Sunday, September 30, 2012

BRAMBLES: An Exam & A Tasting

We all taste differently.  At least that is what cannibals say.  Our tasting thresholds for recognition and identification of scents or flavors are as different as our taste memories. Of the thousands of odors our sense of smell can detect, tasters can only recognize a tiny portion of them.  With consideration that there are almost infinite differing concentrations and intensities of these scents, it's a wonder that we can recognize smells at all.  But, we do. In my most previous attempt at the SWE Faults & Imbalances Exam, I had problems identifying the scent(?) and body of sweetness vs.alcohol in a field of wine samples. So in the days prior to the exam I did a mock exam at home concentrating on these imbalances from the same base wine.

Almost six(6) weeks after my disappointing results, I tested once again with the Society during a regularly scheduled Wine Educator Exam.  In the business conference room of a high volume in Napa brand I joined seven(7) other aspiring Wine Educators who were also trying to make 'scents' of it. I found once again that on this occasion the perceived traces of darker hues to sight, off aromas to smell or imbalanced composition to taste were seemingly at very minimal levels. Distinguishing one sample from another was going to be a challenge. But, that is just me, and that is most certainly the point. It struck me that what has evolved personally over the past few exams is a developing or changing strategy, a revised focus, and an evolved concentration in trying to identify the distinctive features of the eight(8) wine samples. 

A few of the samples may have shown slightly darker hues due to higher concentrations of grape tannin or as a result of being a little oxidized(maderized).  After isolating those samples I nosed each of the remaining test samples looking for distinctive or tell-tale aromas. Did any smell like a burnt match(sulfur dioxide) or nail polish remover(acescence) or vinegar(acetic acid)?  Once isolated, the field was down to three, and only one matched the control sample.  If I was correct in my adopted strategy, the other two(2) were heavy in sugar or alcohol. One of the last students to complete this portion of the exam, I turned in my answer sheet with a confidence I cannot recall feeling from prior exams.  Outside in the parking lot I noticed that I felt lighter, less compressed than when leaving the exam in the past.  I took this as a good sign, and will get hopefully positive results from the Society in about six weeks.

Perhaps to celebrate, or most probably because the wife & I were housesitting in Napa, on Saturday, September 24, we traveled across the Napa Valley to attend the13th annual Mt. Veeder Appellation Wine Tasting on the grounds of the impressive Hess Collection winery. This large east-side of the mountain appellation benefits from the significant cooling influence of nearby San Francisco Bay. With most of its vineyard acreage in elevations above the fog line, the Mt. Veeder Appellation is dominated by shallow sedimentary sandstone & shale soils. It is planted mostly to Cabernet Sauvignon and for all the intensively labored,  handworked vineyards within its expanse, it is saddled with the lowest yields in the Napa Valley. The passionate vineyard workers of these mountain sides literally produce 'Napa Valley wines at their Peak"

Unlike most of the dispersed tasting 'events' on our Sonoma side, such as the well attended RRWR's Winter Wineland, or the WDCV's Passport to Dry Creek Valley, here twenty-six(26) brands were all in one glorious place. Under deep canopies that encircled the wineries patio gardens, the neighbors of Mt. Veeder poured side-by-side, only interrupted by the wonderful selection of antipasti cheeses, salumi, and pork sliders that were displayed non-stop by attentive staff from Chef Chad Hendrickson's kitchen.  As an appellation based tasting event, this was a wonderful day of easy tasting of some of the regions most sought-after wines.

Best wines of my tasting:
  • Rudd 2009 Susan's Blanc, a delicious Semillion/Sauvignon Blanc citrusy blend
  • Y. Rousseau Wines 2009 Milady mouth-rich and brightly balanced Chardonnay
  • Lampyridae Vineyards 2009 proprietary Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah  cuvee, Communication Block Red Wine Blend
  • Yates Family Vineyard 2008 Cheval, displayed notes of dark fruit & caramelized figs with a red raspberry exit, making it one delicious Cabernet Franc
Cheers & Salute'

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