Choosing the Right Glassware for Your Wine

I was once one of the skeptics who didn’t entirely believe that glassware made a significant difference when it came to drinking wine, that is until I put it to the test myself. I took two wine glasses of the same shape and size, one Riedel crystal glass, and one from the dollar store. I poured the same wine in both glasses and began to explore. I was absolutely amazed at the difference. The aromas were noticeably different in each. The dollar store glass gave off a somewhat chalky odor, overpowering the delicate fruit and earthy aromas of the wine, where the crystal glass sent all of those aromas directly to the nose. From first smell, I was a believer. Then, I sipped the wine from each glass, and once again, my world was changed. The aromas flowed on the palate in just the right spots from the crystal glass, where as in the dollar store glass, the wine just sort of landed flatly on the palate. I didn’t understand the hows and whys, but I knew glassware absolutely made a huge difference.

This fall, I was fortunate to attend a seminar with Maximilian Riedel, glassmaker and 11th generation CEO of Riedel crystal glassware. We were presented with five different handcrafted Riedel crystal glasses: Cabernet Sauvignon, oaked Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot Noir, and basic white wine. The sizes and shapes of each glass were noticeably different, but each one was thin, light, and incredibly beautiful. Over the course of two hours, Mr. Riedel led us through one of the most fascinating seminars I have ever attended, sampling some very high-quality wines in each glass. We’d go back and forth between glass, smelling and tasting, seeing for ourselves how the delicate nuances of each wine was either enhanced or dulled, depending on the glass it was served in. I left absolutely amazed. I was even more thrilled when Mr. Riedel announced each attendee would be able to take the glasses we used at the seminar home with us! That collection is now my prized glassware that I use when I want to truly taste a wine to its fullest.

Glassware makes a huge difference in your wine tasting experience. The way a glass is shaped can direct its aromas to the nose properly, and it can cause the wine to flow on the perfect spot on the palate, almost like magic. You don’t need to spend a fortune on glassware to enjoy your wine, but investing in a set of moderate or high-quality glassware, even if just for special occasions, will truly enhance your appreciation and ability to taste the nuances of a wine. Neither do you need a different glass for each varietal. Although they are available and are crafted to enhance each specific varietal, you can achieve a similar effect with basic glasses. For instance, I serve my white wines in a differently shaped glass than my red wines. I serve my oaked Chardonnays in a differently shaped glass than my Rieslings, and I serve my Pinot Noirs in a differently shaped glass than my Cabernet Sauvignons. Each wine is so unique in its aromatics and texture, and a specifically crafted glass for each truly brings out the best. For every day consumption, however, I suggest having two different glasses—one for whites and one for reds.

How to Choose the Right Glassware

In general, red wines are bigger and bolder than white wines, and these require a glass with a bigger bowl to allow the aromas and flavors to be expressed to the fullest potential. The smaller bowl of a white wine glass helps to preserve the aromatics and floral aromas. This simple rule will elevate your wine experience. The stem on your glass matters, too. Although stemless glasses are attractive and popular, the stem of a glass plays an important role in maintaining the temperature of your wine. Temperature is extremely important in the aroma, flavor, and texture expression of a wine. Holding a wine glass by the bowl itself, and not the stem, can easily change the temperature of the wine in your glass.

Next time you’re serving wine to friends and family, check your cabinet and be sure you’re using the right glassware for your wine!

Cheers!
Missa
winedowntastings.com
vinoislife.com

Halloween Candy and Wine Pairings Unwrapped

When it comes to Halloween candy and wine pairings, the traditional rules of pairing don’t always apply. To be absolutely sure I was suggesting favorable pairings, I took it upon myself to gather a handful of friends, a metric ton of Halloween candy, and about a dozen different wines—and we went to town. There were some delightful surprises!

Research… it’s so hard.

