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#NationalDrinkWineDay: Your 5-step #wine tasting guide

18 Feb

 

Drink up, darlings! It’s National Drink Wine Day. For your sipping pleasure, here’s an easy-peasy primer on how to enjoy vino. Can I get a ¡Salud! for the Five S’s: See. Swirl. Sniff. Sip. Spit.

Glasses

1. See. How a wine looks can tell you a lot about what’s in your glass. For example, the younger a white wine is, the paler it looks. Conversely, the older a red wine is, the lighter in color it will appear. More advanced tasters may be able to tell what type of grape the wine is made from by how it looks, e.g., a Cabernet Sauvignon will look inky, while a Pinot Noir will appear more clear.

Swirl

2. Swirl. When you swirl wine around in your glass, you’re releasing the little odor molecules that give wine its flavor and aroma. The only wine you don’t want to swirl is a sparkling wine. Exposure to air will cause the wine to lose its fizziness and some of its flavor characteristics.

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3. Sniff. Smelling a wine can give you more clues about its origins and how it was made. If you’re smelling vanilla, cedar or tobacco, it’s an indicator that the wine was aged in oak barrels. If you’re smelling a lot of fruit, it’s possible the wine comes from the New World, or a winemaking region outside of Europe. Mineral aromas like gravel, flint or wet stone may mean the wine is made in the Old World or European style.

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4. Sip. Notice I said sip and not gulp. A smaller sip allows you to discreetly swirl the wine around in your mouth so that you can pick up more aromas, and thus get a better sense for the wine’s flavor.

Pouring

5. Spit. You’re probably wondering why anyone would want to waste perfectly good wine. I’ll drink to that! But if you overdo it, your ability to distinguish flavor characteristics plummets. It’s like meeting a chulo guy (or hot señorita) in a bar. The more you drink, the less likely you’ll be able to tell a winner from a stalker/TV Guide hoarder. Save the ambitious drinking for dinner. And make sure you have a ride home. Preferably not from aforementioned serial killer/Beanie Babies doll collector.

Now go forth and taste, chicas y chicos.  ¡Salud!

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What not to do at a wine tasting

3 Feb

Psssst…you with the wineglass. Yeah, you! Don’t tell anyone, but I’m supposed to be doing statistics homework right now.

I know what you’re going to say.  “Writing a wine blog post has nothing to do with MBA coursework.” Well, yes and no. It turns out that my school not only puts on this wine-derful fundraiser, the Annual Wine Classic, but it also makes its own wine! Check it out:

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Last weekend, I got to attend the 34th annual Wine Classic, my first big wine tasting event since last fall. Boy, did I need a drink…but I digress. I often get asked what one should do at a wine tasting. The answer is: have fun. There are, however, a few things you should not do.

At the risk of being expelled from my program, I am about to share with you some faux pas I observed at the event. I’ve turned these no-no’s into guidelines that not only will enhance your own experience, but possibly the experience of your fellow wine lovers. Consider this your “Rules of the Road” for wine tasting. Are you ready? Let’s go!

1. Do not wear perfume. If you’ve learned anything from Señorita Vino all these years, it’s that most of what you “taste” when you sip wine is experienced through your sense of smell. The best way to completely mess this up is to wear fragrance of any kind. Don’t do it. Chicos, that includes you.

2. Don’t ask for a second or third pour. This is a wine tasting, not a bar. Winemakers bring just enough wine to ensure everyone gets a taste. That little booklet or handout you get at most wine tasting events is your best amigo. Circle or check off the wines you like, maybe grab a business card from the winemaker or representative, and try to find a bottle of that wine at a wine shop. If it’s a boutique winery, you may be able to buy it from their website.

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3. Don’t bring a gigantic purse. This is the sound of you with your ginormous designer bag, trying to squeeze through a sardine-like gantlet of fellow wine tasters: SPLASH. Leave the tote bag at home and opt for something smaller that will leave your hands free to hold a wineglass and small food plate–and not jostle other wine lovers as you walk by.

4. Event planners, don’t use vinyl to cover floors or tables. My only gripe about the Wine Classic itself was the noxious odor emitted by the plastic tarp covering the floor of the university’s sports complex. I get that you have to protect the expensive wood floor, but the overpowering smell of vinyl was, well, overpowering. Maybe air out the tarp a few days before, or find a covering that doesn’t give off a smell.

