Tag Archives: wine tasting

Three Things You Should Know About Wine (That Will Make You Sound Smart)

There is a lot to learn about wine and that can certainly be intimidating.  From the soil where the grapes are grown to the aging process, wine is a complex subject. Fortunately, there are some basic things that you can learn right now that will help you understand and discuss wine.

reading about wine

How wine is made:

Grapes are grown, harvested, sorted and the stems are removed. Then, the process of fermentation begins. This is different for red and white wines. Red wines are fermented with their skins on and whites without.

During fermentation alcohol and carbon dioxide is produced when sugar and yeast are combined. The sugar in the grapes and yeast, either added or more traditionally found on the white bloom of the grape skin, combine until the sugar becomes alcohol and the yeast is killed off. This occurs around 15% alcohol. The carbon dioxide is then let off, except in sparkling wines. (1)

After fermentation the wine is processed and put in barrels (oak or steel) to age. Then the wine is finished, which may include filtration and bottled!

This is a great illustrated guide to how wine is made: http://www.wineanorak.com/howwineismade.htm

What tannin is: 

Tannin is a natural preservative that comes from the grapes or from the wood in oak barrels when the wine is being matured. Kevin Zraly, in “The Ultimate Wine Companion” describes tannins well. “A word used to describe the sensation of tannins is “astringent”. especially in young wines, tannin can be very astringent and make the wine taste bitter. Tannin is not a taste, however– it’s a tactile sensation.” (2)

If wine always gets better with age:

Not all wines are meant to be aged. In fact, most wines should be consumed within one year of purchase. As wines  change as they age, and some do get better, but usually they do not. You can look up on vintage guides, like this one on decanter.com, when the best time to drink a wine is.

Easy to remember, right? Now you’re three facts closer to being a wine expert! 


1. Zraly, Kevin. “The Basics.” The Ultimate Wine Companion. Kevin Zraly. 2010: Sterling. Pg. 53.

2. Zraly, Kevin. “The Basics.” The Ultimate Wine Companion. Kevin Zraly. 2010: Sterling. Pg. 55.


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How to Throw a Wine Tasting Soirée

We don’t throw a lot of parties. Intimate gatherings, no problem, but parties… they’re a lot of work. I like the planning process until like a day before when I inevitably panic and decide A) no one is going to show up or B) it’s going to end like that party when I was 18 where I was arrested for “internal possession of alcohol” (seriously, that happened).

A few weeks ago I got the idea to have a wine tasting for my graduate school class. “What better cohort-bonding is there?” I thought. I threw out the idea and there seemed to be some interest which is how this whole wine-tasting party came to be. The premise was simple (and based on my birthday party last year). Everyone brings a bottle (or food), we cover the labels and we write down our humble opinions and ratings of each bottle.

The tasting was slated to begin at 4:30 pm and by 5:00 no one had shown up. It was kind of my worst nightmare. I threw a party and nobody came. But then everybody came and we had an amazing time. It was super laid back and I have a sneaky suspicion that that was a welcome relief to those in the room who may not have taken my suggestion (from a previous blog post) and read “The Ultimate Wine Companion edited by Kevin Zraly (buy it here) from cover to cover.

Cohort 12 Wine Tasting




In total, we had 13 bottles, 9 red and 4 white.

1. Altes Herencia 2011 Garnatxa Negra (Spain)

2. Acronym  2011 Red Wine Blend (Pinot Noir/Syrah)  (California, USA)

3. Charles Shaw 2011 Shiraz (California, USA)

4. Colpetrone 2007 Montefalco Sagrantino (Italy)

5. Bay Moon 2011 Sauvignon Blanc (California, USA)

6. Clos Du Bois 2010 North Coast Chardonnay (California, USA)

7. Dr. L Reisling (Germany) [Label was peeled off, not sure what year, best guess 2010]

8. Argento 2010 Malbec (Argentina)

9. House Wine Red 2010 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc) (Washington, USA)

10. Beaulieu Vineyard Coastal Estates 2010 Merlot (California, USA)

11. Acronym  2011 Red Wine Blend (Pinot Noir/Syrah)  (California, USA)

12. Arcangelo 2010 Negroamaro Salento (Italy)

13. Waterbrook 2010 Chardonnay (Washington, USA)


The Stats:

