After leaving Murrieta’s Well, our group headed to Wente Vineyards proper. The Wente family started their vineyard on this property in 1883 with 47 acres. Since then, they went on to create the first California varietal wine label—a Sauvignon Blanc–and are recognized as the oldest continuously operating, family-owned winery in California.
In addition to the tasting room and winery tours that most vineyards offer, Wente Vineyards also has The Winemakers Studio, which is an interactive space that allows visitors to take different classes focused on grape-growing, winemaking, and wine tasting activities. The offerings are seasonally inspired, so they do change throughout the year.
Our blogging group didn’t have enough time to do the full version of the current class offerings. Instead, we did mini versions of 4 of the sessions—the Black Glass Blind Tasting, the Wine Aroma Discovery, Size & Shape Matters, and the Wine & Food Pairing.
Black Glass Blind Tasting
Duration: 60 minutes
This session is a double blind tasting, which means that not only do you not know what the wine is before you taste it, but also you can’t even see what you’re drinking. Instead, you have to use smell and taste to determine what wine is in the glass. While it may seem easy to differentiate between a red and a white wine, what happens if a rosé is thrown into the mix? Or a sweet wine?
The first wine in our double blind tasting had lots of tropical fruit characteristics, particularly guava and mango, mixed with some pineapple and grapefruit. I also thought that I detected a hint of flowers on the nose. It had medium acidity and alcohol with a light-to-medium body. I really liked the wine and was pleasantly surprised because the slightly floral aspects made me think it was a Viognier, and I don’t tend to like Viognier. It turns out, though, that I was completely wrong. The wine was Sauvignon Blanc–2015 1846 Wines Ghielmetti Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (SRP $24). Maybe that explains why I liked it so much?
The second wine had dark fruits, chocolate, and olive characteristics. I also thought there was a hint of flowers, maybe violets. The wine had medium acidity, medium-to-full body, and medium-to-strong tannins. The floral notes let me astray again. I guessed that the wine was a Cabernet Franc (as did everyone else in the room except for one person). The wine ended up being a Cabernet Sauvignon–2013 Nottingham Cellars Livermore Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $60).
The whole experience was a lot of fun. While there were certain characteristics that we all picked up, there were others that made us each think differently about the wines. That said, we all really liked the wines we tasted, so I think the important take away is that while we each had different tasting notes, we all liked drinking the wine!
Wine Aroma Discovery
Duration: 90-120 minutes
This session was fun and very challenging. At the end of the table, there were three vials from a wine tasting aroma kit that we were supposed to identify. To help with that identification, all around the table there were glasses filled with objects that are often used to describe wine characteristics—chalk, coffee, stones, grapefruit, nutmeg, etc.—and we were supposed to sniff the objects to help us isolate those specific aromas.
I was able to identify two of the three vials, but more than anything, what I enjoyed about this session was the ability to really spend time focusing on the characteristics of each object. It reminded me of when I was studying for my wine exams and how I would constantly be sniffing things in our spice rack or buying strange food to really get used to identifying the unique characteristic of each smell and taste. Sticking your nose in a glass full of chalk really gives a sense of what a wine with chalk characteristics would smell like.
My biggest takeaway from the session was that while I did ok with my identifications, it’s time for me to go back to my basics for a refresher.
Size & Shape Matters
Duration: 60 minutes
I will say upfront that this session made the biggest impression on me. The purpose was to determine if the size, shape, and overall construction of a wine glass really impacts how a wine smells and tastes. There were four glasses on the table in front of us—a generic restaurant-type glass, a Chardonnay glass, a Pinot Noir glass, and a Bordeaux glass.
Let me start by saying that I went into this experiment thinking that while there might be a touch of a difference, it would be minimal. I was under the impression that unless the wine drinker was very sophisticated that the difference in glasses would be negligible. I was very wrong…
There is a caveat, though. I think the differences between the Chardonnay, the Pinot Noir, and the Bordeaux glasses were negligible. Not that there wasn’t a difference. There was. And, I can see how using the glass that is made for the specific wine can be the difference between enjoyment and making the wine sing, but I think that a well made set of Bordeaux glasses can do the job (and I intend to invest in my own set).
The big difference really occurred between the generic restaurant-type glass and the fancy glasses. Holy cow! The generic glass swallowed all of the aromas. It left me with the impression that the wine were tasted had very little to offer and that, honestly, it wasn’t very good. It was a wine that I would give 2.5 or 3 corks. That same wine in the Chardonnay glass was complex and wonderful. It was a wine that I would give 4.5 corks. For a glass to make that much of difference in the same wine floored me. It’s an experiment I think every wine lover should do.
Wine & Food Pairing
I don’t see this particular session on the website, although there is a 60-90 minute wine & cheese session for $55 and a wine and chocolate pairing session for $15. The food in our session was delicious, and it paired nicely with both the 2014 and 2015 Cuda Ridge Wines Semillon. In fact, as sometimes happens with good pairings, the food significantly improved both of the wines. All that said, I felt like this session was the least interesting of the four. I’d rather do a wine pairing dinner at a nice restaurant and spend the money to do one of the other more unique sessions at the Winemakers Studio.
Question of the Day: What are your thoughts on the impact of wine glasses on how a wine tastes? Do you have fancy wine glasses for different types of wine? If you do, do you use them?