Have I mentioned my charmed existence? Yeah, I’m pretty lucky.
Last weekend Marcy Gordon, travel writer, wineaux and general good gal invited me and some other wine bloggers up to the Wine Sensory Experience in Calistoga. I hadn’t had a day off since January 24th so it seemed like a grand idea. It was also a bit humbling. T’Anne Butcher, owner and general Mad Hatter put the whole thing together. There were a total of seven sensory experience that broke down into the various components of aroma and bouquet in wine. There is a difference. Hell if I can remember what it is. Thankfully there’s The Google. And this is exactly what T’Anne told us. There were 26 disciplines for us to get wrong. I got 12 of the 26 right. There were different kinds of glasses with the same wine in them and we were supposed to pick three favorites. And I didn’t like the glasses I was supposed to like. There were 20 glasses that each had a different aroma or bouquet in them. It was our job to differentiate between them.
I did things like misidentify the orange as lemon and then go blank on what the lemon was. The glasses were black and we weren’t supposed to look inside them, which I did not. It was really hard having the rest of your senses removed and then trying to identify by my sense of smell what was in the glass. I missed softballs like strawberries and prunes. I mixed up apricots and plums. And that was just the fruit aromas. Then we went to the components of Pinot Noir. I mixed up Black Tea and tobacco, coffee and chile, cedar and white pepper. And I like Pinot. The herbs were particularly brutal. Camomile. Really? I don’t know what the hell that smells like but I said Dill. I got thyme, basil and rosemary right, but tanked oregano. I had no idea. The fourth discipline was Oak Barrel bouquet. It might have been candy store roulette. I mixed up maple syrup and caramel. So naturally when we got to caramel, I had nothing, so I went with marshmallow. Thankfully T’Anne didn’t have a gong or a buzzer for my wrong answers. I did nail coconut, vanilla and chocolate. So I can make a German chocolate cake and live. As long as I don’t ice it. The next discipline was 71% chocolate laced with flavors. Here is where I mixed up the lemon and orange. That equals 2 wrong. And who puts thyme in chocolate anyway? I guessed cardamon. Yeah, I know. Real wrong. I did get raspberry, coffee and chile right and that ought to be worth something.
The whole experience was eye-opening to say the least. I thought I was pretty good, but maybe not so much. The palate does play tricks on us. I was talking about it with my pals at the Pleasant Hill Wine Merchants and they were all surprised that I performed so weakly. They all said I had one of the best palates they’d seen. I don’t think I’m that good, but maybe they helped get my mojo back a little.
T’Anne’s parents own W.H. Smith Wines. Yeah, that W.H. Smith. Her Dad is an amazing winemaker. We got to try several of his wines. His Pinots are something to behold. His Purple label Cab was amazing with cherry pie and layers. Amazing structure in a wine that could lay down comfortably for years. The wine that blew me away though was the one that she and her husband made. 2000 Kailey Cellars Zin. Full of concentrated fruit, caramel, coconut (goddamit) and a big fat mouthful of fruit. Really an amazing wine at $35 a bottle.
On the way home I stopped in at Freemark Abbey to pick up my shipment. They have changed a lot since Kendall Jackson took them over. They’ve lost a bit of their rough and wooly devil may care approach, but Ted Edwards still makes damned fine juice. Tim Bell has headed off to the pastures of Kunde. I don’t know the back story on that one and won’t even speculate. I really like both guys and I would hope it would improve the quality of wine at two wineries now. I’m not a big Kunde fan. Anywho, I got involved in a great conversation with a gentleman at the tasting bar about how I measure all cabernets against the Bosché. It’s not the best one out there and it’s not the worst, it’s the best value and the barometer to which I measure all others. I managed to get out of there with a copy of their library wine price list. The library Freemark Abbey in my cellar is worth around $1500 retail. And that’s only about 8 bottles. They’re selling that 1999 Bosché for $200 a bottle. Sure glad I still have two of them. Wish I hadn’t drank up the other two. Or maybe I’m glad I did.
Last stop was the Sift in Napa. Mostly because I was pissed off that I took three calls from my broker on a Sunday and another four ad calls. My phone had been riddled with crickets for 10 days until I decided to spend a day in Napa. So in an act of total defiance, I stopped at Sift and got a Snickerdoodle cupcake. And a Red Velvet. Yes I did. Sift rocks.
Dear FCC assholes, we were all comped at Wine Sensory Experience. I was not asked to write about them. If I didn’t enjoy the experience and learn something I wouldn’t have written anything because I think if you can’t say anything nice after you’ve been comped, then don’t. I am a wine club member at Freemark Abbey and was treated like any other member. And I paid for my own damned cupcakes.