1. Altes Herencia 2011 Garnatxa Negra (Spain) 4.8

2. Acronym  2011 Red Wine Blend (Pinot Noir/Syrah)  (California, USA) 6.6

3. Charles Shaw 2011 Shiraz (California, USA) 4.9

4. Colpetrone 2007 Montefalco Sagrantino (Italy) 6.2

5. Bay Moon 2011 Sauvignon Blanc (California, USA) 4

6. Clos Du Bois 2010 North Coast Chardonnay (California, USA) 5.4

7. Dr. L Reisling (Germany) [Label was peeled off, not sure what year, best guess 2010] 5.7

8. Argento 2010 Malbec (Argentina) 6.1

9. House Wine Red 2010 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc) (Washington, USA) 6.7

10. Beaulieu Vineyard Coastal Estates 2010 Merlot (California, USA) 6.1

11. Acronym  2011 Red Wine Blend (Pinot Noir/Syrah)  (California, USA) 7.4

12. Arcangelo 2010 Negroamaro Salento (Italy) no score

13. Waterbrook 2010 Chardonnay (Washington, USA) no score

Iku Tasting

The results are fascinating. The #2 and #11 wines were the same bottle (unbeknownst to those tasting) and both came out near the top, although #11 won by quite a bit. Not every person tasted every wine, so that could have something to do with it, but even people who scored both the #2 and the #11 were different. But, if you read the tasting notes carefully, people did detect similar tastes in both.

Coming  in second was #11, another blend. Fourth was number #4, which happened to be my personal favorite. A funny thing did happen when tasting. Someone else had number 4 and said he didn’t like it. Immediately I started to second guess my opinion. That’s the thing with wine tasting, it really is about subtleties and can be influenced by many factors.

The last two wines were not scored. This is completely my fault, as my sheet to fill out only went to 11. I meant for people to fill out 12 and 13 on the back, but I think at that point we were all more focused on having a good time.

Some fun tasting notes:

“Smells like Christmas. Initial note of cheap frosting…” -Chris (#11)

“Ruby colored, light smell -slightly smoky. Very fruity taste, sweet and a little dry.” -Lauren (#2)

“Smells slightly skunky. Crisp light. Not much flavor. Like a slightly bitter, watery grape juice. -Carrie (#3)


Wine tasting


This was so much fun. Having a party like this is a great way to try different wines, but also a good chance to discuss those wines.

The wine I chose was number 2, the Acronym Pinot Noir/Syrah. I chose it kind of accidentally. I was talking to my brother, who has become somewhat of a NY wine expert, and was hoping he could help me choose a really nice East-Coast wine. He asked me to take a picture of the NY wine section at the store I was at and then send it to him. Turns out, there was no one bottle of NY wine there. I had to ask the wine steward if he had any NY Pinot Noir. He said no. I said NY anything. He said. No. And then I told him I was doing a tasting and he said, “Do you want to get crazy?” I was like, “of course I do” and he suggested the bottle I bought. So imagine my surprise when I found out someone else brought the EXACT SAME BOTTLE. (As I mentioned before.) Crazy, right?

For future tastings, I would need to find a better way to keep white wines chilled. And by a better way, I mean any way at all.

All in all, though, this is a party everyone should throw at least once!

Wine Tasting




Filed under Beginner's Guide, Today's Tastings

Poco Wine Room

Yesterday Alex and I finally checked out the Poco Wine Room, a beautiful little restaurant/wine/cocktail house in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. We’ve been meaning to go there for ages, but it’s tough to hit all those must-visit places when you live somewhere so rich in bars and restaurants.

Poco Wine Room

When we walked in from a typically-rainy Seattle evening, Poco Wine Room felt cozy and intimate. There were several people at the bar so we headed to a table in the loft-like upstairs. It was lit by candles and small lights and felt like somewhere I could get used to visiting.

Poco Wine Room Loft

We ordered a few small plates including an amazing caponata that I highly recommend. The food items on their online menu are slightly different from what was there in person, but it gives you a good idea of the type of food available. Four appetizer-sized plates were enough for dinner for the two of us and everything was very good.

Poco Wine Room menu

Poco Wine Room menu

And here’s the fun part: The wine. 

I ordered a Carmel Coast Chardonnay, $11.00 for a glass. It was the first time I’ve had a nice glass of wine out since I started this blog project and I noticed a huge uptick in my confidence when it came to both ordering and tasting. I really liked the tasting notes on the menu. They were clear and really gave me a good idea of what I was ordering. Alex got a beer, but we both tasted the Chardonnay and were impressed. It had notes of tropical fruits but wasn’t too sweet. I definitely could have gone for another glass, but alas it was a Wednesday and we had things to do.

