Blind Tasting Syrah in Reno with Mom

You ever fly across the country just to conduct a wine tasting? Well now I can say I have. I jetted to Reno to lead my mother and about a dozen of her neighbors through an evening of blind tasting Syrah. Of course the main reason was to see my mom, duh, because I am a (pretty) good son (at times). This goes in the plus side on The Ledger of Life.

I picked out six wines, two from the west coast of the US and four bottles of international vino. Here’s the unveiled lineup:

Blind Tasting Syrah in Reno with Mom

Blind Tasting Syrah: The Wines Revealed

  1. Tenet Syrah 2016 The Pundit (Washington) $25
  2. Fess Parker Syrah 2014 (Santa Barbara County) $24
  3. Montes Alpha Syrah 2013 (Chile) $19
  4. Mollydooker Shiraz 2016 The Boxer (Australia) $21
  5. Nobles Rives Cave de Tain Syrah (France) $13
  6. Mullineux Syrah 2015 (Swartland, South Africa) $35

This is also the order the wines were poured. I thought about slotting the Mollydooker last because it would stick out so much with its juicy fruit and alcohol and oak, etc. But then I supposed it would be an interesting/jarring contrast to the more subtle wines following. Seems kinda counter-intuitive to have this fruit bomb detonate on your palate then follow it up with some chill juice, but we had a lot of food and took our time in between wines so no biggie. Wasn’t one of those tastings where you have six glasses in front of you and haul ass.

Post-Blind Tasting Syrah Thoughts

Tenet is a collaboration between Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington, Costières de Nîmes winemaker Michel Gassier and enology consultant Philippe Cambie, who has a Châteauneuf-du-Pape HQ. The Pundit, a blend of 90% Syrah, 4% Grenache, 4% Mourvèdre, 2% Viognier (co-fermented with Syrah) was my second-favorite wine. Very elegant and balanced. Impressive.

The Fess Parker was deep, dark, and oaky. Monolithic. 15.5% ABV

The Montes had very appealing minty, eucalyptus notes, and was the oldest wine in the group at five years post-vintage. Kind of reminded me of Carménère, which is a little nutty. But none in there: 90% Syrah, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Viognier.

The Mollydooker. Holy cow, 16% ABV, some sweetness. I remember when these wines set the world on fire in the heady heyday of Aussie Shiraz. “GOBS OF FRUIT!”

Damn. I just realized I asked for the Nobles Rives Cave de Tain Crozes-Hermitage but got the plain ‘ol Syrah. Whoops. Not sure what the vintage was, either. Sorry! Well this was…meh. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. Snooze fest. This is a private label for Total Wine, BTW. Anyway, if you are looking to dip your toe into Syrah form the Northern Rhône get a bottle of Crozes-Hermitage. (And scrutinize the label rather than being oblivious me.)

My favorite wine was the Mullineux. It was pretty good when first cracked but really blossomed after a couple hours of air. Excellent stuff with a balance of fruit and other non-fruit stuff (earth, pepper, etc.) that I want from Syrah. Very little new oak here and a lot of large barrel usage for less wood influence on the wine.

In a tasting like this I also recommend going back and trying every wine again. After they’ve been open for a few hours you will be a witness to change. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

Thanks to Mom, winemaster Keith, and everyone who stopped by the clubhouse to hang out, chat, learn, and drink wine.

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Blind Tasting and the Pepsi Challenge

I just went down an internet rabbit hole reliving the Pepsi Challenge ad campaign of the late 1970s and early 80s. It was a blind taste test of a small cup of Coke and one of Pepsi. The latter did surprisingly well. So well, that Coke ended up coming out with the infamous “New Coke” formula.*

Why did Pepsi do so well? Because it’s sweeter. And that hit of sweetness makes it stand out versus Coke. Now if you had to drink a bottle (yes, see the commercial…everyone’s drinking glass bottles!) of Pepsi versus a bottle of Coke, that sweetness would become tiresome and cloying.

If you are interested in marketing and advertising, there are numerous interesting articles about the Pepsi Challenge:

The Pepsi Challenge: The Ultimate Taste Test

How Pepsi won the battle but lost the Challenge

Sweet Sorrow

I started thinking about a recent blind wine tasting I was invited to attend put on by Washington’s Col Solare. Six bottles of powerhouse Cabernets and Cabernet-based blends from Washington, Napa, and Bordeaux.

