Wine IRL

Total Wine Napa Wine Class

Total Wine Napa Wine Class

Recently, my son let me in on a gamer acronym, ‘IRL,’ as in ‘I have to go eat dinner IRL.’ ‘But what does it stand for?’ I asked him. ‘In Real Life.’ Although it is an acronym used by gamers, I think it is profoundly a part of modern life for all of us. While technology has brought us incredible opportunities for sharing information and even socializing, it has, also, for most of us, created a dichotomous existence.

In the world of wine, there is so much we can do that we couldn’t or didn’t do even ten years ago. We can share wine reviews with hundreds of people that we have never met. We can study wine on line. We can form wine communities through blogging. We can find information on almost any winery. We can buy wine on line. We can do all of this without ever having to interact with anyone IRL. While the convenience of having access to such vast amounts of information is fantastic, the repercussions of not having face to face interaction with fellow wine-lovers is just beginning to be felt in our society.

Experiencing wine is more than tasting and acquiring information. As has been said many times here on the blogs, the best part of experiencing wine is sharing the wine with friends and building a wine community. That can only be done off line through things like wine festivals, winery visits, tasting groups, and IRL wine classes.

This week in locations across the country, Total Wine offered a class on Napa Valley wines. I always enjoy the classes offered because it is a chance to taste through several wines. Also, the classes are designed to be informative for those just beginning their wine journeys as well as those with some level of wine education. The teachers are certified and very knowledgeable, and, also very good at sharing information at every level.

TotalWineNapaClassSept2014 009Last night we tasted through three Napa whites and six Napa reds. We started with Amici Sauvignon Blanc made by Joel Aiken with grapes from St. Helena and Calistoga. The wine is aged primarily in stainless with just a short time in neutral oak. The flavors are melon, lemon and pineapple with a crisp finish.

The Chappellet Chardonnay is made by Phillip Titus with grapes from Carneros, the coolest region in Napa. It has aromas of smoky oak, apple and pear with a medium plus acidity and a full body. We tasted the Chappellet side by side with the Lloyd Chardonnay that is also made with grapes from Carneros. This wine is produced by Robert Lloyd. It has aromas of oak, honey and sweet, spicy pears. The Lloyd Chardonnay is more golden in color and more lush and opulent in body and flavor. The Cheppellet is a more elegant, refined Chardonnay. Both are lovely.

We began the reds with a Courtney Benham Merlot made by Bill Batchelor with grapes from Carneros, Oak Knoll and Stag’s Leap. The aromas are vanilla, cherry, plum and pepper with medium plus acidity and velvety tannins.

We moved from the Merlot to a Napa Zinfandel made by Titus with grapes sourced from Napa Valley. The flavors are cherry, red licorice, vanilla, pepper and coconut. It is a full-bodied wine with very firm tannins.

Our next four wines are all from the grape for which Napa is known, Cabernet Sauvignon. Daglia Canyon is made from Rutherford grapes. It has intense aromas of blackberry and creamy cherries with hints of vanilla and leather. It is full-bodied with very ripe tannins. We tasted it side by side with Cimarossa Cab from Howell Mountain. The Howell Mountain wine had aromas of chocolate, dark berries and tobacco leaves. It is, also very intense with firm tannins, a bit more earthy in flavor than the Rutherford Cab.

Our last two Cabernets were from Stag’s Leap, the Goldilocks region, and St. Helena. The Stag’s Leap wine was a Martin Ray. It is aged for 24 months in French oak and has aromas of tobacco, chocolate, cherry, blackberries and a whiff of carnation. It is very full-bodied with juicy ripe tannins. Red Mare uses grapes from St. Helena, Rutherford and Oakville. It is a small production wine made by Anne Vawter. The flavors are melting cherries, tobacco leaf, mint and spice. It is a ripe and fresh wine with a medium plus acidity.

Tasting so many Napa wines side by side gave us a great opportunity to experience and study the elements of the wines and to appreciate their individual layers of flavor and nuanced differences. Tasting through and learning about wine IRL gave us a multidimensional experience that was full and rich and nuanced.

Courtney Benham Napa Valley Merlot

Courtney Benham Napa Valley Merlot

Titus Zinfandel Napa

Titus Zinfandel Napa

Daglia Canyon Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon

Daglia Canyon Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon

Cimarossa Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain

Cimarossa Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain

Red Mare Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Red Mare Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Martin Ray Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon

Martin Ray Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon

Tempranillo Friends

This is my entry for the MWWC#11 The topic this month is Friend

I came to the class early to get a seat up front. Scheduled monthly, I like to take advantage of the wine classes that Total Wine offers, not so much for the grape and region information. Although I always learn something, generally, the information is pretty basic. Mainly, I go to the classes for the opportunity to taste through the wines.

As I sat down, a woman about my age sat next to me and introduced herself. We spoke a bit before the class began. She had just recently moved here from San Francisco. I offered my condolences and let her know that I, also had just moved here, er, gosh, has it been 13 years, already?! Our conversation continued easily and jovially for the few minutes before class began.

Then it was time to head to Spain and Portugal. The wines were the familiar offerings of the Iberian Peninsula. The Vinho Verde was produced by Nobilis and was crisp and pétillant, with tropical fruit aromas.

For the Albarino from Spain we tasted Val do Sosego out of Rias Baixas. It had a bit more body than the Vinho with aromas of peach and grapefruit peel.

After the whites we delved into the Tempranillos, first in the form of rosé by Bodegas Eguren. With flavors of rose water, cherry lollipop, watermelon and a sloe gin finish, this was indeed a refreshing rosé.

And then came the beautiful stars of the evening, four red Tempranillos, one after another. Two were from Rioja, one from Toro and one from Ribera del Duero.

Cincuenta Ugarte is 100% Tempranillo and oak aged for 10 months. It is a beautiful ruby-red color with flavors of tobacco, blackberry, licorice and spice. At $14.99 this gorgeous wine was definitely the best value of the evening.Cincuenta, 2009

Our second Rioja was by Valserrano. It was 95% Tempranillo with just a smidgeon of Graciano and Garnacha making up the difference. With dark fruit aromas, vanilla, cassis and chocolate this full-bodied red had a nice, long finish.

From Ribera del Duero we had a wine produced by Ninin that had aromas of dark cherry, vanilla and spice with a nice acidity. The tidbit of information that I learned about this region is that as in the Maremma region of Italy, the wine makers of Ribera del Duero would rather make wines their way than follow the rules of a DOCa rating. Our teacher called them the ‘Hipsters’ of Spain. The results, as with the Super Tuscans are high-quality, elegant wines without the DOCa pricing.

From Toro we had a 100% Tinta de Toro (aka Tempranillo) made by Liberalia. This wine had an intense dark fruit aroma with notes of violets and Chinese five spice.

We, also had a Monastrell (aka Mouvedre) made by Tesoro de Bullas. With medium acidity and ripe tannins, this wine presented aromas of lavender, blueberry, blackberry and dusty oak.

We ended the night with a Douro red made with the classic grapes of a fortified Port. Produced by Quinta do Vale Maeo Meandro, it had softer tannins than the Tempranillos with some sour cherry and raisin fruits flavors and a whiff of chocolate.

When the class was over, Mary and I spoke at length about the wines, some local politics, our previous jobs, and I don’t know what else. It was when the teacher left the room that Mary gave me her card and suggested that we get together for lunch.

I loved spending so much time with a few Iberian wines, especially the Tempranillo. Drinking several side by side really gave me a chance to get to know the grape a little better.

It isn’t often that I immediately hit it off with someone I’ve just met. I’m looking forward to getting to know my new friend a little better.