Learning to Love Wine- Watch It!

My partner Ken has a lifelong love of learning. He’s a teacher too (among other things), having taught at Art Center and UCLA. The thing about great teachers is they are always learning new things. Ken is taking a wine appreciation course at UCLA. Not that we 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 writing a report for us after each of his weekly classes. This is the seventh report in this series. GREG

I’d like to start with a recap of my favorite and least favorite wines so far.

The wine I didn’t particularly like was the 2010 Cuvaison Winery Chardonnay from our first session. It had a pleasant appearance– bright and clear, a pale straw color. And Carneros (in Napa Valley) is one of the oldest and most respected wine growing areas in the U.S. There was a strong core of butter and wood on the nose, an intensity that came from winemaking (oak barrels and I would guess lees aging due to the pale color). It looked, smelled and tasted medium+ to high in alcohol. Unfortunately, this slightly sweet, medium to full bodied wine just seemed too heavy to me. Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more with lobster or scallops in some sort of citrus/butter sauce (which also would serve to balance the alcohol). Or maybe the 2010 was slightly past its peak. This wine confirmed the fact that I usually prefer an non-oaked Chardonnay.

Onto the wines I did like. My favorites include the 2011 Weingart Keller Riesling, 2009 Stuhlmuller Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010 Jaffurs Syrah, 2009 Agricola Querciabella Chianti Classico, 2011 Alvaro Palacios Priorat and the 2009 Warwick Estate Pinotage. That said, I’d like to pay tribute to France. I loved nearly all of the French wines we tasted, especially the 2009 Chateau Potensac Delon blend from Bordeaux. A luscious, semi-opaque plurply-blue, the wine exhibited delightful ripe black cherry aromatics with notes of plum, a lick of licorice and hints of vanilla. The medium+ level of alcohol accentuated the ripeness of the fruit and provided some heat on the palate. Not overly complex and medium low in tannins, the wine seemed balanced and eminently drinkable on its own. To make a meal out of it, I’d serve this lovely Médoc with an herb-roasted pork (or lamb) loin or even good quality burger.

My class didn’t meet this week because of George, Thomas, Abe and maybe even Bill. Instead of tastings, we were asked to do a couple of viewings. The following reviews represent my structured impressions of two wine clips on YouTube: Appearance, Aroma (I kinda thought one stunk) and Taste.

I enjoyed this video – it’s clever, well acted, quickly paced, lushly filmed, and above all is humorously irreverent. It pokes fun at the pomposity that’s often associated with the structured rituals of wine appreciation. But the clip is also instructive: informing viewers that Primitivo and Zinfandel are the same varietal, that the grape originally came from Croatia and that Paso Robles is large producer of Zinfandel. The high production values imply that Paso Zin is good quality and is accessible. As a matter of fact, viewing this video inspired me to buy a bottle to see for myself.

On the other hand, I found this video obnoxious. It has the same irreverent attitude but comes across as embarrassing and pretentious in execution. I didn’t believe that Jamey was making fun of himself – I felt his mock-pomposity masked a huge ego. “Look at my vineyard in prestigious Napa Valley, look at my TV show, look at me and my youthful body.” The viewer didn’t learn anything about the type or quality of wine he produces (perhaps you’re meant to assume it is expensive and worth it, though it wasn’t photographed very well). Even if this piece was intended as a Donald Trump parody, it didn’t work for me. The script, acting and cinematography weren’t particularly fresh, compelling or beautiful. Sadly for the Napa Valley Film Festival, Whetstone and Manifesto wines, I found their production to be “corked.”

Next week is our last class session: a blind tasting followed by bubbly and fortified wine. KEN

WEEK 1: Learning to Love Wine- An Introduction

WEEK 2: Learning to Love Wine- Decanting American Varietals

WEEK 3: Learning to Love Wine- Now Smell This

WEEK 4: Learning to Love Wine- Vive la France

WEEK 5: Learning to Love Wine- Italy and Spain

WEEK 6: Learning to Love Wine- A Valentine to Pairings