Did you know that decanting the wine is a form of entertainment here in the Napa Valley? Given that we don’t have much to talk about around here but wine and food – and food and wine – it shouldn’t be too surprising 😉
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Question from Sheila: We were out to dinner with some friends and my girlfriend said the wine had good legs. I didn’t want to look stupid so I didn’t ask her what she meant. Is that good?
Reply: Thanks for writing, Sheila. This is a very common question and a source of unneccesary confusion about wine!
The term, “legs” (the British call them tears or candles) refers to the driplets of wine you see coming down inside the glass of wine after the wine has been swirled or has coated the glass.
One of the most persistent wine myths is that “good legs” are a sign of good quality. No matter what anyone says, the legs don’t tell you a thing about quality. Wine with a generous amount of alcohol, at least 11.5 or 12%, and that’s wine at every price point, has good legs.
TRIVIA! If you were taking the Master Sommelier exam, good legs might tell you that the wine came from a relatively warm climate or warm vintage. Warm weather = high sugar = hefty alcohol. Continue reading →
When I wrote the last post about field blends, I recommended one that’s produced by David Coffaro in Dry Creek (Sonoma County).
Then, I remembered the great afternoon my husband and I spent there a few months back. We’d never heard of him – there’s a Cafaro Cellars that we know of here in Napa Valley, but this is different.
After spending a few days at Sea Ranch and just loving the David Coffaro field blend we had with dinner one night, we decided to visit their tasting room on the way home.
It’s a very low key tasting room, but the wines! Truly a treasure trove…
For those of you who frequent tasting rooms and have tried enough Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet to fill a lifetime, just check out this vineyard map (you may have to scroll down to make sense of it). When’s the last time you tasted Peloursin? My answer to that question was “never” – until, of course we went to the Coffaro tasting room. Peloursin is an obscure red from the south of France. The only reason I know anything about it is because it’s a parent of Petite Sirah. The other parent in Syrah. Continue reading →
Question from Mike: What am I supposed to do when the wine comes at a restaurant? I’m okay ordering it but I get really embarrassed when the waiter gives me the cork and all that.
Reply: Hi, Mike. I’ll be a lot of people will be really glad you wrote to ask. It can be a little intimidating.
The most important thing to remember is that you’re the customer and the server really wants you to be happy so don’t worry about any potential faux pas. Here’s how it goes:
The server brings the wine to the person who ordered it and shows it to him/her. Go ahead and check the label to double check that you got what you ordered.
The most common mistake is that the wrong vintage comes to the table. If so, you might ask your server if there’s a significant difference between the vintages. For myself, if the wine is from California or some other warm climate situation, I don’t worry too much about the vintage. If it’s European, the vintage can play a bigger role. Ask the server. If the restaurant’s any good at all, he’ll probably offer you a taste. If you do a lot of dining out you might download a vintage chart. Here’s one from Robert Parker.And one from Wine Spectator. Continue reading →
Question from Chris: I can’t usually pick out flavors like strawberry or chocolate in wine but the other day I had a glass of Pinot Noir that smelled just like cloves. It was so strong I couldn’t notice anything else about the wine. Is that common? Maybe I could pick it out because I like to bake?
Reply: Hi, Chris. Thanks for writing! Clove is, indeed, a very common descriptor for oak-aged wine. Evidently, there’s a compound known as eugenol found in oak and it’s the main aroma compound found in cloves. Don’t you just love that? Stuff like this a one of the many reasons why wine is endlessly interesting!
Very occasionally I get a question about whether things like strawberry or licorice are actually added to the wine. If they were, the bottle would have to say “strawberry flavored wine.” It couldn’t simply say “wine” – it would have to be qualified in that way. So, all those descriptors you see in the wine ratings are derived from the grapes, the barrels, fermentation, environment (like exposure to air) and/or time. Except, of course, for the obscure descriptors used by wine writers who simply want to impress – oh, brother… Continue reading →
Question from Jess: In your last post you referred to swirling the wine. Is that really necessary? What difference does it make? I feel really silly and pretentious doing it.
Reply: Hi, Jess. Thanks for writing! I don’t know that it’s necessary, but it can certainly add to your pleasure.
You be the judge. Try this experiment: Pour yourself a glass of any sort of wine, preferably not too cold (cold wine doesn’t have much of a fragrance, as we discussed in that last post). Don’t fill it too full. A half-glass is fine. If the wine has been in the fridge, just take it out and wait 30-45 minutes to do the experiment.
Smell the wine. BTW, when you smell the wine, you should actually put your nose in the glass – no long-distance sniffing! Smells good? Now, set the glass down on the table and grip the stem, close to the base. Swirl briskly to get the liquid really moving in the glass. After swirling vigorously for several seconds, smell the wine again. Notice the difference? Continue reading →
Doesn’t it just drive you crazy when you smell something in the wine, and you know that you know what it is, but you can’t come up with the word? Wine Aroma Wheel to the rescue!
This is one of my all-time favorite tools. I actually had this wheel blown up into poster size to teach wine-tasting classes.
The purpose of the wheel is to give us common language to describe wine. Rather than saying something esoteric like “This wine reminds me of a warm afternoon on the Champs Elysées.” – what the heck does that mean? – the terms are things we can all relate to. Like strawberries or licorice for instance.
There’s a guide on the aroma wheel website that give you detailed instructions of how to use it. But, the big picture, as I see it, is that the wheel asks you questions that lead you to be specific in your in your description. In the center of the wheel you see the most general description, like “fruity” or “floral”. Say you think the wine smells fruity. As you work your way out, the wheel says “Okay – if the wine is fruity is it like citrus fruit? Or berries? Or dried fruit? What do you think?” If you select berries it goes on to ask if the wine is more like strawberries or blackberries. If you think it’s citrusy is it more like lemon or orange? Continue reading →