5. Don’t be a snob about it. Ah, the grandiose swirler, the smug connoisseur, the chummy “insider.” These textbook archetypes of Vinus Snobus can forget that they’re in a space with hundreds of other wine lovers. Once they get to the front of the line, they decide it’s a great time for a fireside chat with the winery staff. There’s nothing wrong with striking up a conversation with winery reps. Just be considerate of your fellow wine lovers and make sure there’s not a mile-long line of people waiting patiently behind you for a taste of wine.

"You're my little macaron, oh yes you are!" (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons by Pierre Marcolini)

“You’re my little macaron, oh yes you are!” (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons by Pierre Marcolini)

6. Don’t hoard the macarons. Or the cheese. Or the charcuterie. Like many wine tasting events, the Wine Classic featured a couple of large cheese and fruit stations, and some dessert and coffee stands. Classy! But not so classy was the lady stuffing macarons and chocolate almond bark into two ‘grande’ paper coffee cups. I kid you not. I was crushed, because I actually had a dream about macarons the night before. I couldn’t find macarons in the ol’ dream dictionary, but I suspect it means there’s a trip to Paris in my future. Or maybe not. Either way, I didn’t get my macaron. Waaah.

I think that covers it, darlings. Have I left anything out? if you have any additional tips, do share! Until next time, ¡Salud!

What it’s like to be a #wine judge – part 1 #LACountyFair

6 Sep

September in Los Angeles means it’s time for the L.A. County Fair. Award-winning wines from this year’s Los Angeles International Wine Competition will be poured,  and let it be known that yours truly was asked to be a guest judge at this year’s Competition back in May. Trust me, no one was more surprised than I was.

Photo by Nancy Newman

Photo by Nancy Newman

My invitation came via email from a  publicist for the Bordeaux/Bordeaux Superieur panel. Before I could over-think it, I accepted. As soon as I clicked “send,” I panicked. Me? Really? Do they have any idea I’m just a chica who loves wine and doesn’t consider herself a connoisseur? Maybe they confused me with someone else, and soon I’d receive an email with an apology for the error and a gracious dis-invitation.

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No such email arrived, and after sending a frantic plea for help to the amazing Shelby Ledgerwood, my very first wine instructor at UCLA Extension’s Wine Education program, I started practicing the breathing techniques I learned  in a “Yoga for Relaxation” class. It turns out Shelby was a regular judge at the event, and after reading her reassuring response and helpful tips, I packed an overnight bag and drove to the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds.

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So here’s how a wine gets judged. All wines are tasted blind, that is, we have no idea which wine we are tasting. All you know is that the wines are from a particular region or made with a particular grape variety. Each flight could have as many as 15 wines, and there are about three flights per session. Do the math. There are usually five to six judges and a secretary who records all of the ratings. And there could be guest judges whose ratings are not counted in the official tally but whose opinions are considered by the other judges.

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If  you’ve ever seen the “I Love Lucy” chocolate factory episode, substitute me for Lucy and glasses of wine for chocolate. Gone was the luxury of 10 minutes to evaluate one wine, the standard in my WSET Level 3 classes. Instead, I had about 10 minutes to get through a flight of 15 wines. As with all professional wine tastings, I was spitting everything I tasted. And I know a thousand tiny violins will play in unison at this next line, but being a guest judge put my stress-o-meter into turbo-charge mode. Wait’ll you hear who was at my table!

How’s that for a cliff-hanger, chicas y chicos? Stay tuned for part 2 of “What it’s like to be a wine judge” next week. Until then, ¡Salud!

 

#LA’s only #Latino-owned #winery

23 Aug

Darlings, it’s been a crazy week, so I’m sharing an oldie but a goodie. Here’s a post on LA’s only Latino-owned winery. Now you know that you really can go wine tasting in L.A. ¡Salud!

About an hour’s drive north of downtown Los Angeles, the radio signal in my car begins to fade. Minutes later as I exit the 5 freeway at Agua Dulce Canyon Road, a country western station pipes in crystal clear.

The twangy guitar and folksy melody provide a fitting soundtrack for the winding country roads that lead to Reyes Winery, the only Latino-owned winery in Los Angeles County, and one of a few wineries 45 minutes away from the heart of downtown L.A.

