“I’m Still Learning.” Michelangelo at age 81!
Life is best experienced when we continually learn new things and broaden our horizons. One of my goals this year was to try and fill in as many of the gaps that I could when it comes to my knowledge of wine, winemaking, and wine regions. When the opportunity arose to attend the Annual Wine Boot Camp put on by Woodinville Wine Country, I knew it would be a perfect way to “keep learning”.
For this blog post I wanted to focus on the first of the four Boot Camp sessions, Decoding Foreign Wine Labels. Foreign Wine Labels have always perplexed me, especially while trying to choose a “just right wine” from the wide selections carried by many big box wine retailers. I really wanted to learn how to decipher these information filled labels. Designed as a practical lesson to help you understand the basics of foreign wine labels, instructor Tanya Morningstar Darling covered the history and origin of foreign labeling, and how to apply what you learn selecting a wine from a wine list or wine store.
Each of the following wines were introduced with an in depth education about how the particular country generally labels their wines. As much as I would love to share all the information I learned about Decoding wine labels, this was Instructor Tanya’s class and I do not want to just copy all the information she provided. So, I wanted to instead highlight the six wines tasted, after all isn’t this the best part, being able to taste each of the wines? The line up for the first session included a impressive array of different wines, each in their own way peaking my interest. These wines, all listed below, are available at Esquin Wine & Spirits locally in Seattle. (https://madwine.com/ )
Before I delve into each of these wines, I have to share how impressed I was with the Instructor Tanya Morningstar Darling, and her enthusiasm for wine and educating others about wine. Tanya expressed things about tasting experiences that I have always felt when it comes to wine, like “What you smell is yours, there is no right or wrong about it”. This says so much because of the four people at my table, we rarely agreed on what we smelled or tasted when it came to tasting the same exact bottle of wine.
Starting a tasting flight off with a Sparkling Wine is always a treat, it helps ready the palate, and gives you something to sip between each of the remaining wines to reclaim your palate. The NV Maurice Bonnamy Cremant De Loire is a Non-Vintage Sparkling wine that drinks incredibly well for a $15 bottle. On the nose you get Apple and Quince with notes of mineral elements floating up with the bubbles. On the palate is was refreshing (especially for 9:30 in the morning), it was fairly dry and actually lacked much fruit flavor, what amazed me was the mineral flavors present in each sip that I previously smelled. I don’t know if I would rush out and buy a bottle of this Sparkling Wine but I also would not put my hand over my glass if someone were to offer me a pour.
One of the first things that struck me was the vintage of this Riesling, a 2016? This added to my continual education that some white wines can age quiet well and this Riesling was an example of this fact. This 2016 Schlossgut Diel Dorsheim Riesling was lovely on the nose with a intoxicating smell of pear and apricot blended with a slight mineral edge. Some in the room said it smelled of petrol, but I could not detect this. A citrus flavor on the tongue, it felt rich but dry and a little salty but still pleasant to drink. A nice introduction to a German Riesling, at $32 a bottle I personally would like to try other Riesling from the same region before investing in bottles to cellar.
As much as I wanted to like this 2017 R. Dubois & Fils Bourgogne Rouge I enjoyed the aroma more than I did the flavor. With the smell of vanilla soaked blueberries and blackberries, smelling this wine made me think of berries that are almost overly ripe in the middle of August. The flavor was very dry and full of ripe fruit but it really lacked a depth that was needed to draw me in completely. For this wine I focused on learning more about the label to help me decode French wine labels. This Pinot Noir sells for $18 a bottle.
The 100% Sangiovese grapes used in this 2016 Uccelliera Rosso di Montalcino are selected from the youngest Brunello di Montalcino vineyards, also known as the vineyards in the coolest areas. The result is a bright velvety, well-balanced and medium-bodied wine that is crisp, dry and fruity. A plush ripeness is apparent in the aroma of sweet dark plums, spice and fresh cut wood. I wanted to fall for this wine given my previous experience with Sangiovese. Though it had a firm expression, silky tannins, and a flavorful finish, it wasn’t a wine I would be excited to drink. I felt it may have been better when it was first bottled, or would have been better if it was given more time to open up in a decanter or aerator. The wines in this six bottle flight were opened before the session started but not given much time to sit before being poured.
This 2011 Diaz Bayo Ribera Del Duero Reserva presented a powerful 100% Tempranillo punch and an equally strong alcohol level at 14%. I loved everything about this Spanish wine and so did the rest of my table. In full agreement it was our favorite of the first six wines of the morning.
With a beautifully aged complexity there was much to appreciate about this 2011 Vintage.
Components on the nose were like a raisin figgy pudding topped with a liquid chocolate sauce. This was a wine to swirl and sniff, and repeat; Heavenly. This ripe Ribera del Duero offered a fleshy sip that sang with an earthy black-fruit flavor, dried prunes and spicy notes that wrapped around your tongue prior to a thick long finish. Available for $19 a bottle this would be a wine that I would stock up on and cellar to enjoy now and over the next five years.
Wine Blend: 37% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Malbec, 11% Petit Verdot, 7% Cabernet Franc.
This wine our Instructor Tanya chose as an example of New World Wine with an Old World Label for Marketing purposes. With the Merlot taking a slight lead on this blend on the nose you get Classic pops of cherry, pepper and cocoa. This wine definitely had a story to tell and each grape variety aspired to not be over staged by the others. These Noble Five Red Bordeaux varietals were blended with care and like the end of a play, each grape stepped forward to take their bow before the curtain falls at the finish. I appreciated this wine’s silky balance and how it offered a sensibility toward comfort with its flavor. Strong smokey pepper notes followed an initial introduction of red currants and vanilla, dry yet seamless with layers of structured tannins. A really solid complex blend of Bordeaux varietals. Priced around $30 a bottle this California wine was a nice way to end the Session One tasting.
At the end of the first Session our Boot Camp group made our way to Pondera Winery for a tasting, lunch from Purple Cafe Woodinville, and a presentation by 58 Stars Travel detailing some upcoming Wine Wanderlust Travel Experiences.
As I stated before, I wish I could share all of the information about Decoding Foreign Wine Labels, but after all this was Tanya Morningstar Darling’s class. Tanya has a list of wine education opportunities and upcoming wine study trips on her website, I encourage you to visit https://www.cellarmuse.com/ to learn more.
I hope that you visit the websites of those who helped make this session and lunch a success:
“Wine is not only for drinking, it is sniffing, observing, tasting, or sipping at….talking about.”
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