Pairing Chardonnay, for example, yielded unexpected results. Typically, very sweet foods do not pair well with a dry white wine like Chardonnay. While I did find this tenet to be true for super-sweet candy like candy corn (which left a bitter taste), it was not true for two beloved Halloween staples, Almond Joy and Mounds. The coconut completely dominated the sugar and the chocolate, and matched beautifully with Chardonnay! I enjoyed the dark chocolate of the Mounds slightly better than the milk chocolate of Almond Joy, but I found both to be very pleasing pairings! As a runner-up, Butterfinger was delightful with Chardonnay—and what is Halloween without Butterfinger?

Off-dry whites are somewhat easier to pair with candy because they have detectable residual sugar and won’t clash with the sweetness of the candy. Off-dry Riesling was a big hit with fruit-flavored candy, including Starburst and Twizzlers.

Red wines are notoriously delicious with dark chocolate—and often milk chocolate. But, I wanted to dig deep and find those matches that would absolutely wow your palate. (It’s a tough job, but someone had to do it!)

Where are our Reese’s lovers? Pinotage was absolutely amazing with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups! This is one of those pairings that will make you stop and savor every delicious second. As honorable mentions, we found that Pinotage was also very pleasing with Coffee Nut M&M’s, Good & Plenty and black licorice.

Smooth and refreshing Junior Mints and York Peppermint Patties were equally wonderful with Cabernet, so I recommend a Cabernet-dominant red blend. Cabernet often displays notes of eucalyptus and even sometimes mint, which makes it perfect for peppermint and dark chocolate.

Spanish Spice! Good & Plenty and black licorice will be home run with Tempranillo/ Garnacha —a beautiful way to extract the notes of anise in these complex yet approachable Spanish blends.

Italian red paired nicely with quite a few selections of the chocolate persuasion! I recommend Montepulciano with Twix, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Coffee Nut M&M’s, and Hershey’s milk chocolate.

Let’s talk M&M’s. These days they offer every flavor you can imagine! I was curious to find which wine would pair fabulously with the original plain chocolate M&M’s and dark chocolate M&M’s. The winner was a smooth fruit-forward red. Try a Côtes du Rhône, which will pair well with the simplicity of the plain or dark chocolate M&M’s.

Last, but not least, I wanted to find some perfect matches for our serious sweet tooths out there! A fun and fizzy Lambrusco was a delight to match the sugary kick of Skittles, Twizzlers, Hershey’s milk chocolate, and plain and dark chocolate M&M’s!

Whether you’re strategically planning a Halloween candy and wine tasting party, or raiding the kids’ Halloween candy, there are plenty of wines that will make your moment of indulgence that much sweeter.

Cheers!
Missa
winedowntastings.com

A Tale of Two Sauvignon Blancs

Traveling Vineyard has released two long awaited Sauvignon Blancs! I immediately ordered a bottle of each so I could “test them out” (haha, tough job) and see first hand what the differences are. Tasting them both together was a great way to see the differences, because I honestly don’t know if the differences are SO noticeable that one could tell them apart without the side-by-side.

jitterbugluloframeOur 2014 Lulo Sauvignon Blanc is from Dry Creek Valley, California and sourced from the Dry Creek Vineyard estate, which was the first new winery in the Dry Creek Valley appellation after prohibition. It also contains fruit from the Clarksburg appellation. Lulo is 99% Sauvignon Blanc and 1% Semillon, which gives it a little Bordeaux style roundness. It was aged in temperature controlled stainless steel with no oak.

Our 2014 Jitterbug Sauvignon Blanc is from mostly Clarksburg, California, with some fruit sourced from Dry Creek Valley and the Russian River Valley. It is 100% Sauvignon Blanc aged in temperature controlled stainless steel only.

Right off the bat, they are both crisp, clean, light and refreshing with plenty of fruit. The acidity is very well balanced and doesn’t give that piercing, mouthwatering feeling on the tongue, which I think will appeal to a wide audience really well. The main difference between these two very similar wines: Lulo is definitely a bit smoother and has a nice rounded out finish. Jitterbug is a bit more citrusy, as far as the “feel” of citrus on the tongue. It was a bit sharper, for lack of better terms, but just slightly.

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Pairing: I paired them both with the same pairings. Macadamia nuts smoothed them both right out, as this nut will do with any acidic white.