First I’d like to say this was an informal and informative exercise, not The Judgement of New York. We did rank each wine on personal preference but it wasn’t about “winning” or “losing” but rather a conversation-sparker. And yes, you can quibble about the vintage chosen (2014) and the “readiness” of the wines and the quality of the vintage in each of the three locales (blah blah blah), but the 2014 baseline was chosen. Would it be better if the each wine had x years of age and selected from x/y/z vintage that evenly reflected quality? Yeah, but that would be quite the undertaking and subjective yet.

Blind Tasting and the Pepsi Challenge

Great to get perspective on Red Mountain, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Washington wine from Col Solare Winemaker Darel Allwine and Consulting Winemaker Bob Betz MW.

Of course, I knew in my heart of hearts what my preference would be. Bordeaux on top, Washington somewhere in the middle, and Napa bringing up the rear. Well, I got Washington right but the Bordeaux selections were on the bottom and Napa was on top. Huh? Who am I?

Here are the six wines:

Blind Tasting and the Pepsi Challenge

The photo is the order in which they were poured. My preference below and alcohol levels in parenthesis:

  1. Caymus Vineyards Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (15.2%)
  2. Schrader Cellars Beckstoffer To Kalon Cabernet Saugivnon Oakville (14.5%)
  3. Col Solare Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain (14.5%)
  4. Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa Valley [87% Cab] (14.5%)
  5. Château Pontet-Canet Pauillac [65% Cab] (13.5%)
  6. Château Rauzan-Ségla [56% Cab] (13.5%)

Was I surprised that Caymus was my favorite? Hell yeah. But after tasting all these big, tannic wines, its sweetness and fruit was a relief…and made it stand out. Was this the Pepsi Challenge at work? If I had to drink a glass of it versus one of the Bordeaux how would I feel? All I know is it tasted damn good. (BTW the group’s numero uno wine was Insignia. This happens to be my mom’s favorite wine. She’d be very disappointed in me.)

While googling “Pepsi Challenge” I came across this very interesting article from Felix Salmon (from 2009), “Tasting Wine Blind.” It brings to mind some of the points I wrote about concerning the anxiety surrounding this exercise. Salmon discusses how sweetness stands out and subtlety, by its very nature, not so much.

Things shifted a bit when we had lunch and revisited the wines. I reached for the Insignia, because it reminds me of mom and our trip we took to Joseph Phelps. Drinking it alongside some amazing food at NoMad, specifically this mushroom and egg dish, was revelatory.

Blind Tasting and the Pepsi Challenge

Back to Salmon (the person not the fish):

In any case, the various different factors which go into the enjoyment of a wine are so multitudinous that when you try to eradicate them all in order to allow different wines to compete on a level playing field, you at the same time eradicate much of what makes a wine so enjoyable in the first place. 

Pure pleasure is not the point of blind tasting, rather evaluation and exercise over enjoyment. That’s ok. Especially if it helps overcome, question, or acknowledge preconceived notions about a region, a grape, or a style of winemaking.

*I also recall conspiracy theories that Coca-Cola deliberately introduced New Coke to spark outrage and had already planned to torpedo it and (re)introduce Coca-Cola “Classic.”

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How to Survive Crowded Wine Tastings

As an anxious person, I worry about a lot of things. Even wine tastings. But I want you to relax, to chill. Just keep in mind that when go to some big event like “The Freakiest Wine Grapes” or “Around the World in 8,00o Bottles” or “Mega-Zinful Blowout” (BTW, I made up all those names), be prepared for crowds, lots of wines, and some feelings of disorientation when confronted with the combination of the two.

How to Survive Crowded Wine TastingsIn some ways, these large wine tastings are not unlike visiting an amusement park. (Except no funnel cakes or keychains/license plates with your name on them.) I mean, you don’t just pull up to Disneyland/world without having put some thought into how to spend your day(s), right?

So I figured it would be a good idea for the next time I was on Snacky Tunes to give some tasting tips for the next time you’re at a ticketed event. It was inspired by my recent foray to the RAW Wine Fair in Brooklyn, which is like the Super Bowl for natural wine. (No halftime show, though. But there is pizza!) Anyway, I had a good time and tasted some really cool wines.

Ok, let’s get to my latest Snacky Tunes segment. Which, surprisingly, involves beer.

Five Tips on How to Navigate Wine Tastings

My segment begins at 55:50. But, jeez, don’t miss:

  • Legendary chef Massimo Bottura talking about his new book, Bread is Gold, and his fight to end food waste. (He has some very interesting things to say about banana peels and, of course, much more about this important issue.)
  • Music from Triple Hex, Street Smells, and Bad Girlfriend.

