Work “World Tour of Wine” Tasting

For those of you who are Facebook fans, you already know that, at the end of May, I was working on a wine tasting for work.  After having put together a Spanish wine tasting for coworkers during our April slow period, one of my colleagues talked to The Big Boss about my wine experience and about our staff bonding event.  He was thrilled, and, as a wine lover himself, thought it would be fun to have a wine tasting for the staff in both of his DC offices.  The tasting was held the Tuesday before Memorial Day.

Half of the people attending the wine tasting were at my Spanish wine event, so I decided that instead of doing a second Spanish-focused tasting, this one would be a “World Tour of Wine.”  As the fun part of a tasting is being able ­to try new wines and broaden wine horizons, I wanted to focus on wines that moved away from the typical Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots, and Chardonnays by presenting varietals that are easy to find in wine stores, but that many inexperienced wine drinkers might shy away from buying.  Additionally, since I was expecting 30+ people at the event, I wanted to make sure that I covered a range of wine styles.

With all of that in mind, I decided to begin the tasting with a traditional French Champagne—Montaudon Extra-Dry (snooth).  The palate cleansing & revitalizing sparkler was followed by two white wines—a 2008 Paul D Grüner Veltliner (winery, snooth) from Austria and a 2009 Spy Valley (winery, snooth) from New Zealand.  Following the lighter white wines were a South African Pinotage—2008 Painted Wolf (winery, snooth)—and a California Zinfandel blend—2008 Orin Swift’s “The Prisoner” (winery, snooth).  The tasting finished with a Spanish Sherry—Nectar by González Byass (winery, snooth).

Everyone enjoyed the Champagne, which was no surprise to me or to them.  However, the other wine that received the most questions and the most refill requests was Orin Swift Cellers’ The Prisoner, followed closely by Paul D’s Grüner Veltliner.  The wine that received the most mixed reviews was González Byass’ Nectar, although everyone was happy to have tried it as almost everyone mentioned that it was not a wine they would have tasted on their own.

The Big Boss was very happy with event, particularly as he found a new wine that to enjoy.  My coworkers tasted some wines that they loved, as well as some wines that they didn’t like, but there was a lot of conversation about those wines, as the likes and dislikes varied greatly.  All in all, it seemed like everyone had a good time and that the tasting was a huge success.

***As a note, while the wines above are the ones I planned to offer and prepared tasting notes for, the wine store was actually sold out of the Spy Valley on the day of the tasting.  Therefore, I used a 2009 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc (winery, snooth) as a fallback.  I will do a separate review for the Oyster Bay, but wanted to keep the Spy Valley as part of this tasting, as I thought it was a slightly better wine.

Bubbly & BBQ Bash…The Results

Last Wednesday was my condo associations’ big holiday party—the Bubbly & BBQ Bash. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve written up several wines (here, here, and here) that I decided against having at the party for a variety of reasons. It should be no surprise that several readers have contacted me to ask if I planned on sharing what sparkling wines I finally decided to offer, and of course I plan to share! I wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to share sparkling wines, particularly since they are my admitted weakness.

As the association’s social committee chairperson, it was my job to plan all aspects of the party, not just the wine. Last year, we had Red, Hot, & Blue BBQ, which was a huge success. Up until that time, it was our largest community party and there were hardly any leftovers. I decided that there was no reason to mess with a good thing, so Red, Hot, & Blue was on the menu again this year. The challenge came with finding the sparkling wine because, to be honest, bubbly isn’t exactly what comes to mine when you think about eating BBQ. However, it’s a surprisingly good pairing and all the residents were thrilled. We had more people at this year’s holiday party than ever before!

As I researched sparklers for the evening, I was looking for two types of wines—ones that would act as good palette cleansers and ones that would pair well with the food itself. I also wanted wines that were a variety of price ranges and were fairly easy to find. I wrote up festive tasting notes, with a picture of each bottle’s label in order to make it easier for anyone who wished to purchase the wines at any of our local wine stores. In the end, we offered 6 sparkling wines—2 Champagnes, 2 Cavas, 1 Prosecco, and 1 California sparkling wine. I rated all of the wines with 4 corks or above, and they are all bottles that I drink in my own house.

The 2 Champagnes were fairly traditional—Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut NV (5 corks) and Montaudon Extra-Dry (4.5 corks). The Veuve Clicquot was one of the favorites of the night, although the Montaudon was not far behind. The fresh, brightness of both helped awaken taste buds between the pulled pork and pulled chicken.

The 2 Cavas were Segura Viudas Brut Reserve (4 corks) and Mont-Ferrant Brut Rosé (4 corks). The Segura Viudas, which I’ve reviewed before, served as a palette cleanser and the Mont-Ferrant was a nice accompaniment with the BBQ. As a heavier sparkling wine, the Mont-Ferrant has enough body and complexity that it didn’t get lost in the strong flavors of the BBQ, but rather added a nice, almost fruity compliment. It was definitely the sparkling wine that caused the most discussion, as people either absolutely loved it or hated it. The people who loved it seemed to come back for more at the expense of drinking the other wines and the people who hated it dumped it out after a few sips.

The Prosecco—Canella Prosecco di Conegliano (4.5 corks)—is another wine that I’ve reviewed in the past. This sparkler has a beautiful fruitiness that, when combined with its crisp acidity, worked well as an apéritif.

Finally, the California sparkling wine—Korbel Brut Rosé—was a nice, light rosé that both complimented the BBQ or was enjoyable once finished eating.

It’s a slight departure from my usual presentation, but in the spirit of the holidays, here are images of the tasting notes we used.