Carmel Coast Chardonnay

Carmel Coast Chardonnay

Overall, we had a great time. The food was good, the wine was great and the atmosphere was perfect for a rainy night. The staff were also fantastic. Poco Wine Room is the perfect place to have a snack and a great glass of wine. It’s fairly quiet despite being relatively close quarters and perfect for a romantic evening or an intimate chat with a friend.

Here’s a Plus: Happy Hour

If you know me, you know I live for happy hours. Poco Wine Room has HH daily until 6:30 pm. They also have late-night happy hour from 10 pm to midnight Sunday- Thursday.

  • Happy hour Specials: $2 off glass, $8 off bottle in addition to happy hour food menu

You can visit, too:

Website: http://www.pocowineroom.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pocowine
Twitter: @PocoWineRoom

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Wine Tasting: Merlot or “50 Shades of Red”

I think everyone should host (or participate in) a home wine tastings at least once a month. They can be whatever you want them to be… intimate and classy or a bit rowdier with pizza, hot wings and Mario Cart.  This time we opted for the second choice and made it work with two beautiful bottles of merlot. Before I embarked on this wine adventure, I didn’t realize how fun it is to discuss wine. Everyone has a slightly different take on each wine and it’s exhilarating (in a totally geeky way) when someone is like, “It’s almost a spicy taste.” and you’re like “EXACTLY!”

Merlot Tasting

The tasters (minus Alex and me)

This time I was a little more prepared than my last few tastings. I got an amazing wine bible from the library, The Ultimate Wine Companion edited by Kevin Zraly (buy it here). If you’re at all interested in wine, and I assume you are since you’re reading this, go read this book. I’m definitely putting it on my holiday wish list. I did some research about the wines I wanted and even printed out papers for everyone to write their notes about the two wines. I even made a little cheat card about merlot.

Merlot is my favorite red wine, but I didn’t really know much about it until yesterday. According to The Ultimate Wine Companion, Chile makes the best Merlots followed by California and Washington State. I decided to go for a Chilian Merlot and a domestic one for the tasting.



The Wines:
Sagelands Vinyards 2007 Columbia Valley Merlot

Casillero del Diablo 2010 Chilian Merlot

The Tasting:

Merlot Tasting

Merlot Tasting

We started with the Sagelands Merlot:


Dark, heavy legs, high viscosity, deep color.

wine tasting: look

“Strong legs. If this was an athlete, it would be a long distance runner.”-Sunil


“Deep, heavy, woody… It’s starting to feel like I’m writing a sex novel.” -Marek  “50 Shades of Red” -Sunil

“Doesn’t smell like it would taste good.” -Tanya

“Woody smell” -Mar


“Usually merlots are drier. This was less. I prefer it.” -Sunil

“No sweetness, a nice steady heavy yet subtle flavor. Aftertaste as good as first sip.” -Marek

“Acidity with end point of bitterness. The taste is experienced all over the tongue. No complex.” -Tanya

Notes & Ratings

Mar: 7  of 10

Sunil: 7 of 10 “I like this wine, I would buy it.”

Tanya: “Smooth and nice for a Merlot! Not my fav.” 6 or 7 of 10

Marek: “Heavy duty porch pounder in the Merlot category.”

Sagelands Merlot Rating

Heavy duty porch pounder!

Alex: 3.4 of 5 stars (he decided on a different rating system)

Elena: 8 of 10

Sunil reading

Sunil reading

Next we tried the Casillero del Diablo:


“Lower viscosity. ‘Faster’ legs = sprinter.” -Tanya

Dark burgundy, deep color


“Woody, balanced, smooth and light.” -Tanya

Spicy, light,


“Fruity, light and “delightful”, no real aftertaste.” -Tanya

“Taste hits the back of my tongue.” -Sunil

Notes & Ratings

Mar: 6/10 “Wine residue at bottle of the glass.”

Sunil: 6/10 “I prefer #1 because this is more bitter and light bodied. Still a good wine!” 

Tanya: 8/10 “Delicious and smooth.”

Marek: “Good, light merlot experience but not for huge bold flavors.”

Alex: 2.2 out of 5 stars

Elena: 7/10


The Sagelands Merlot got better overall ratings, but both were decent wines. The Sagelands was deeper, darker and generally more bold than the Casillero del Diablo and I think that made the latter taste a little watery in comparison. We tried another wine, a Spanish mix of Cabernet Savignon, Carménère, Caberet Franc and Syrah. When compared to the other two wines, it just didn’t hold up, making me wonder about the order of wines in a tasting. Would we have liked that one better if we had tasted it without tasting two, arguably better, wines first?

