A Toast To Tastings
As I write this I am enjoying what is left of a bottle of Italy's 2003 Selezione Santa Monica Pinot Grigio (from the Veneto region of Italy). It is a bit thin on the palate (to this novice enophile) but has a warm bouquet that hints of lemon and mint and granny-smith apples.
I am probably describing the dishwashing detergent residue stuck on the glass, but to my "new wine lover's" nose, that is what I sense, so I'll stick to it. Either way, it is a nice clean way to close down this evening. I say that I'm enjoying what's left because I just enjoyed my first hosted wine tasting party and this was left over.
For my recent birthday (30th), I told my wife that I wished to have a wine tasting. I've attended a wine tasting or two before (with very fond memories from my first - on an Alaskan Cruise ship on my Honeymoon) but never hosted one. So with some helpful hints from "PB" and a resolve that wouldn't let me get too up tight about the "proper" way to host a wine tasting, I jumped in. (actually, my wife jumped in and planned, purchased, and coordinated the entire affair, I simply enjoyed some wonderful and some not so wonderful wines).
We decided early on to not worry about having someone more experienced come in to "lead" the tasting, opting instead to open a wide range of wines, order them from sparkling to light whites, to light reds to fuller reds to some wonderfully deep Ports. We had an array of palate cleansers and clean glasses so that the night could progress without too much hassle and without too much snobbery or worry about the "rules" of a proper wine tasting.
As guests arrived we encouraged them to try something new. If they enquired as to the "how" of a wine tasting, we simply instructed them to follow the order of the bottles that we had set up and enjoy themselves. Enjoy themselves they did. We quickly realized that the biggest "problem" was that the guests had all (or nearly all) brought a bottle of something with them and the wished to open it immediately. While this led to a large variety of wines to sample, it also lead to a
l a r g e quantity of wines to sample. The result were several bottles left over at the end of the evening. Nevertheless, as the night progressed, I and my fellow birthday celebrants sampled some delightful wines in the inexpensive to slightly moderate range.
We started with a St. Gabriel 2003 Riesling (from Germany) which I thought was a bit loose, meaning that the initial flavor was there but it broke apart quickly and faded away. It was crisp, while it stayed, which was not long. All in all, it was OK but not something to write home about. Not a waste of money and drinkable, but not something to necessarily seek out.
From there we moved to a California wine: Fetzer Valley Oaks Sauvignon Blanc - 2003. It did not win the recognition of Fetzer's 2003 Echo Ridge Sauvignon Blanc, but I still thought that this was one of the best wines of the evening. It tasted of warm apples and had the smoothness of a soft cheese (which, to me, are GOOD things). The finish was equally smooth and pleasing. This is a wine I will definitely be tasting again when I have less distraction. It makes me even more curious about the Echo Ridge Sauvignon Blanc as well. I will go a-hunting for this American white.
I may or may not have tasted other whites that evening but the next entry in my wine journal was my birthday wine disappointment: Barton & Guestier 2002 Beaujolais-Villages. I cannot claim to have ever been a fan of the Beaujolais. But my impressions of this wine was that there wasn't much there there. Others have reviewed this vintage (HERE) and found it quite pleasing but this is where the subjective part of the entire wine experience comes in as PB has been writing of late. I am willing to give this wine another go, but I was not impressed on our first "date". I feel that the wine didn't even try to get to first base with me. Heck, it didn't even offer to pay for dinner, the movie, dancing, or bother to open my door. In orther words, I had to do all the work for this wine. If there is a next date, it had better be something special.
The definite winner for the evening was the 2002 Lindemans Reserve Merlot (from South Australia - link here). This wine was a deep ruby color with what I will call a thick and complex bouquet. I detected chocolate, plums, and black cherry as well as some "greenery" possibly fresh parsley or basil. The flavors were long and equally complex and rich and the finish was silky smooth - like a dove dark chocolate ice cream bar melting in your mouth. I adored this wine. Of course, it came at the end of the evening when my mouth was already warmed up from its earlier taste escapades and that may have had something to do with it.
We finished off the night with cheese cake and a Tawny Port (which I will not review here but save for a later "fortified wine" review) and a toast to 30 more years of life and health and fine wines. The evening was a wonderful time. I think that for the next wine tasting we host, we'll bring in a seasoned sommelier to lead the tasting. I need to thank PB and the fetching Mrs. Billy for putting in such hard work and thought into my wonderful tasting party. It was really quite a treat.
I will leave you with this, spoken by Euripides, the Greek playwright who died in 407 B.C. "Where there is no wine, love perishes, and everything else that is pleasant to man."