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Robert Reyes, winemaker and general manager, warmly welcomes me and a crew from ABC-7, who are here to do a segment on Señorita Vino for their Sunday morning television program, Vista LA [NOTE: the show aired Nov. 17, but if you’re in L.A. County, you might catch a re-broadcast in the late evening or early morning].

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Besides making wine, Reyes, a native of the Dominican Republic, paints and scuba dives. Yet this Renaissance man’s passion for wine stems not from idyllic trips to Europe’s wine regions, but from a beloved aunt.

“I’ve loved wine since I was a kid in the Dominican Republic,” Reyes says. “My 92-year-old aunt would visit us in Santo Domingo and she’d bring a bottle of her homemade fruit wine. As kids, we’d get a taste.”

Reyes was smitten, and as an adult, he started making his own version of his aunt’s fruity concoction.

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What started as a passion developed into a serious interest, and Reyes began schooling himself in the art of winemaking by reading books. He also consulted other winemakers and took courses at UC Davis, which has a world-renowned viticulture and enology program.

He planted the first vineyard at Reyes Winery in 2004, and harvested a small crop the next year. Today, the boutique winery produces 3,500 cases annually from five varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and Muscat.

On display in the tasting room are Reyes’ own paintings of the vineyard and scenes evocative of his homeland. Also visible are some of the awards his wines have garnered.

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“Our wines have been on the market for the past two-and-a-half years, and in that time we’ve earned medals in every competition we’ve entered,” Reyes notes. To date, the winery has won 29 medals.

Despite the honors, Reyes remains grounded. And he’s quick to dismiss wine snobbery. “There are a lot of people out there who, for whatever reason, have this attitude about wine knowledge,” he says. “If you taste a wine and like it, then it doesn’t matter what anyone else says about it.”

When asked about wine consumption among Latinos, Reyes observes that Hispanics are definitely upping their wine drinking. He attributes the increase to the fact that Latinos are becoming more affluent as they integrate into American culture.

Vines are planted on 16 acres of land.

Vines are planted on 16 acres of land.

“Where we once worked in the fields, we now have the means to be able to make wine and especially drink wine,” states Reyes. “It’s a social phenomenon that we’re all participating in.”

Reyes Winery. 10262 Sierra Highway, Agua Dulce, Calif. 91390. (661) 268-1865. Open for tastings Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Book a tasting and winery tour at www.reyeswinery.com.

 

Cool off with white #wines from Argentina and Spain

1 Aug

Feliz Friday, chicas y chicos! For your summer heatwave pleasure, I’d like to introduce you to some cool white wines from Spain and Argentina.

It’s all here in one of my most recent articles  for Latina magazine’s amazing food and wine website, TheLatinKitchen.com

¡Salud, and here’s to the weekend!

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¡Mucho Gusto! Get to know Verdejo on #VerdejoDay

10 Jun

Great news, chicas y chicos!  You don’t have to wait until July 4 for a reason to celebrate – National Verdejo Day is just around the corner! This Thursday, June 12 marks the first annual National Verdejo Day, and if you happen to be near New York, Miami, Chicago or, yes, beautiful downtown Los Angeles, you can live it up at a rooftop party in honor of this crisp white wine from Spain’s Rueda D.O. region.

L.A. folks – get your tickets by visiting my Events page and following the link provided in the “Sign Me Up!” section. Tickets are only $25, and the party includes a little taste of Spanish appetizers from Rueda that pair well with Verdejo.

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And you know I wouldn’t send you off to a wine fiesta without some fun facts to tuck away in your hip pocket. Here’s all you need to know about Verdejo:

HOLA, ME LLAMO: Verdejo is a white wine grape from Spain’s Rueda D.O. region.

MY ROOTS: Don’t confuse Verdejo with Verdelho, the white grape from Portugal. DNA testing shows that they are two distinct grape varieties. It’s believed that Verdejo showed up in the Rueda region around the 11th century. Before that, it was introduced to southern Spain from North Africa.

ALL ABOUT ME: Verdejo is a dry white wine with zingy acidity and lovely fruit aromas of peach, pear, tropical fruit, and lemon. You’ll also get a touch of herbs (think fennel) and a trace of limestone minerality. It’s a medium-bodied wine with an alcohol content hovering between 11 and 12 percent. Verdejo develops honeyed, nutty flavors as it ages.