Next up: meat rolls. We had rolls of ham, roast beef, turkey, and provolone all rolled up as one. This was fantastic with both wines, so a chef’s salad would be great with these wines, deli platters, ham and cheese sandwiches, Italian subs, muffalettas, etc. would be a delight. A great cold cut wine! I found Jitterbug brought out more of the meat flavors, and Lulo expressed more citrus fruit with this pairing. So interesting to note: Jitterbug brought out the food flavors where the meat rolls brought out the fruit flavors in Lulo. Opposite effect!

Next up: spinach dip with Stacey’s pita chips. This was phenomenal with both wines, but interestingly once again brought out two different aspects of each wine. Jitterbug made the spinach flavor itself stand out, while Lulo seemed to express a more herbal quality. Just like with the meat rolls, Jitterbug complimented the food and brought out the food flavors, while the food brought out the flavors in Lulo.

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Finally dinner: tossed some marinated chicken on the grill and grilled up some fresh pineapple rings. WOW! The chicken, grilled pineapple, and wine in the mouth at the same time was a fruit explosion! I can’t say which one I liked better, because they were both amazing with this pairing.

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We also boiled jumbo shrimp in Mojo seasoning. The shrimp/grilled pineapple/wine combo was just as good, because the Mojo seasoning has just a little kick of spice and citrus to it. We made a green salad and topped it with freshly grated lemongrass and then dressed with with olive oil and lemon juice. Simply fantastic!

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So my opinion? They are both incredible wines, especially for the summer weather and summer fare! If I had to choose one, which would I choose? Depends on the situation. Jitterbug has an amazing capacity for bringing out the flavors of its food pairings, so if I’m all about showcasing the food, I might go for Jitterbug. Lulo, on the other hand, is so smooth and has incredibly refreshing fruits coming forward when paired with food, so if I’m all about showcasing the wine, then I might go for Lulo. Either make a fantastic sipping wine. You’ll note I used a lot of lemon and citrus in these dishes… that was no mistake. These are two very acidic wines, and lemon will smooth out that acidity. I also wanted to bring the fruit notes forwards, which is why I used fresh lemongrass and grilled pineapple.

My customers already LOVE these wines, and the pairings are simple. Anything acidic and citrusy, anything acidic like goat cheese and various dairy based dips and spreads, cold cuts and sandwiches, salads, and certainly anything with some spice to it. This will be a fantastic sushi pairing wine

I brought Lulo to one of my in-home wine tastings last weekend, and we paired it with three-cheese artichoke dip and bbq chicken. It was a HUGE hit!

luloartichokedip lulobbqchicken

I have never been a huge Sauvignon Blanc fan, but Lulo and Jitterbug have completely changed that! These are now two of my absolute favorites! Interested in trying them for yourself! You can have them delivered right to your door! Order at www.winedowntastings.com

Cheers!
Missa
facebook.com/winedowntastings

Napa Valley Masterclass with the Guild of Sommeliers

Hello wine lovers! I’ve been busy sharing my love of wine with others and learning as much as I can by going to classes and wine seminars-a-plenty!

On April 15, 2015 I attended a Masterclass with the Guild of Sommeliers at Catalyst in Cambridge, MA. Matt Stamp, MS was the instructor, who is the Education Director for Guild of Sommeliers. Living in Napa Valley himself, Matt Stamp has a wealth of knowledge to share and I was really glad I took this class! It started at 10am and was going to involve tasting 18 wines in 4 flights in 3 hours. Oh my!

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First, a whole lot of education about Napa. Napa Valley is known for its incredible Cabernet Sauvignons, which typically aren’t very cheap. The price tag of Napa Cabs, however, start with the land. An acre of top quality Cabernet Sauvignon land can run between $300,000 – $500,000! Add in the vines, the labor, the winemaking, etc., and you can see how the price is reflected once it gets down to the bottle.

Napa Valley is small in size but big in quality and diversity. It only supplies 4% of California wine, and 4/10 of 1% of the world’s wine. 45,000 acres of Napa Valley are under vine. In comparison, 90,000 acres of Bordeaux are under vine. Napa is 1/8 the size of Bordeaux!

