Monday, December 6, 2010

Wining in Northridge...

Here's my report on my first official wine class under the moniker of Goddess of Wine. It was great!

I had booked the Wine Education Center at the Northridge Total Wine & More. The room was tricked out as the holiday Gift Center, so we were surrounded by gift displays. Lots of fun stuff! The staff at TW&M - who could not be nicer or more professional - had set up tables and chairs for me, and I had full access to all the tools and facilities I needed for the class.

The turnout was a bit smaller than I hoped - only 4 students - but they were enthusiastic and interested. JD poured for me as always. We opened 7 bottles of wine (all Winery Direct purchases from TW&M, and all under $15) and had some interesting discoveries.

What we tasted:

2009 Angeline Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley - Clean, pale green-gold color, soft, citrusy nose. No grassiness or cat pee, just pretty and aromatic fruit. Could have used a bit more acid on the finish to my taste, but the class was pleasantly surprised and offered lots of food pairing suggestions.

Adler Fels Winery Big Ass Chard, Napa Valley - The tasting notes say there's nothing shy about this wine, but I've had bigger, more buttery CA Chardonnays than this one. It was actually a nice balance of fruit, acid and oak.

2008 Domaine Roger Luquet, Pouilly-Fuissé – Saint-Veran - Macon-Villages, Vin de Bourgogne “Les Mulots” - I poured this side-by-side with the Big Ass Chard so that the class could compare Old World (France) to New World (California). The white Burgundy had such huge minerality, it was kind of like sucking on a rock. It also had some strange stuff happening in the nose - kind of petroleum, rubbery smell. When I first sniffed it, I wasn't sure if the wine was tainted - and when I retasted it later at home, I still wasn't sure - but it definitely provided a different type of Chardonnay for the class. I have another bottle at home, which I will open just to make sure that the bottle wasn't off.

2008 Martin Ray Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County - One of the favorites of the evening. Clean, dark pink in color, lovely cherry and mushroom notes in the nose, followed by a light-bodied, fruity, ready-to-drink wine with a long finish full of baking spices. We all really liked it, especially its delicate flavors.

2008 Courtney Benham Merlot, Napa Valley - I was kind of looking forward to this one, as Courtney Benham is the owner/proprietor/winemaker for Angeline, Martin Ray and Courtney Benham wines. However, we were all surprised at the lack of finesse in this wine. It was flat, dull. Maybe it was just going thru a 'dumb' period, but it was lifeless and bland with an odd black pepper finish. I've run into peppery Merlot from Napa before, and it's not really what I want to taste when I'm drinking Merlot. We all dumped it quickly.

2007 Blackburn Cabernet Sauvignon by the Proulx (pronounced 'Pru') family, Paso Robles - Those who know me know that I love wines from Paso Robles, so I had great expectations of this Cabernet Sauvignon from Templeton, an area that epitomizes the fascinating microclimates in the Paso region. This wine was actually a blend consisting of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petite Sirah, 8% Syrah, 2% Mourvedre, 1% Zinfandel. And considering that the majority was Cab, it smelled smoky like Syrah, and had a kind of spicy Zinfandel finish. It was acceptable, but there was something missing. There were so many other things happening in it that the Cab seemed to get lost.

2009 Sobon Estate Old Vines Zinfandel, Amador County - We had previously tasted this with the rep from Sobon, and had liked it enough that I decided to pour it for the class. It did not disappoint. My students were surprised at the lightness of the wine - it's not one of the heavy, jammy, fruit-crazy Zins. It's clear enough to make out the lettering on the tasting sheets, but has a lovely purple-red color, a nose redolent with blackberries and dark fruit, and a lingering finish with a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg on the end.

At the end, everyone agreed it was a lot of fun - and very educational! To add to the joy, the manager at TW&M offered the 'employee' 30% discount for any of the wines poured in the class that evening, so everyone got a chance to purchase their favorites at a significant discount. Win/Win!!

I'll be setting up another class in January; just waiting to hear from Total Wine's Bookourroom folks to confirm. Stay tuned!

Hope you'll join me next month. Cheers!

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