Palate Practice

tasting with intention

Tag: birthday

Recent Wine Adventures

The world keeps spinning, the seasons keep changing, and while there hasn’t been much activity here of late, my own personal wine adventures continue.

 

WSET

A few weeks ago I wrote a 50 multiple choice question exam that was the culmination of four months of learning about wine. For 16 thoroughly enjoyable weeks I systematically learned about wine and spirits. To my delight we learned (and tasted!) our way through Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling, Syrah, Grenache and a whole mess of other whites and reds. We also got comfy with sweet, sparkling, and dessert wines (Sherry is amazing, and you will probably hear all about it in a future post), and had one class each on white spirits (vodka, gin, etc.) and brown spirits (the whiskies, mostly). Delicious and exhausting, looking back on it.

 

After freaking out over my seeming lack of ability to retain anything about things like the varietals specific to Italy or Vins du Naturels, I hunkered down with some charts and index cards because I decided I would be damned if I wasn’t going to pass this test with flying colours!

 

My aim was to pass with distinction – 85% or higher. But let me tell you – it is really difficult to get 85% or higher on a 50-question test, each question was worth 2%! If I got any more than seven questions wrong that dream would go out the window. Well, I found out last week that while I did pass, it wasn’t with distinction. On the plus side, it was with merit (80-85%) – I’ll take it!

 

Needless to say my brain is now full of new wine knowledge. And yet, I still feel like a novice when it comes to wine! Oh well, you know what to do to remedy that… *pops cork*

 

Family Birthdays = Wine Tastings

My brother Nick’s birthday was in April and he requested a wine tasting as part of his celebrations. Of course we, his loving family, were happy to oblige.

 

We tasted six reds and six different varietals. I’m sad to report that I only correctly identified two of the six wines – it’s clear I still have some work to do. However, it was still a great time and we were treated to six really delicious wines from my stepdad’s cellar.

 

winetastingtable

Wine tasting is a lot of work, guys…

 

birthdaywinetastingchart

Alas, I only correctly guessed two out of six wines.

 

Wine siblings!

Wine siblings! (note that this isn’t the brother whose birthday we were celebrating, that one is less enthused about photo-taking)

 

1969Barolo

Aaaaaaaaaand then my stepdad spoiled us all even further by opening this wine. Holy crap, this wine is old!

 

Adventures in Cataloguing

I’ve been making a concerted effort lately to catalogue the wines I drink in Vivino. My plan is simple – every time I taste a new wine I log it in the app along with some brief tasting notes. I don’t usually re-log the same wine, so the wines in my profile are usually ones I’ve never had before. I’ve also been focusing on wines I have in my day-to-day explorations – taking time out at dinners or parties is a bit more onerous that I’m interested in, and I know I have ample opportunity to log wines independent of social time.

 

To date I’ve logged 82 wines and am ranked 188 in Canada. Pretty cool! If you like you can follow me there.

 

Wine Course Plans

I’ve always been a bit of a nerd for formalized education, and my WSET Level 2 course was so enjoyable that even before the course ended I knew I wanted to keep learning about wine in this way. I also made a couple friends from that class and together we’ve decided to go on to the Level 3 course in January. In the meantime I’m going to fill in some personal gaps by taking a different wine course through a local college. Both my wine buddies have taken this one and recommend it before doing WSET Level 3 since the jump from Level 2 is quite big. To be honest I have no problem with this; more classes and tastings – hurt me!
Now that spring feels here to stay I’m looking forward to the warmer weather, which of course includes more whites, more rosés and fun with sangria.

 

 

There’s No Place Like Home

I recently went home for the weekend to celebrate my Mom’s birthday. She’s celebrating a milestone birthday this year so I made an extra effort to go home – and also because I had a feeling that my Stepdad would pull out some delicious wines from his cellar to mark the occasion!

Weekends like these are always a treat – it’s great to see my family, nice to celebrate a special occasion, and a big treat to taste wines from the cellar. My stepdad has been collecting for years and has great taste, which means I have the great pleasure of tasting amazing wines I would not at all be able to afford, even if I found them.

We kicked off the weekend in fine fashion with these lovely wines:

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double our pleasure!

double our pleasure!

We didn’t make it to that second bottle of La Playa, but believe me that both wines were delicious and went very well with the cheese and baguette we noshed on and the hoisin-glazed salmon we had for dinner.

Of course, this was all preamble to the big celebration the next night.

We started the party off with some Champagne – ooh la la!