Although the area of Napa is small, the climate and elevation varies a great deal in just a short distance. Although it is a Mediterranean climate with dry summers and wet winters, it varies greatly from north to south and from valley to mountain top. The temperature variation is vast, and there is a great marine fog and inversion, as well. The valley floor experiences an incredible diurnal shift, which results in broader style wines that still have great acidity because of the cool nighttime temperatures. The soils can vary greatly, as well, because there are hillside stream soils, which are thin, stony, and not too weathered, there are alluvial fans, which are shallow, more drained, and of single geological origin, and then there are fluvial soils, which are found near the river and the base of Napa Valley. They are more clay heavy, deeper, and of mixed geological origin.

The strengths of Napa Valley include a Mediterranean climate, complex soils, grape growing and brand history, proximity to San Fransisco, food and tourism culture, international recognition, and great wines! Disadvantages of Napa Valley wines are the costs, including the land, labor, farming, fruit, and the finished wine. There is also a reputation in Napa of sommeliers vs. critic scores. And of course, there is the wine vs. the wine lifestyle.

After quite a bit of very interesting lecture about Napa Valley, it was time to taste 18 wines.

Flight number 1- The Whites

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Flight 1
2012 Schramsberg “Blancs des Blancs” 100% Chardonnay SRP: $38
– this was a sparkling wine that showed a nice tart apple and was relatively high in acidity. Nice and crisp!

2013 Massican “Annia” (Napa Valley AVA) 44% Friulano, 36% Ribolla Gialla, 20% Chardonnay SRP: $28
– this wine was aged on the lees, saw no malolactic.

2013 Farella Sauvignon Blanc (Coombsvilla AVA) 100% Sauvignon Blanc SRP: $20
– guava juice, sulpher, I got heavy notes of onion on this. I was not a fan! This did see some oak.

2012 Lail “Georgia” Sauvignon Blanc (Totem Vineyard, Yountville/Napa Valley AVA) 100% Sauvignon Blanc SRP: $120
– herbaceous, high acid, this I liked MUCH better than the first SB. (Considering the price, now I see why! LOL)

Flight 2 – Chardonnay
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Now this was a very cool flight to taste because they were all Chadonnays, so we could really see the differences in each vineyard.

2012 White Rock Chardonnay (Napa Valley AVA) 100% Chardonnay SRP: $34
– dry, tart green apples, high acid, old oak, lemon and pear. This is a great produced of classic style Chardonnay.

2004 Stony Hill Cardonnay (Spring Mountain District AVA) 100% Chardonnay, Wente Clones SRP: $42 (current vintage)
– dry, nutty on the palate, almond, sour apple/pear, high acid, old oak. They look toward Chablis as a model for their winemaking. They’ve been making wine since the 1950s. Almost entirely white wines (they also grow Riesling). Not much use of malolactic.

2007 Mayacamas Chardonnay (Mt. Veeder AVA) 100% Chardonnay, Shot Wente SRP: $80
– Founded as Fisher & Sons winery in 1890, became a ghost winery during prohibition. Mayacamas reds are known for being huge reds and aging for 30 years. This is a riper style vintage than the 2004 Stony Hill we just tasted. It was fermented in concrete, then moved to uprights for 6 months, then moved to barrels for malolactic fermentation.

2011 Kongsgaard Chardonnay (Carneros, Hudson and Hyde Vineyards/Napa Valley AVA) 100% Chardonnay, Wente Clones SRP: $110ish
– strong vanilla, butterscotch, high acid, lots of new oak. Carneros fruit from (Lee) Hudson and (Larry) Hyde Vineyards. John Kongsgaard known for the death and resurrection of the wine: press, ferment, all brown juice for like a year. Then he clarifies the wine and brings it back to life (sulfur). He is known for going to the grape growers and telling THEM how he wanted them to grow the grapes, not the other way around.

