Learning to Love Wine- Now Smell This!

My partner Ken has a lifelong love of learning. He’s a teacher too (among other things), having taught both at Art Center and currently UCLA. The thing about great teachers is they are always learning new things. Ken is taking a wine appreciation course at UCLA. Not that Ken and I don’t know or enjoy wine. But a course in wine tasting could give Ken the tools he needs to take his enjoyment of wine to a whole new level.

Ken is going to write a report for us after each of his weekly classes. This is the third report in this series. GREG

My class is off this week to honor MLK. No wine tasting, but that doesn’t mean I’m off the hook for this series! Instead of 4 whites and 4 reds, I’ll give you a taste of a homework assignment you might find interesting. Its intention is to help develop a more critical sense of smell, the middle sense of the wine tasting trifecta (see, smell, taste).

Here’s the gist: visit a specialty grocery store or farmer’s market and seek out three produce items that are unfamiliar. Describe them. Have you smelled their aromas in wine before? Somewhere else in your life?

My first challenge was finding produce that I’m unfamiliar with. We are not fussy eaters, pretty much anything goes. So I focused on things that I haven’t paid particularly full aromatic attention to – zeroing in on cherimoya, kohlrabi and sugar cane at last Sunday’s Hollywood Farmers Market. Fruit, veg and, I don’t know, stalk?

cherimoyaCherimoya. Appearance: somewhat like a cross between an uptight artichoke and a fish-scaled avocado. Aroma (whole): core notes of orange mixed with vanilla – reminding me of the many Creamsicles I ate as a kid. Stone fruit highlights of peach or perhaps nectarine. If cherimoya was a wine I’d say it was a Muscat, possibly a (sweeter) Riesling or maybe an unoaked Chardonnay. Aroma (broken open): definitely Creamsicle! Perhaps with a touch of lime. Taste: tropical – banana spiked with citrus, could even imagine lychee in the finish. Sweet, but with a sophisticated attitude.

kohlrabiKohlrabi. Appearance: pale apple green bulb with leafy tentacles. Aroma (whole bulb): not much of a scent, but there could be a hint of red apple or bosc pear. Aroma (cut open): wow, what a difference. Now I get grass and thyme with accents of white pepper. I’d compare the nose to notes found in some New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs or even a Syrah. Taste: pea pod with a little daikon thrown in for good measure.

sugar caneSugar Cane. Appearance: walking stick or eggplant-colored bamboo. Aroma (whole cane): nothing on the outside, but a faint whiff of vanilla on the cut ends. Similar to those little brown bottles of vanilla used in baking, but with a lemon high note. It brings to mind a lemon bundt cake with vanilla icing. Cut open: even stronger Schillings Vanilla. As for wine notes, it reminds me of a youngish Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah. It tastes almost exactly like Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda without the effervescence.

Challenging myself to close my eyes and open myself up to aromatic memories was fun. Dogs seem to get a kick out of their developed sense of smell, why shouldn’t we? Stay tuned for next week’s review of wines from France. KEN

WEEK 1: Learning to Love Wine- An Introduction

WEEK 2: Learning to Love Wine- Decanting American Varietals