Back in November, Edwin and I attended the Napa Valley Wine Academy SommDay School with Master Sommelier Tim Gaiser. Scott Strong, our lead on the wine side, was unable to attend due to illness taking him out the evening before, so Danette Winslow, Ed’s wife, came in his place. The class was held in Napa where there were still smoky remnants of the recent fires noticeable in the hills as we pulled into town, right as the class began.
Ed, Scott and I have been tasting and reviewing wine for many years. Scott and I are Certified Master Tasters who have participated on blind tasting panels to determine what are branded as Chefs Best© products for many foods and beverages. Even so, there is much more to learn about wine, tasting protocols, varietals and how to identify wines by style and region. I organized the event for the POURHOUSE team as a way of getting us all on the same page, using similar vocabulary and terms, so that our selection process would be collaborative and efficient.
Master Sommelier Glaiser began the class by introducing us to the system used during the Master Sommelier Exam to determine the origin and varietal of wine based solely on its color, clarity, viscosity, aroma and flavor. We started with tasting wines whose characteristics were strong, to help identify aromas and flavors such as old oak vs. new oak, ripe fruit verses dried fruit, and astringency vs. acidity. It was great to compare the various sensations at the same time with Ed and Danette, and although we all had different individual experiences with the wines, we did pull out similar attributes, meaning we were getting on the same page!
After practicing with correctly identifying these components, he provided Ed, Danette and I with a chart that could then be used to identify region, varietal and even blend of wine. After an excellent lunch from a nearby Deli, we put our palates and memory to the test by forming teams assigned to taste several glasses of mystery wines, in an effort to chart the characteristics needed for identification. To be honest, we were only moderately successful, but that’s why Master Sommeliers study for years before successfully passing that prestigious exam.
All and all, the excursion was a success, providing much new information and a greater appreciation for the subtleties of wine, the process of tasting, and the elements which go into making wine one of the most enjoyable parts of life and dining. We plan another trip soon, so that Scott can enjoy and experience the same points of reference as Ed and myself.