Crowd photo by James Cridland via flickr.

 

The post How to Survive Crowded Wine Tastings appeared first on Jameson Fink.

How to Survive Crowded Wine Tastings

As an anxious person, I worry about a lot of things. Even wine tastings. But I want you to relax, to chill. Just keep in mind that when go to some big event like “The Freakiest Wine Grapes” or “Around the World in 8,00o Bottles” or “Mega-Zinful Blowout” (BTW, I made up all those names), be prepared for crowds, lots of wines, and some feelings of disorientation when confronted with the combination of the two.

How to Survive Crowded Wine TastingsIn some ways, these large wine tastings are not unlike visiting an amusement park. (Except no funnel cakes or keychains/license plates with your name on them.) I mean, you don’t just pull up to Disneyland/world without having put some thought into how to spend your day(s), right?

So I figured it would be a good idea for the next time I was on Snacky Tunes to give some tasting tips for the next time you’re at a ticketed event. It was inspired by my recent foray to the RAW Wine Fair in Brooklyn, which is like the Super Bowl for natural wine. (No halftime show, though. But there is pizza!) Anyway, I had a good time and tasted some really cool wines.

Ok, let’s get to my latest Snacky Tunes segment. Which, surprisingly, involves beer.

Five Tips on How to Navigate Wine Tastings

My segment begins at 55:50. But, jeez, don’t miss:

  • Legendary chef Massimo Bottura talking about his new book, Bread is Gold, and his fight to end food waste. (He has some very interesting things to say about banana peels and, of course, much more about this important issue.)
  • Music from Triple Hex, Street Smells, and Bad Girlfriend.

Crowd photo by James Cridland via flickr.

 

The post How to Survive Crowded Wine Tastings appeared first on Jameson Fink.

Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme is Visiting the PNW!

 

We are thrilled and honored to announce that our producer, Laureen Baillette and Madam Baillette of Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme will be visiting the Northwest in April! They are traveling all the way from Trois-Puits, France to join Bryan on a Northwest adventure of vineyard tours, seminars, tastings, and of course, a visit to Fat Cork.

We are very excited to show the Baillettes our warehouse (where we have proudly imported their Champagne from day 1!) and all that the Northwest wine industry has to offer.

Save the date for one (or all!) of our events with Laureen Baillette.

MEET LAUREEN BAILLETTE! 

Monday, April 11th, 12-1pm
Champagne Seminar with Laureen Baillette | Fat Cork | Seattle, WA
Public Event | $20/Club, $30/PublicTickets here! 
Join us over your lunch hour to learn the history of Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme from the vigneronne herself! Laureen will explain her unique approach to Champagne production, tell the incredible history of their family, and describe each of her fine cuvées in great detail. Tasting Champagne on a Monday afternoon is a beautiful way to start the week and live life! Small bites will be provided. We’re limiting this intimate seminar to 30 seats, so purchase your ticket soon!

Monday, April 11th, 6pm
Champagne Dinner with Laureen Baillette | Location to be Announced | Seattle, WA
Public Event | RSVP to Erica@FatCork.com
We are honored to work with local chef extraordinaire, Ethan Stowell, to create an evening of incredible food, delicious Champagne and great conversation with our French guests! The menu, location, and price are still in the works, but please RSVP to Erica@FatCork.com as soon as possible if you’re interested as this dinner will certainly sell out quickly. 

Wednesday, April 13th, 4:30-6pm
Tasting with Laureen Baillette | ROCO Winery | Newberg, OR
FC Club Members and their Guests Only | RSVP to Erica@FatCork.com
Mr. Rollin Soles is an icon for high-quality, Méthod Champenoise sparkling wine made in America. He and his wife, Corby, have been supporters of Fat Cork since the beginning and they were the first people we contacted when Laureen said she was coming to town. Getting Laureen and Rollin together to talk and taste Champagne will be a great time and quite educational! Space is limited, RSVP to Erica@FatCork.com.

Thursday, April 14th, 8:30am-5:30pm
2016 Sparkling Wine Symposium | Ponzi Vineyards | Sherwood, OR
Wine Industry Members | Tickets here!
Attention wine makers all around the U.S.A., we are honored to have so many of you as Fat Cork customers! If you’re already making sparkling wine or are interested in doing so, this event is for you. Laureen Baillette will be featured on a panel alongside sparkling wine experts from Oregon and California to lead an all day workshop about everything sparkling. This is an opportunity to ask the experts all of your geeky questions, taste base wines, and learn the details that go into making great sparkling wine. Click here for tickets.