This past Tuesday was a special evening and off of the beaten path from our usual sit-down wine classes here at SF Wine Center. Instead, the students arrived to a glass of champagne as we set up three different tasting stations; one of French wines, one of Old World wines, and the last of New World wines. But before we had the class split into three small tasting groups former Wine Director of Restaurant Gary Danko and Cyrus and current GM of Meteor Vineyard in Napa, Jason Alexander, sat the class down at the table and conducted two blind tastings. Using a Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough and a 1996 Barolo, Jason led the class through both tastings and informed them on the techniques used to properly taste and evaluate wine. Next, we divided the class into groups and sent them on their way to taste.
The first station, led by Jason, allowed the students to taste four French wines; one being a Chablis, another from the Echezeaux commune of Burgundy, another from Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and lastly one from the left bank of Bordeaux. These wines being an excellent example of four of the truly grand regions of France provided an ample opportunity for the students to grasp what makes each of those regions as distinct as they are.
The second station, led by yours truly, featured wines from four distinguished European countries. The first of the wines was a Gruner Veltliner of Austria, second was a Kabinett Riesling from Germany, third was a red blend from Duoro, and last was a tempranillo from Rioja. The first two wines offered the students a fine example of the signature whites of both countries, while the two reds were distinguishable to their regions, yet had special characteristics that set them apart of the rest.
The third station was led by Certified Sommelier and freelance wine writer for Sommelier Journal, Joanna Breslin. Joanna led the students through four New World wines; one representing Chenin Blanc from South Africa, another representing an Oregon Pinot Noir, another exemplifying a shiraz from Barossa, and last but not least, a Malbec from Mendoza. Each one being the most notable wine from that particular region, the students were exposed to the significant varietals that are responsible for putting these New World wine countries on the map.
My Top Pick for the Night?
Bodegas Muga Seleccion Especial Reserva 2005 – Rioja, Spain
This tempranillo from Rioja was not only pleasing to the palate as they usually are, but also a powerful experience of red fruit, earthiness, spice, and some nuttiness from the oak. The tannins were still strong but have begun to smooth out the texture of the wine. This wine was absolutely splendid to drink now, but with its heavy fruit, tannin, and upholding acidity, I think that this wine would drink well for the next few years.
Thanks to Jason, Joanna, and of course Brian for putting together an exciting, fun, and memorable tasting class!
- Pierre Peters Brut Cuvee Res Grand Cru – Champagne, FR
- Villa Maria Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 – New Zealand
- Rocche Dei Manzoni Barolo 1996 – Piedmont, IT
- Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis 2009 – Chablis, FR
- Joseph Drouhin Grands–Echezeaux 2004 – Burgundy, FR
- Domaine Grand Veneur Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2004 – Southern Rhone, FR
- Christian Moueix St. Estephe 2006 – Bordeaux, FR
- Domaine Wachau Terrassen Federspiel Gruner Veltliner 2008 – Austria
- August Kesseler Riesling Kabinett 2004 – Rheingau, Germany
- Casa Ferreirinha Vinha Grande Douro 2002 – Douro, Portugal
- Bodegas Muga Seleccion Especial Reserva 2005 – Rioja, Spain
- Sadie Family Sequillo Swartland Chenin Blanc blend 2007 – S. Africa
- Lazy River Yamhill-Carlton Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2005 – Oregon
- Pensfold RWT Barossa Valley Shiraz 2006 – Australia
- Luigi Bosca Estate Reserva Malbec 2008 – Mendoza, ARG