As I get closer to my own sommelier exam I start to freak out about certain portions of the exam, one being the blind tasting. I have tasted wines from all over the globe, at various price points, but not until this last year or so have I really paid close attention to the qualities, the variables, and the nuances attributed specially to the region of wine I am tasting.
I have tried on many occasions to find tasting groups locally, with little luck. Most of those groups are groups of friends getting together to drink wine and socialize, not necessarily focus or learn about the actual wine... Don't get me wrong, they are still a lot of fun, but they are rarely events for serious learning. So when life doesn’t produce the lemons you need for your perfect lemon drop martini, you go get-you those lemons you need and make that martini a good one…. Thus the Portland tasting group was born.
It was actually my husband's idea to start a group, knowing I have many friends studying for various sommelier certifications, so why not bring us all together to learn together?
The first group started this past Monday.
At my suggestion I wanted to start with either Loire Sauvignon Blanc’s, or German Rieslings (mostly for my own curiosity of how those compared with counterparts in other parts of the world I am used to drinking)… it turned out we did both.
We just couldn’t decide… and it was 80 degrees out and we were in my beautiful back yard, so why not… both varietals are super thirst quenching… something you need on a warm day.
We started out by just inviting a couple people, so we could get a feel for the format we are going to be most comfortable with. So we were all okay that this first group may be a trial and error experience.
Timothy brought 3 wines; 2 Sancerres (in half-bottles… Great idea for small groups… I will explain the significance later) and 1 Mosel Riesling. We provided 1 Pouilly-Fumé and 2 Mosel Rieslings
We started with the most obvious choice, the drier crisper Sancerre’s & Pouilly-Fumé which are all made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes and grown in the Loire Valley of France. There was no rhyme or reason to our tasting order.
2006 Lucien Crochet Sancerre
Notes: Very pale in color (we were also outside on a super sunny day, so that may have attributed to our perceived color of the wine). Touch of grapefruit, green apple, lemon, and mineral tones. The most mild and mellow of the group but still a crowd pleaser.
Timothy brought a ½ bottle of this, and no mention of a price, but online research looks to be between a $20-$25 for the full 750 ml bottle.
2007 Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre
Notes: Very clear in color. More predominate citrus notes with some good tang and spice with great acidity. Maintained great fruit with a stony (almost wet stone) mineral undertone.
It had some zip and flair and I liked it! Nice!
Another Timothy ½ bottle donation. Looks to be approx $25 for full 750ml bottle.
Next… moving on to Sancerre’s neighbor, Pouilly-Fumé (also Sauvignon Blanc)
2004 Marc Deschamps Pouilly-Fumé Les Porcheronnes
Notes: Steely and tangy with strong lemon notes and lip strong acidity. We detected just a hint of oak on the mouth with more lemon peel shining through. Probably the most complex and elegant of the Loire lineup. $20-$25 retail
Next stop… Germany’s Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
***NO PICTURES AVAILABLE... BOTTLES WERE KIDNAPPED BEFORE PHOTO SESSION BEGAN :( ***
It was a hot day, so why not throw in some thirst quenching Mosel Rieslings?
These we tasted in order of dry to sweet. I will do my best to translate the labels for those of you who may be intimidated by German wine labels (I know I was just a few months ago).
Schloss Saarstein Riesling QBA 2006, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
(Translation: Schloss Saarstein is the producer. The varietal is Riesling. QBA is a reference to it being a high quality wine, but not the highest, and therefore doesn’t need to tell you “everything” on the label like the sweetness factor. Mosel-Saar-Ruwer is the region in Germany that the grapes were grown and the wine was made… makes sense… yes???)
Notes: Very floral with a honey bouquet along with some spice and tangerine. The palate had more soft honey with hints of pink grapefruit and a steely minerality. For as sweet as the nose seemed, the finish came off bright and crisp with lingering acidity. I highly recommend this wine for a nice warm afternoon sipper!
Approx $13 retail
Reichsgraf Von Kesselstatt Riesling Kabinett Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Scharzhofberger 2003
(Translation: Reichsgraf Von Kesselstatt is the producer. The varietal is Riesling. Kabinett means that the grapes were picked fully ripe and the wine will likely be dry to semi-sweet. Mosel-Saar-Ruwer is the region in Germany the wine was made. Scharzhofberger refers to the specific vineyard that the grapes were sourced… you with me???)
Notes: This wine had that diesel oil smell on the nose (don’t be scared, that’s not a bad thing, it’s typical of a German Riesling), followed by sweet fruit undertones. “Yummy” is not a typically used “technical” descriptor, but damn this wine was yummy! So therefore I’m bringin’ “yummy” back. This wine was soft, with very pretty honey flavors with some melon (more specifically cantaloupe) flavors on the mouth.
Approx $25 retail
1992 Jos. Christoffel Jr. Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
(Translation: Jos. Christoffel Jr. is the producer. Ürziger Würzgarten is the vineyard the grapes were sourced. Riesling is the name of the varietal. Auslese refers to selected grapes that were left to overripe on the vines, and therefore the wine will be semi-sweet to sweet. Mosel-Saar-Ruwer as we have learned is the region in Germany the wine was made…. Look at us, we are now experts!)
Notes: This wine was a treat! More of a darker shade of yellow than the others (which is expected since it is older than the others), with much more sweet honey on the nose with the addition of some sweet candied orange. A very pretty semi-sweet wine (yet not sugary sweet). After 17 years this wine has great acidity still! Nice and complex.
Approx $25 retail (bought from local wine shop who received a limited quantity)
But you can find similar wines from the Distributor: Ewald Moseler Selections
So... to recap, this was our first of many tasting groups to come. It's not a drink fest, but more of a “geek fest” of professionals who gather together, share wine and knowledge, and everyone walks away learning something new and getting to taste something new!
If you want more information on our Portland based tasting group please contact me.
We do have fun, but are truly serious about learning. So please be somewhat serious if you want to be a part of our group. If you're not serious about learning, but want to still taste wines contact me anyway, I still love informal groups where we just socialize and taste good wines!
*Quick note about 1/2 bottles... great way to experience many bottles if you have a small group! That way you can taste many different bottles, and not have much wasted at the end of the day... also can save a bit on costs. 1/2 bottles rock!