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Wine Events to Talk About (February 27, 2015)

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Last Friday night 2/20/2015 more than fifty-plus marquee wineries assembled and showcased well over 100 Petite Sirah wines in Alameda, California at the Rockwall winery. This well-attended event celebrated the deep-colored wine known for its bold round full-bodied structure and relatively high tannin levels that allow Petite Sirah to age so very well. DSC 1318 

A well-balanced Petite Sirah exhibits deep blackberry, blueberry, and plum-like fruit flavors as well as spice and licorice notes. This is a varietal that pairs extremely well with big hardy dishes such as beef, pork and other big game as well as braised and grilled meats. The evening was very well attended and all the laughter and happiness made the wine and food offerings that much more memorable. For information on upcoming events featuring Petite Sirah check back here, or visit:   http://www.psiloveyou.org.

Next weekend, take a Saturday or Sunday afternoon to enjoy the hospitality of Fenestra Winery’s Chocolate and Cabernet event. Fenestra winery is one of the very best places to enjoy a picnic with your friends and family. fenestra tasting room with peopleThis event features savory and sweet chocolate dishes paired with Fenestra’s high quality wines. Recipes for various dishes will be offered and you can stock up on their wines for your future memorable meals. Save $5.00 dollars off the cost of admission by getting your tickets in advance at: 

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/limited-quantity-of-specially-priced-tickets-to-fenestra-winerys-chocolate-and-cabernet-weekend-tickets-15849261568?ref=ecal  

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Wine and Cheese Party Dos and Don'ts

Whether you’re a guest at a friend’s event or planning your own, there are a few tricks to pulling off a successful wine and cheese party:

Don’t skimp on the cheese!

     Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a subtle art picking out the proper cheeses to serve at a wine-and-cheese party. Just make sure you have at least three different options; one soft (like an aged triple-cream brie), one medium (Like Manchego or chevre), and one hard (like parmigiano reggiano). You’re going to have a range of different wines to taste, so don’t worry too much about which wines pair best with which cheeses. Let your guests experiment!

      It’s also helpful to have labels for the cheese you pick, in case attendees are not a fan of bleu cheese or goat cheese. Though in either of these cases, these people are not your friends. Bleu cheese and goat cheese are delicious, and perfect for wine-pairing.

      Also, keep plenty of cheese-knives ready! Disposable plastic knives and forks are not helpful when trying to grab a reasonable portion off a wedge of cheddar. Dinner knives are better, just as long as the blades are sharp and strong enough to handle the hardest of the cheese you have selected.

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Don't Be *That* Guy

We all have things we get irrationally angry about, and there are a few practices that are pretty widely looked down upon by wine professionals. Here are some tips to avoid making your sommelier, tasting room host, or overly-snobby-wine-friend (yeah... that's me) cringe:

1. Dress for the occasion. If you know you're going to be wine-tasting at a couple upscale or well-known high-end wineries, or you're visiting a more formal restaurant, get the spiffy jacket and shoes out! Ladies, that means cocktail or sundresses and nice shoes! It's completely awkward when someone walks into a fancier venue wearing cargo shorts, oversized t-shirts with screenprinted "clever" sayings on the front, flip-flops, or Daisy Duke cutoff shorts. Yes, this is the Bay Area, and that means you can dress it down a little bit. But please, be respectful of the people around you trying to have a nice, classy time.

This goes the other way, too. If the winery you are visiting has a tasting room in a barn with a wooden or dirt floor, or is hosted in the backyard of the winemaker or vineyard owner, jeans and sneakers are fine. I'm still not crazy about cargo shorts (ever) or flip-flops, but this is not the time women want to be wearing stilettos that will get stuck in the dirt or between boards! The best approach is to just do your research before going to these venues. You don't want to stick out like a sore thumb because you're too over- or under-dressed.

2. When tasting wines at a new winery, don't tell the host or hostess that you only drink "x wine." It's great to have your particular tastes in mind as you try new wines, but if you aren't actually going to taste wine, why would you go to a wine tasting room? This is your chance to try new things!

