Pictured are two faithful Musketeers on the path to becoming advanced… dare we pray, “master” (someday?!!) sommeliers, plus one patient husband. (Hidden behind the camera is Musketeer number three.) We meet weekly, to talk about regions, terroir, varietals, service, pairings, and tastings of classic styles of the “region du jour”.
Currently, each of us has a different role in the wine industry, which affords interesting tasting opportunities and off we go ~ pressing on toward the goal. It is hugely rewarding to study and support one another. It’s also rather fun; we laugh… alot.
Today’s region was a “small” one… California. We had enlisted the help of another oenophile to select three “Cali Reds,” from three AVA’s, delivered in brown bags for our blind tasting tests which will come up in about 4 weeks. Our “guest” was enlisted to serve as emcee to protect the ”integrity” of the blind tasting… Did I mention that we are an “experiential” study group?
We spent half an hour discussing the AVA’s of California in general, the famous North Coast region including Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino in particular. Then we got out the bowls of fresh berries, spices, herbs, white “serviettes.” One brave “sommelier-in-training” agreed to practice “Court of Master Sommelier service standards” by opening the first bottle, without benefit of a gueridon nor violating the standard of never opening the bottle on the guests’ table… we’re learning. She opened the bottle “mid-air” and NO “pop;” cork slipped out silently. We’re almost there.
Court of Master Sommeliers offers an outstanding, multi-tiered program. Read the description of proper service standards plus the various courses and examinations offered by them. The first wine we blind tasted, Ruth recognized immediately… Then we sliced the beautiful loaves of whole wheat and semolina breads that Dana baked, tossed the fruit salad and braised the chard to be topped by lamb stew before moving on to brown bag #2.
Bottle #2 was blind tasted with the benefit of a lamb stew recipe found on the website of a niece of a friend. Do visit Gotta Eat! for the recipe. It is a creative website for foodies in San Francisco which means it is an easy place to find excellent wine-friendly recipes.
Bottle # 3 was definitely a mystery to us. It may have been the first two were a little easier to clearly taste the fruit then work through the floral, spice, herbs, stone, earth, etc. However, # 3 was opened after our stew, but with bread to clear the palate, and berries, herbs and spices to help us find our way through the tasting grid. One of us decided to decant the wine. Perfecto! the fruit jumped forward, the mild floral, the vanilla, thyme, and structured tannin softened. It all fell together into a lovely wine.
Our oenophile was not being “elitist” in selecting all Cabs from North Coast AVA’s; he wisely selected a classic California varietal from three distinct terroirs. He made us “work our taste buds” – wise choice… There are, however, quite a few scribbles on some of the tasting grid sheets, but the exercise was hugely important.
Here the collection is revealed, along with a white “serviette,” one of the wine keys Cru Wine Online sent each of us as an encouragement… and the slightly wrinkled brown bags.
Oh, yes. At the close of each group study, we’ve coalesced into an efficient clean-up team. We went from the table shown below to a spotless kitchen and dining room in nothing flat. Next week? We’re in Australia and New Zealand… at least our noses, taste-buds and tasting grids! Check back for more news soon!