From that point my passion for wine started growing exponentially!  I was thirsty to learn as much as I could!  I started going to tastings all over Seattle three to four times a week!  I was learning, developing my palate, and making more friends!  It was exciting to be able to taste all the subtle differences in the wine- new world vs. old world, cabernet sauvignon vs. merlot, California vs. France, and the list went on and on.

Soon I wanted to combine my love for wine with my desire to cook something more intelligent than beef and chicken and my love for being around friends-

AND THAT’S WHERE THINGS GOT COMPLICATED…

I started making recipes with different meats and sauces and fish with veggies- but when it came to comparing wines with the food, I was at a loss!  I knew how to find a California cabernet- it was written right there on the bottle!  But a French cabernet?!?  There are no grapes labeled on the bottles, just places with weird French names I had no hope of understanding!  So what did I do…?

 

I TASTED EVERYTHING.

I READ EVERYTHING.

 

THEN I MOVED TO FRANCE…