Flight 3 The Reds

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2013 Frog’s Leap Zinfandel (Napa Valley AVA – St. Helena & Rutherford) 77% Zinfandel, 22% Petite Syrah, 1% Carignan SRP: $30
– very dry, high acid, high tannins, cherry, plum, spice, black pepper. 20% new American oak. Frog’s Leap produces really good wine at really big production. Fresh and exuberant, this comes from fluvial soil.

2012 Storybook Mountain “Eastern Exposures” Zinfandel (Napa Valley AVA) SRP: $55
– jammy, blackberry, raspberry, big, bold, everything a Zinfandel should be. High tannins, high acid, dry, nicely balanced. 20% new American oak. This is my kind of Zin!

2012 Lagier-Meredith Syrah (Mt. Veeder AVA) 100% Syrah SRP: $48
– black fruit, earth, minerality, bone dry. High in pH. Blue and black fruits, smokey, savory tones. Peppery, green olive.

2010 Matthiasson Red (Napa Valley AVA) 55% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot SRP: $90
– Oak Knoll fruit (Dry Creeks alluvial fan), green peppers, herbaceous, coffee. Dry. Steve Matthiasson co-wrote the Lodi Green rules.

Flight 4 – The Cabs

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2011 Corison “Kronos” Cabernet Sauvignon (St. Helena AVA) 100% Cabernet Sauvignon SRP: $150
– black pepper, red fruits, black fruits, cedar. This is a traditional Napa Cab. This vineyard was planted in 1971 as Petite Sirah, then was grafted into Cab Sauv. This vineyard is still very old school as far as beig a widely spaced vineyard.

2011 Spottswoode “Estate” Cabernet Sauvignon (St. Helena AVA) 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot SRP: $150
– red bell pepper, deep blue, black fruit, very dry, high acid and tannins. A pitch perfect classic Napa Valley Cab.

2011 Realm “Farella” Cabernet Sauvignon (Coombsville AVA) 100% Cabernet Sauvignon SRP: $150
– bone dry, high acid and tannins. This is the iconic cult style of Cabs.

2008 Diamond Creek “Volcanic Hill” Cabernet Sauvignon (Diamond Mountain AVA) Mixed planting, predominantly CS SRP: $175
– First winery in Napa to label Cab as a grape on the label. Has a minerality to it. Austere tannin on the finish. Great representation of a mountain Cab.

2001 Robert Mondavi “Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon (Oakville AVA) 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 1% Malbec, 1% Petit Verdot SRP: $125 (01 price)
– dry, still tannic even though it is a 2001, oak is still present. Still has decades of aging. Robert Mondavi’s first vintage was in 1966.

1997 Heitz “Martha’s Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon (Oakville AVA) 100% Cabernet Sauvignon SRP: N/A
– eucalyptol (has a string of eucalyptus trees next to vinyard) = airborne terroir. This vintage is at the end of its life. First vintage was 1966.

I’ve got to tell you, 18 wines in a couple of hours… wow. My senses were pretty much shot after that. That was a LOT of aroma smelling! I had a Traveling Vineyard tasting to conduct that night, and on my way to my hostess’s house, all I could smell was a strong vanilla aroma from new American oak! LOL It was embedded in my nose and brain! Fortunately I’ve become a master at tasting, swishing, and spitting the wine, so I’m no longer ingesting the wines and getting buzzed. Of course when I go back and look at the prices of some of these wines, it makes me sad that they haven’t been fully enjoyed and just spit out! At least I know they’ve gone to a good cause… the learning of and appreciation for the beauty of wine.

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So my knowledge quest continues and my continuous studying for the next level of my CMS goes on. Meanwhile, my Traveling Vineyard business has been going wonderfully. My team continues to grow (I have 9 wonderful wine babies now) and I am on the brink of earning my incentive trip to Cabo! Our New England regional meeting is this Sunday, which is going to be super exciting, so I will be sure to write a blog about all that fun and excitement! Drop me a line sometime or come chat with me on my Facebook page at facebook.com/winedowntastings!

Cheers!
Missa
http://www.winedowntastings.com
winedowntastings@gmail.com