Wine bottles lined the counter, each in a black velvet bag with a number on it. It was a blind tasting.
Irene King had just passed her level one Sommelier exam, and the night before led the American Wine Society’s monthly seminar. Tonight she was hosting our wine club at her house and had chosen the wines she thought we would enjoy and she also hoped would confound us.
“What on earth is Moroccan spice?” Gidget muttered as we sat at the table with a glass of wine in front of us. Gidget has an amazing palate and an even more amazing nose. If she says she’s getting aromas of ripe plum or lavender, you can bet on it. We were reading the description of the Hug Cellars red from Paso Robles: “Medium red violet color, has layered complexity with Moroccan spice, herbs, roasted meat and brimming with red fruits like raspberry and plum.”
“Who writes these things anyway?” somebody said. We all agreed that while this description was pretty tame, often the winemaker — or whoever was actually writing the notes — probably had over-indulged in the product.
My favorite description of the evening was of a white wine which read in part: “heavenly lift of candied ginger and crunchy, yet sweet white nectarine… notes of green papaya and pistachio, stone fruits hold sway over the sumptuous attack in mid-palate, finishing with the Marsanne’s nuttiness and a delicate hint of sea spray.” Sea Spray? Really? Someone might be able to detect nectarine or green papaya, but I think the sea spray is a stretch.
Of the seven wines, I got all three of the whites wrong! Even with tasting notes to guide me, I couldn’t match the wine with the descriptions. Swell.
But back to the descriptions: I have read some that positively want you to NOT put this stuff in your mouth. Like, for instance:
the aromatics offer incredible aromas of dried flowers, beef blood, spice, figs, sweet black currants and Kirsch, smoked game, lavender, and sweaty but attractive saddle leather-like notes. Full-bodied and massively endowed, with abundant silky tannins, it possesses the balance to age for 30+ years.”
Well, let me say right here that no wine is going to age in my house for 30 years! Lucky to last more than 30 days.
Or how about this:
It might be called liquefied Viagra. An incredibly sexy nose of smoke, black fruits, cappuccino, and toasty wood is followed by an expansive, terrifically concentrated wine with a sumptuous texture, no hard edges, beautifully integrated acidity and tannin, and a long, 35 second finish.
I’m intrigued by the “black fruits.” That would be, uh, blackberries? Figs, maybe? Or hey — deadly nightshade has black fruit, but I’m guessing from the name that it’s deadly — not something you’re going to drink. At least not more than once. And, um, not to state the obvious, but you think liquefied Viagra would last longer than 35 seconds, wouldn’t you?
After the whites, we moved on to the reds, thank goodness. Of the four reds, I only guessed two of them correctly. I particularly liked the French wine, the 2010 Crozes-Hermitage Cave de Tain L’Hermitage from the Northern Rhone. I’ve never been fond of European wines for the simple reason that they usually do not have that ripe, luscious fruit that I enjoy. This one, however, was yummy (how’s that for a wine description?) and actually in my price range at under $20.
I’ll never be an expert on wine but by gum, I’m not giving up! The secret, I understand, is to practice, practice, practice. I’m willing to give it the old college try, but I draw the line at liquefied Viagra!