Thursday, May 6, 2010

Wine Tasting 101

All photos by Todd and Trent.  Please excuse the jumbled structure of this post.  I can't make it pretty for some reason.

(Hang on to your wine glasses, this is looooong post).

Although a lover of wine, I have never attended a wine tasting, nor had I ever held one, but hold one we did on Saturday night.  It all started with an invitation to the under-30 crowd to come hang out with Jim and me after church on a Saturday night.  Trent, the cutie-patootie who leads our rockin' church band said, "Hey!  Let's have a wine tasting party!"  So, I took on the challenge.  I started researching about three weeks ago---how does one even begin holding a wine tasting?  What wines? What does one do at these shindigs?

Well, I gathered my research and made some decisions, tweeking it to my own preference.  I will include some of the websites I used at the end of this post.  I talked with my wine 'expert', Daryl, who happens to be a groundskeeper for our school corporation.  Daryl also moonlights at the Chalet Party Shoppe and knows quite a bit about wine.  He helped me select six different wines---three whites and three reds.  According to my research, one usually selects all whites or all reds or all of one variety from different vineyards or a few other selections.  I chose to do it the hard way.  I didn't know what the wine experience was for each of the people attending, so I decided to try three different whites and three different reds:

2008 Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand), 2006 Gnarly Head Chardonnay (California), and C.M.S. White/A Blend (Washington state).

2006 R| Collection Merlot (Napa Valley), 2004 C.M.S Red/A Blend (Washington state), and 2007 Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley).

I also purchased  a bottle of Bogle Shiraz as a thank you gift for Matt, our sommelier for the evening who provided the entertainment.


So, now I had the wine, but I still knew nothing about wine (other than I love a dry red) or how to do a wine tasting.  Enter Matthew.  Matthew is spending his spring as a substitute teacher in our school.  Last year, he spent a good portion of time working at an organic vineyard in Colorado (  Because he is a nice guy and a good sport, he agreed to join our gala and talk about the process of making wine and lead us through the wine tasting process.     He was awesome!  I learned many things and the photographs he brought from his vineyard experience provided just the right amount of visuals we needed.

We learned about 'legs' and tannins and clarity and acidity and tingling under your tongue and more.  We laughed a lot and just had fun.  I covered up the bottles to hide the type of whites and reds and we filled out our opinions on the score sheets.

Jim read the vendor descriptions of each wine before we sampled, specifying the different flavors contained within each.  At the end, we all tried to guess which number was which wine.  I might add that I failed miserably at this.  I do know, however, as a result of this wine tasting that I am firmly a dry red wine girl.  I wasn't a fan of the whites, but I'm told I should next try a Pinot Grigio.

On the table were pitchers of water and margarita glasses filled with oysters crackers to cleanse the palates between tastings.  My little mum always said, "When in need, improvise," and her little voice told me to use the margarita glasses for the crackers.  Pretty.

We ate a lot, too.  In my research, I found which cheeses went with whites and reds as well as the different fruits, meats,  nuts and other snacks that would be good additions to the table.  I selected four different cheeses---smoked gouda, Fontinella (my favorite w/reds), Vermont sharp cheddar and emmantal, a smooth swiss.  I had slices of hard salami and toasted bruscetta brushed with EEOV and topped with roasted red peppers, minced garlic and fresh shredded parmesean. In addition, we enjoyed strawberries and red and green seedless grapes.  Oh, and let's not forget the carmelized almonds and pecans.  I threw together a tuna pate (so easy!) which ended up being a major hit.  I also picked up three different types of dark chocolate candy bars and broke them up into pieces on a serving plate.  Dark chocolate goes well with red wine, you know.  I was worried I might have some fussy eaters in the crowd, but they were all troopers and managed to eat almost every morsel I set out.

To add just a little more fun to the mix, I also conducted a little raffle.  I ran to TJ Maxx and picked up a few wine-related items (corkscrew and glass wine bottle stoppers) and to The Dollar Tree for some inexpensive, but rather elegant looking wine glasses (a set of two per winner).  I bagged each item up and assigned numbers to each gift bag.  Everyone put their names on slips of paper and threw them into a bowl.  Jim drew names of the winners and then each winner drew a number to learn which prize they had won.  We gave away six prizes in all.

Quotes of the night:  

Tori:  "This wine has thunder thighs!" (exclaimed when describing one wine's 'legs').

Trent:  When asked what prize he'd drawn from the bowl, he said with delayed excitement,  "I got........Todd!" (It's seems Todd was Trent's prize because he'd put his name in the wrong 'hat' for prize drawing.  We roared.  Then Trent pulled another prize.

This would be Todd, the Prize.

We were also reminded just how small a world it is.  Jordan recognized Matt from his having subbed in her building and she has a story to tell of his day there.  I had invited Matt to bring a friend with him, so he invited one of his house mates to join him.  When he walked in the house with his house mate, she and I looked at each other and laughed and said a surprised "Hello!" (Johanna, the brucetta girl, and Laura)
Johanna was the young woman who sold the 
 bruscetta and some of the cheeses the night before at Rachel's Bread in Goshen.  She was a sweet and gracious clerk behind the counter.  Who knew?  I love little moments like those.

To top off the evening, Matt unexpectedly brought a bit of a treat from the distillery end of his friend's business ( called Pear Organic Eaux de Vie, pure distilled pears.  We served this clear liquid in little communion cups.  Let me tell you, you didn't need more than that.  Woo! It was the kind of thing one sips, not slugs.  It has a high alcohol content, but it is veeerrrry smooth.  We liked it.

Total cost of the wine, which included a 15% discount because I bought the store wine bag and six or more bottles of wine = $105.

Total cost of food items = more than I intended because it all adds up very fast, but was well worth it.  It probably totaled about $75.  Much of it, I bought at Aldi's.  Such a deal.  The roasted red peppers I bought at The Dollar Tree!  For a dollar.

Total for gift items = $18  (bottle stoppers/2 for $7; corkscrew/$4; wine rings/$3; wine glasses/$1 each).  I had to stop myself because it was so much fun to plan or I would have just kept buying.

Websites I visited: (although I used a wine tasting score sheet that Daryl gave me a copy of)

                                                                                                        Score Sheet
                                       Abby, what are you doing? 

Brittany and Trent score their wine  
Here's the whole crew, minus me.

Ah, here I am.