I think I will try more Chilean Merlots in the future, but certainly won’t discount the domestic ones.

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Your Wine Tasting Cheat Sheet

Doing some wine tasting tonight? Print this easy  cheat sheet to take along with you!

Wine Tasting Cheat Sheet

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Red Vs. White: Blind Tasting

Dan, Kate, Alex bling wine tasting

The blind wine tasters

The Subjects:
Kate, Dan & Alex

The Test:
Can an average wine drinker tell the difference between red and white wine when the wine is served at the same temperature and in the same  glass?

The Hypothesis:
In my last blog post I noted that my grandfather once participated in a similar experiment. I don’t know what wines they used in that experiment, but I imagine the choices were more scientific than mine. In his experiment, a portion of the participants could not tell the difference between the red and white wine choices, which was a big surprise to them, especially because many of them were fairly experienced wine drinkers.

I hypothesized  that I would get a similar result in my tasting.

Different Wine Glasses

Each person had each tasting in the same size glass.

The Tasting:
I didn’t tell Dan and Kate what the experiment consisted of  until after they participated. I wanted them to focus on the wine in general and not just whether it was red or white. Alex knew but wanted to participate anyway.

Round One:

Kate: Actual wine: RED

Kate knew immediately the wine was red and thought it was most likely a Cabernet Sauvignon. She commented that it was dry, woody and acidic. She noted that she is picky with red wines and prefers white.

Dan:  Actual wine: WHITE

Dan guessed that this was a red wine, perhaps a Merlot. He noted that it was not dry. *incorrect

Alex:  Actual wine:WHITE

Alex thought his glass was a white wine, probably a Chardonnay. He called it fruity and dry.

Round Two:

Kate:  Actual wine: WHITE

Kate was sure this was a white wine and guessed that it might be a Sauvignon Blanc. She tasted pear and floral notes.

Dan:  Actual wine: RED

Dan guessed this one correctly as a red Cabernet Sauvignon and noted that it was dry.

Alex:  Actual wine: RED

Alex thought this was a red, a Cabernet Sauvignon. He said it was sweet with a bitter aftertaste.

The Wines:

Red and White Wine

Red and White Wine

Concannon Selected Vineyards 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon

Concannon Selected Vineyards 2010 Chardonnay (How neat are these linked tasting notes? Makes things so easy for me!)

The Results:
With three people and two glasses each, a total of 6 tastings, only one was incorrectly identified as red instead of white (and that was by Dan, who admittedly isn’t a huge wine drinker).

What Did We Learn?
I think the biggest lesson in this experiment is different from what the lesson was in the original one my grandpa partook in. (My guess for that one would be that certain wines -and I would assume we’re talking good wines here- can taste like red when they’re white or white when they’re red, especially when the “tells” of color, glass size and temperature are removed.) The lesson I took from my (rather poorly constructed) experiment is that one’s ability to taste nuances in wine is a skill that is developed over time. An inexperienced wine drinker takes clues from external factors (like temperature, price, glass type, etc.) because they have not developed their palate to be able to identify things a more experienced wine drinker can. This might seem obvious, but is an important point. Practice makes perfect, even when it comes to how you taste.

I wonder… what if I had served chilled red and room temperature white. Would the results have been the same? What do you think?

Thanks to Dan, Kate and their baby Grant (who did not participate in the tasting) for visiting us in Seattle and participating in my little experiment!

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Can you tell the difference between red and white wine?

My grandpa always tells a story about wine that blows people away. I’m going to try to retell it here. It won’t be as good as when he tells it, but you probably haven’t heard it from him so you won’t know. If you have heard it, you can stop reading here.

Elena and Grandpa

Grandpa and me in Paris

Grandpa was at a dinner party years ago with a group of friends or colleagues or something. Most of the people there considered themselves knowledgable about wine. The host decided to do a little test. He blindfolded everyone and handed them a glass of wine. Every glass was the same size and each drink was room temperature. He asked the guests to determine if the glass they were drinking was red wine or white wine. Everyone laughed. How obvious. No one could possibly get that wrong, even without the tells of glass size and wine temperature. But they were wrong, oh how wrong! I forget how many exactly, but a huge portion of the party couldn’t tell if their wine was red or white. It should be noted that this was really high-quality wine so the differences are more subtle, but still, isn’t that incredible?

Stay tuned for my own version of this experiment!

In the meantime, here’s a picture of Tala trying to determine if this Chateau St. Michelle Pinot Grigio has floral or fruity notes.

Tala and Wine

Tala says “floral” but she prefers “rodent”



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