Friday, September 18, 2009

Revelations: Your Wine Palate

The sooner you learn to make sense of your wine palate, the sooner you'll be drinking wines you truly enjoy instead of those that just don't do it for you. A fun and efficient way to discover what tastes and textures you like best is to participate in a guided wine tasting. For the 15 ladies who attended such a tutorial last night, it was like finding true love.

The wine boss laid down a few ground rules: Arrive on time with a clean palate and an open mind; perfume verboten. After a few tips, an unoaked, stainless-steel fermented Oregon Chardonnay led off with clean stone fruit flavors, light-to-medium body and crisp acidity. While a few ladies wrinkled their cute noses, others wished for shrimp cocktail. Next, a California chard offered toasty oak flavors, tropical fruit and a creamy, heavier body. Noses unwrinkled, others dumped. All good – the palates are coming out.

A surprise Argentine white opened up a bouquet of floral aromas for the exotic-minded set. Eyebrows went up as noses buried into tasting glasses for long, deep breaths. By now, palates were definitely awake and frisky.

Wine Boss figured they were ready for the rosé challenge. One sip of this Provençal palate-pleaser busted the wine chauvinism of those ladies brave enough to admit rosé prejudice. Who could resist its red fruit and strawberry flavors with a hint of mint and food-friendly acidity?

Ready for red, the bright fruit lovers swooned for a Central Coast Pinot Noir's cherry scents and gorgeous color. Their sharper and savvier palates were tickled to pick up the wine's cinnamon spice and soft mouthfeel. Now we're talkin'!

Onward to a Paso Robles Syrah, which nearly silenced the group. After all that red-fruited wine, the women zeroed in on the wine's dark-fruited flavors, peppery spice and subtle tones of leather and earth. The wine mojo was swelling as the group busily jotted notes between bites of aged Gouda and treats Wine Boss served to match, not mask, each wine.

The closer red from Argentina was a mouth-filling hedonist's delight of smooth mocha and blackberry flavors. We didn't spot too many spitters or dumpers for this one either. Some ladies went back to Syrah while others double-checked that they'd actually enjoyed a rosé by going back for more. A roomful of palates had been revealed.

Because the ladies had done so well to identify different wine flavors, textures and characteristics they liked or didn't – and why – Boss brought out a final delicacy: Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, a fortified wine to weaken the knees of the staunchest dessert wine refuse-nik. More surprise, more converts, case closed.

The evening was a success all-around with great camaraderie, learning and discovery. The Girlfriend Factor's scholarship fund was enriched and the ladies went home understanding a whole new world right inside their pretty mouths: their wine palates, understood, accepted and primed for more.

Curious to try this on your own? Here's the list of tasting wines from wine shops and grocers around town that range from about $6-20 per bottle. Click on any wine to learn more:

2007 A to Z Oregon Chardonnay
2008 Bouchon California Chardonnay
2008 Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontés
2008 Chateau Routas Rosé
2006 Cambria Pinot Noir, Julia's Vineyard
2006 Robert Hall Paso Robles Syrah
2005 Zolo Malbec Reserva
2007 André Andrieux Muscat de Beaumes de Venise


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