Last month, I was invited by PR Rep, Dienna D'Olimpio of Barbara Bishop and Associations, on behalf of the San Antonio Winery to attend a Wine 101 Class and Food Pairing Lunch at their downtown Los Angeles location. Although I've visited San Antonio on my own in the past and more recently, I went to last year's Boutique Beer and Food Pairing, I've never taken one of their classes. Truth be told, I'm actually not much of a wine drinker, but I'm always interested in learning more about both food and beverages in general. So I decided to take her up on her offer.
For the event, Wine Store Manager, Michael Papalia told us all about the ins and outs of wines. I have to say that I absolutely loved having him as a presenter. He was funny, knowledeable and willing to take any question. If he wasn't sure about something, he told you, but for the most part, he really knew his stuff. Unfortunately, I don't have a very good picture of him, but you can see him below in front of a slideshow presentation that had all his talking points.
His talk started with Tasting Techniques and that it's basically a two part process. First, you hold your wine glass, swirl the wine in the glass and than take a sniff. The swirling actually causes evaporation and concentrates the aroma so that you can really get a sense of what the wine smells like. Second, it's time to slurp, which involves, taking a sip and holding the wine on your tongue and breathing in. By breathing in, it agitates, aerates and accelerates the evaporation which allows you to better appraise the acidity, alcohol, sweetness and texture of the wine.
Towards the tail end of the Tasting Techniques talk, we were served our first course: Puma Goat Cheese, Orange and Roasted Eggplant Salad with French Vanilla Glaze, Basil Oil and Microgreens. It was paired with a Champagne Duval-Leroy Brut from France.
As we were enjoying our first course, Michael went into more detail about how to evaluating wine. It starts with sight. Hold the wine glass against a white background and make sure the wine is clear and brilliant and not dull, hazy or murky. Now comes smell and you are using your nose to check on the aroma of the grape and to ensure that what you smell is actually intrinsic to the grape itself. Does the wine smell fresh and properly fermented? You're also sniffing for depth and complexity. Can you smell hints of cherry or chocolate?
Finally, it's about the taste. Does the wine feel smooth, velvety or round on your tongue? What's the level of astringency coming from the tannins? When it comes to your palate, sweet is detected at the tip of your tongue, acidity on the sides of your tongue, saltiness at the upper front of your tongue and bitterness towards the back of your tongue. As this portion of the presentation ends, we get pours from three different wines to pair with our second course. Those three wines were a 2008 Frog's Leap Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley), a 2006 San Simeon Chardonnay (Monterey) and a 2008 Maddalena Vineyard Riesling (Monterey)
I haven't been to too many wine and food pairings, but what I found interesting is that we got to sample two of our 4 courses with 3 different wines, as opposed to just one wine. It really gave you a great side by side comparison. The second course was Broiled Miso Alaskan Cod on a Potato and Chive Pancake with Miso Glaze and for me, the Frog's Leap Sauvignon Blanc was a perfect match because I thought the light crispness of this wine paired well with the light delicate fish.
As we are finishing up our second course, Michael goes on to discuss the grapes themselves. Some quicke facts he mentioned include:
- There are some 24,000 names for varieites of wine grapes
- There are 5,000 truly different varieities
- Only 150 are planted in commercially significant amounts
- There are only 9 grapes that are considered to be classic.
These wines were matched with a Roasted Ancho Pepper Crusted Rack of Lamb on Roasted Wild Mushroom Risotta with a Pinot Noir Coriander Sauce. As I mentioned, I rarely drink wine, but when I do, I stick with whites because I don't care for the strong taste of the tannins in red wines. Surprisingly, I didn't taste much of the tannins in either of the three wines, but perhaps, that taste was lessenened when eaten with the lamb, which also has a strong flavor. I remember favoring the Malbec, but have no particular reason why.
Halfway into enjoying our third course and through the end of our dessert course, the focus switched to Wine Making, where Michael talked about the fermentation of the wine. Simply, it's a natural process where yeasts convert natural sugars to alcohol (which stays in the wine) and carbon dioxide (which dissipates). With white wines, the juice is separated from the skin and seeds after crushing while with red wines, the entire grape is used because the skin adds both color and tannins. For rose and blush wines, the skins are used for a short time to add color and then removed. After fermentation, the wine is put in either wood barrels or steel barrels to age. To read about the whole process, click this Wikipedia link. By this time, we are getting a pour of a La Quinta Syrah Port N.V. to be served with dessert.
Dessert was a Island Mango Mousse with Candied Macadamia Nuts and Toasted Coconut Shavings. I have to say that if I dislike something more than red wines, it's port, but perhaps, I haven't had a good brand before? The port that I sampled was quite smooth and maybe, with a hint of chocolate or caramel? I really enjoyed it with our light and fruity dessert.
Other pieces of information that came from Michael towards the end of the event included:
- Dry wines have no sugar
- Wines that are aged in oak barrels will pick up flavors from the barrel itself
- The oak for the barrels come from trees between 100 to 150 years old
- Right now, the running cost of a French oak barrel is around $1000 while an American one is around $300
- Wines that are aged in steel barrels will have the flavors intrinsic to the grape itself
- Barrels are used up to 2 to 3 vintages (up to 10 years depending on the wine)
- Whites are usually aged for 8 to 10 months while Red are aged from 10 months to 2 years or longer.
- White wines should be stored in 40-50 degree temperature.
- Red wines should be stored in 60-65 degree temperatures. If it's too cold, it'll taste bitter.
San Antonio Winery
737 Lamar Street
Los Angeles, CA 90031
Be sure to visit www.sanantoniowinery.com for information on upcoming 2010 wine events.
Now that you've read about how much fun I had at the Wine 101 Class, here's a chance for you and a guest to attend the Wine 102 Class on February 21, from 1 to 4 pm for free! The total cash value for this prize is $110.00 and includes the class, the wines and a 4 course lunch. What a perfect way to spend a Sunday Afternoon. There are several different ways to enter and each way gets you an entry!
- Leave a comment on my blog and let me know why you'd like to win this prize.
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Contest Ends Monday, February 8 at midnight. Winner will be chosen randomly. Please leave some kind of contact info in your comments so that I'll be able to email you if you've won this prize!