By: Jennifer Duff
Capital Cooking Contributor
I like to enjoy a nice glass of red wine, especially with a delicious dinner. My favorite kind of wine is either a Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon or a Meritage (a blend of Bordeaux varieties). But to be completely honest, I don't know much about wine... I just know what I like. And what better way to learn more than by heading over to the International Wine and Food Festival for an educational session on wine.
At the "A Sideways Look at Pinot with Doug Mason" program, we learned (and tasted!) about growing, producing and bottling wine. While my fellow students were debating the finer points of aeration (should you use an aerator?), wine closures (the science behind screwtop and cork closures), and skin-to-grape ratio, I was busy tasting wines and enjoying some cheese. And hoping there wasn't a test at the end.
We discussed the impact of the movie Sideways on Pinot Noir production, which I am not going to go into here, as that movie already received way more attention than it deserved. But the takeaway is that the movie basically tripled production and in the short-term there was not enough supply to meet demand (oh my god, they taught us science and economics!)
Our teacher graciously provided us with six types of wine to taste -- five Pinot Noir wines and one Merlot (GASP! the horror...).
These were all really delicious and different wines. As folks were throwing out words like 'reduction,' 'mouth-feel,' and 'aromatic,' I tried to focus on a few basic components. Like how the taste (and look) of the wine definitely changes (and in some cases, substantially) after it aerates or breathes. And how very different Pinot Noirs can taste based on where the grape was grown, the year of the vintage, and how long it aged in an oak barrel. Oh, and that a glass of Merlot can actually taste good! (I typically find them way too grape-y for me).
In the end, my favorite was the 2009 Sandford Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills (second from the left in the picture above). I found this wine to be light and a bit more on the fruity side, with a smooth finish. It was a tough competition with the 2009 Sequana Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands, but ultimately I found the Sanford to be a little more drinkable and a more traditional-style Pinot Noir.
It was a lot of fun tasting wines with Doug Mason and I picked up a few wine tips as well. Lucky for me, there were no tests!