FOODS I LOVE: This is a wine that loves tapas, especially garlicky clams, grilled shrimp and bacalau (fried cod). The wine’s acidity holds up nicely with vinaigrette dressing in salads, and the same crispness “cuts” through a creamy pasta dish and Manchego cheese.

DO TRY THIS AT HOME: Verdejo is one of those wines that’s easy on the wallet. You can get a nice Verdejo for less than $15. Give these a swirl: Protos Verdejo 2013; Mocen Verdejo Fermendado en Barrica 2011; Pago traslagares Oro Pálido Organic Verdejo 2013; Castelo de Medina Castelo Vendimia Seleccionada Verdejo 2012; Pedro Escudero Fuente Elvira Verdejo 2013.

¡Salud, and see you in downtown L.A.!

Verdejo_Wine

 

¡Mucho Gusto! Get to know #SauvBlanc

16 May

Feliz Friday everyone ! Today is World Sauvignon Blanc Day, and I’m re-blogging this post from my ¡Mucho Gusto! series in honor of the occasion. Raise a glass of #SauvBlanc today!

For those of you who don’t speak Spanish, mucho gusto is what you say when you first meet someone. It’s like “nice to meet you,” but it would translate more directly as “with great pleasure.”

Gusto has many meanings, including “taste” and “flavor,” so consider ¡Mucho Gusto! a delectable play on words and a way to familiarize yourself with wine. So here we go…

Intipalka Sauvignon Blanc is made by Santiago Queirolo, one of Peru's longest-standing wineries.

Intipalka Sauvignon Blanc is made by Santiago Queirolo, one of Peru’s longest-standing wineries.

HOLA, ME LLAMO: Sauvignon Blanc is a white wine.

MY ROOTS: Sauvignon Blanc was born in France’s Bordeaux region. A bit of trivia – the grape variety hooked up with Cabernet Franc sometime in the 1700s and the result was Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, Sauvignon Blanc continues to thrive in Bordeaux. Because French wines are geographically labeled and not named for the actual grape, “Sancerre” and “Pouilly-Fumé” are 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc wines. Sauvignon Blanc was planted in other countries including New Zealand, the U.S. (California), Chile, Australia and Italy. Robert Mondavi coined the name Fumé Blanc, so if you see this on the grocery store shelf, it’s Sauvignon Blanc.

ALL ABOUT ME: Sauvignon Blanc is a dry wine made from an aromatic grape, hence its distinctive aroma. You may get nectarines, white peach, grapefruit, grass and herbs, gooseberries, and believe it or not, kitty pee. French Sauvignon Blanc may also display a flinty, gravelly minerality. Most Sauvignon Blanc is stainless-steel fermented, so you won’t get the woodsy, oaky notes you’d find in Chardonnay. It’s also known for its refreshing, crisp acidity.

FOODS I LOVE: You can’t go wrong with Sauvignon Blanc and seafood. The wine’s crispness complements the buttery texture of white fish and scallops. I’ve had it with oysters and it’s to-die-for amazing. Sauvignon Blanc is the ideal wine for vegetarian dishes. This is a great wine for salads, since the herb notes of the wine will match the crisp greens in the salad and the acidity matches vinaigrette dressing. For some Latin flair, pair Sauvingon Blanc with guacamole (the acidity of the wine “cuts” the creaminess of the guac) and spicy dishes like enchiladas and chile relleno. I love Sauvignon Blanc with Peruvian arroz con pollo (chicken in a cilantro sauce).

DO TRY THIS AT HOME: The beauty of Sauvignon Blanc is that you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy it. You can get a good bottle for $10 – $20. Of course, you can pay upwards of $150 for a classified Bordeaux blend. Some well-regarded labels include: Cloudy Bay, Kim Crawford and Matua Valley from New Zealand; Laville Haut-Brion, Alphonse Mellot and Pascal Jolivet from France; St. Supéry, Kunde and Matanzas Creek from California; Montes, Concha y Toro and Viña Leyda from Chile.

So here’s wishing you ¡Mucho Gusto! as you get to know Sauvignon Blanc. Until next time…

¡Salud!

 

 

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