3. Don't show up drunk. Don't leave drunk. Don't let your friends get sloppy drunk either. I know I've talked about this before, but it's so important not to lose your composure in public. Knowing your limits and being responsible for maintaining a measure of sobriety means that no one gets to tell the story of that time you vomited into the spit-bucket or climbed up to dance on the bar. Fun as it may be to tell those stories when they happen to other people, you don't want to be the main subject!

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How to Enjoy a Wine Tour

How to Enjoy a Wine Tour

When you decide to go wine-tasting, it's easy enough to just grab your significant other, a couple friends, hop in the designated driver's car, and go! You'll head out, stop at a couple favorite vineyards, maybe be adventurous and hit another new one on the way.

Oops, the first one is closed for a private event. And the second one has a bachelorette party running around asking everyone if they wear boxers or briefs and screaming "Woooo!" every few seconds. The last one closes in twenty minutes... Think we can make it? And I haven't eaten all day, where's the closest fast food place? We can make it there in five minutes, right? Oh wait, this is a single lane highway and everyone's heading home now, there's no way we can get that last stop in.

I've dealt with that scenario (and other logistics issues) more times than necessary. It doesn't seem like going on a wine tour should take that much forethought and planning, right? Now I'm well-versed in planning out a wine tour, whether it's for me and my boyfriend or me and twenty of my closest friends on a charter bus, but it takes some practice in order to have the best time on your day of wine tasting.

First, call every winery you plan to visit ahead of time! Let them know how many people you will have in your party, and ask if there's anything special going on that particular day. I try to call a week ahead of time if I'm going with a group of four or fewer, but I'll call a month ahead to schedule a tasting for a group larger than that. Not all tasting rooms can accommodate a group of more than eight or ten people, and they need to know if a big group is coming so they can have adequate staff, samples, and seating for the group. Nothing will turn the tasting room staff against you faster than showing up with a large group unannounced. The day of your trip, call the tasting room again if anything has changed--number of guests or time you will arrive, in particular--so they have time to properly accommodate your party.

It's also a good idea to inquire if there are any special tours or experiences you should take advantage of when at the winery. Is there a barrel tasting or blend-your-own-wine workshop? What about a tour of the vineyards, facility, or wine caves? Will you be able to meet the wine maker? It's not necessary at every winery, but it's an easy way to break up the tastings and make the stop special.

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A sense of place


Where are you from, Stranger?  Having a sense of place provides us with a tangible descriptor of our own selves and the people we meet. This sense of place quite often applies to many things we experience in our lives.Terroir It gives us a reference point and a sense of commonality which allows us to to readily identify with one another.  The language we speak or the peculiar or unique accents of our speech allows us to recognize that we come from a particular place.

Wine, too, shares a reference to place that is similar to own own. For wine, "place," or "terroir" is very important, and the term "terroir" refers to the distinctive characteristics of the fruit grown and transformed into wine from a particular place.  Can you tell if the wine you taste comes from the old or new world? Possibly France or Spain, or is it a wine grown and produced in California? Can you describe the clues that your wine expresses?

I recently had the pleasure of observing five master sommelier describe wines "blind."  blind wine tastingWhen I say "blind" what I mean is that the master sommelier would taste the wines and then describe and identify these wines without any prior knowledge about any of them. I especially enjoyed the deductive processes of these wine masters and I would like to share a valuable lesson I learned from one of them. During one of the blind tastings the master sommelier lifted his glass of red wine and said, " I can see that I do not have a white wine here."  Brilliant comedy, thought I, somewhat sarcastically.  But then I was soon amazed because each of the masters, employing their powers of deduction, were able to correctly name the varietal, vintage and origin of the wine.

As we head into the Holidays,Holiday toast which oftentimes calls us back to our own origins, what does our sense of place mean to us? Has our "terroir" shaped our character, and if so, how?  Certainly, our environment has some impact on our personality. How would you go about describing your home?  I suppose describing a wine's "character" (dark or light, heavy or thin, fragrant or flinty and so forth and so on) illustrates the importance of terroir that a winemaker takes into consideration when attempting to produce a fine wine. Thus terroir is the foundation that crafts the basic character of a wine such that allows us to eventually learn how to distinguish the differences between a Cabernet Sauvignon grown in California with those grown in Bordeaux, France. So lift your glass with a smile because everyone like every wine comes from somewhere.

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