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Despite singing the praises of other sparklings I do have to admit that I love Champagne – the bubbles are smaller, which makes the wine positively effervescent on my tongue. Seriously, there is truth to this famous quote about Champagne, “Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!”*

From there we moved on to a lovely sparkling from Kew winery in Niagara. I thought this wine was quite lovely and plan to add the winery to my list of places to visit on my next Niagara trip.

adorable label

adorable label

A couple of glasses of bubbly in and it was time to move into the dining room for the main event!

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even our table decor is wine-y

On deck was shrimp remoulade to start and then roast lamb, cauliflower gratin, roast potatoes, and broccoli, all to be accompanied with three French reds pulled from the cellar.

not pictured - my drool

not pictured – my drool

On further label inspection we noticed that all three wines were GSM blends (Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre) which worked out very well – this blend is my mom’s favourite! Happy birthday to her!

DELICIOUS

DELICIOUS

The first red was a Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and it was my favourite of the night. The flavour was so smooth that it had a velvety quality to it – something I don’t taste a lot in wines I come across, but a trait I love.

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The second red was another Frenchie, and I thought this one tasted more like a typical GSM. It was hearty and confident in flavour and I found it slightly tannic but not so much that it gave me that mouth-puckering sensation. My mom and I compared the first two wines a bit and realized that, while I favoured the first one, she liked this one better. Just goes to show how personal wine can be – different strokes and all that!

Even though I don’t have an individual pic of it, we did manage to open the third bottle. However, after the Champagne and the sparkling and the two other reds and the delicious food (including birthday cake!) I don’t remember much from this wine except that it had good body and that I liked it. This might possibly a shame, but at the end of the day it was still enjoyed!

All in all it was a very enjoyable (and delicious) visit home. It’s always good to take some time to enjoy the things you love – in my case, food, family, and wine!

one of the corks from the weekend - great colour!

one of the corks from the weekend – great colour!

 


Have you treated yourself to any special wines lately?

With A Little Help From My Friends

Last week was my birthday, and I had some friends over last weekend to celebrate. And my friends, lovely people that they are, know me so well that they treated me to some great gifts – of wine!

 

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Graffigna Grand Reserve Malbec 2011

I love the big personality of a Malbec, and think South America does them really well. Since Malbecs tend to have strong flavours and a lot of body I will probably have this wine with something with a similarly strong flavour, like a steak or a hearty stew. Or maybe I’ll just savour it on its own.

 

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Nicolas Laloux Les Chais 770

(I couldn’t actually find a link to this wine – curious!)

This one looks like a blend, but I am still interested to try it. To be honest, I am always interested in trying wine, since every bottle, every sip brings me closer to knowing what I like and being able to pinpoint more accurately what I’m tasting. The friend who gave me this wine gave me a 1 litre bottle, so I might need some help finishing this one!

 

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Chateau Marjosse 2010

‘Wait a minute,’ you might say, ‘this one doesn’t say which varietal it is!’

Well, you’d be right. Many French wines don’t state the grapes used to make their wines, and it’s not because they are trying to hide something from you – they actually expect you to know! This wine is from the Bordeaux region, which means it is most likely a blend of some combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and, in rare cases, Carménère. I am particularly excited to taste this wine because I’ve been on a bit of a streak educating myself on French wines, and also because I’ve also heard that 2010 was a good year for Bordeaux wines. (A good year basically means that the powers that be in the wine world have deemed wines made from grapes picked in that year to be particularly well-made. Yum!)

 

I was also given some beer and cider. I know, they’re not wine, but beer can be just as complex and interesting – not to mention delicious!

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[left to right: St. Bernardus Abt 12 quadrupel (Belgium), Cremant Cidrerie St-Nicolas (Quebec), La Trappe quadrupel (Netherlands)]

I have to admit, I love beer, and have a particular weakness for quadrupels, so I’m excited to try this beer. I’ve seen it in the shop and always wondered what it tasted like, and am grateful to my friends for treating me to this delicious-looking Belgian quad!

One of my friends brought one bottle of this cider for me, and one for us to enjoy at the party. I was a little wary because I am not usually a fan of sweet things, but this cider was light and crisp in addition to its sweetness – I found it completely delicious!

I’m excited to try this beer too! Quads tend to be strong in flavour and usually have a higher alcohol content (about 9%, as opposed to about 6% of most other beers), which can turn some people off, but I find them complex and completely satisfying.

 

As you can see, my friends really spoiled this birthday girl. If you’re looking to try new wines asking for them as gifts for an occasion like a birthday is a great opportunity!

 

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