For years I have been exploring the California and Oregon wine countries. While I occasionally brought a friend along they were only interested in having a good time and were not on an enological quest to improve their knowledge of wine and become a better taster. So, in most of my wine tasting adventures I was out by myself with my camera in hand taking pictures, shooting video and social networking with people in the business. This did a lot to improve my understanding of these New World wine regions and note taking abilities but there was something lacking that I have gained over the past 9 months – someone of like interest and experience to compare notes.
Recently I read Secrets of the Sommeliers in which Master Sommelier Alan Murray is quoted saying:
“Nothing’s more important than tasting with people who are better than you, who know more than you.”
In the 17 week Intensive Sommelier Training at the International Culinary Center I learned a lot from our instructors who are Master Sommeliers, but I also learned a great deal from my fellow students. As they went through “the grid” I would compare my notes with theirs to see what we had in common in our perception of the wine but I also gained a greater insight by seeing how they interpreted the aromas, flavors and structure of the wine. While my knowledge and experience of California and Oregon wines was quite extensive, I found that most my fellow wine-geeks had a lot more knowledge and experience with old world wines so I learned a lot from them. This shared learning experience flowed over into our study group which frequently met on weekends.
Now, having graduated from ICC and passed the Certified Sommelier Exams, I’m blessed to have the experience of continuing to learn and grow from these new-found friends as we meet in study groups or get together in various public venues to continue to taste wines together and compare notes.
The format is fairly simple and is generally done in two different ways. We either taste the wines separately and then take turns going through “the grid” and compare notes or we sort of do a free-for-all and throw out all our interpretations of the wine at the same time, sometimes agreeing and other times disagreeing.
Our recently formed study group decided to go through Italy so before we started meeting I invited some of my fellow Somms to join me at Vin Vino Wine in Palto Alto as they were pouring wines from Tuscany. They have two line-ups, a short and a long tasting, and the prices vary according to the cost of the wine. We gathered around 6 PM and the place stops pouring at 7 PM and we left around 7:30 PM, so we only had time for a short series in which we tasted the following four wines. The following reflects my own notes as well as some insights of two people I definitely consider to know more than I do when it comes to wine.
2011 Poliziano Rosso de Montepulciano
This wine is made from 100% Sangiovese and it is from Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, Italy. This estate was founded in 1961 on 22 hectares of vineyards. It has grown over the years to reach 120 hectares. The name is an homage to the 15th-century humanist poet Angelo Ambrogini, known as ‘Il Poliziano’, who was born in Montepulciano.
This is a clear red wine, ruby at the core to garnet at the rim with medium+ viscosity. On the nose it is clean with a minute amount of aromas indicating some volatile acidity. It has moderate intense aromas of dusty cherries, tart cranberries, cigar box, cloves, violets and lavender, with a hint of dusty cocoa and anise and just a touch of tar. On the palate it is dry and on the first sip the tannins and acidity are a bit of a shock to the teeth and gums, but then they become “sweeter” with the succeeding sips. The wine is medium bodied with medium+ alcohol and a moderate length finish. This wine retails for $18 per bottle at Vin Vino Wine and I have seen it elsewhere for sale between $13 and $20.
2011 Lohsa, Morellino di Scansano DOC
This wine is a blend of 85% Sangiovese and 15% Ciliegiolo from the Lohsa Vineyard founded by Fredico Carletti and his family in Maremma, along the coast of Tuscany Italy.
This is a clear red wine, ruby at the core to pink at the rim with a hint of garnet with medium viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate intense aromas of wild blackberries, pomegranates, dried herbs, bramble bush, dusty wool, and walnuts. On the palate the fruit leans more towards fresh cherry pie followed by dried tobacco leaves, dried earth and a hint of herbs. It is dry with medium+ tannins, medium+ alcohol, and a medium length finish. This wine retails for $18 per bottle at Vin Vino Wine and I have seen it elsewhere for sale between $15 and $20.
2011 Casanova di Neri Rosso de Montalcino
This wine is made from 100% Sangiovese, which is known as “Brunello” in Montalcino, a hill town and commune in Tuscany, Italy. It is from Casanova di Neri which was founded in 1971 by Giovanni Neri in the Montalcino territory and it was passed on to his son Giacomo in 1991.
This is an opaque red wine, dark ruby at the core to pink at the rim with a slight hint of garnet and medium+ viscosity. On the nose it has moderate intense aromas of wild blueberries, dried plums, fig, dates, a hint of wet wool, dried mushrooms, canned black pepper, dried herbs, rosemary, and a hint of southwestern seasoning. On the palate the fruit is more towards ripe cherries followed by dried black fruits and a minute amount of black pepper and spice. It is dry with well integrated medium+ tannins, medium+ acidity, moderate+ alcohol, it is highly complex, full bodied with a round mouth feel and it definitely has the deliciousness factor. This wine sells for $24 a bottle at Vin Vino Wine and I have seen it elsewhere for sale between $18 and $25. It was my favorite in the line-up so I bought a bottle which I’ll probably share at a group tasting in the near future.
2010 San Vincente Chianti Classico DOCG
This wine is made from 85% Sangiovese and 15% Merlot which spent 12 months in barrel and 6 months in bottle prior to release. The San Vincenti estate is the work of Francesco Muzzi and Roberto Pucci. The estate consists of 60 hectares (148 acres) ranging from 350 to 450 meters above sea level located in the municipality of Gaiole, in the heart of the historically most ancient part of Chianti, 30 kilometers from Siena.
This wine is opaque, dark ruby at the core to pink at the rim with a hint of garnet and burnt orange around the edge with medium+ viscosity. On the nose it has subtle aromas of dried plums, black licorice, burnt rubber tires, old leather and a minute amount of barnyard. On the palate it is dry with chewy medium+ tannins, medium+ acidity and a medium length finish that leaves the sensation of the woodiness of a tongue depressor on your palate. This wine sells for $26 a bottle a bottle at Vin Vino Wine and I have seen it elsewhere for sale between $15 and $27. This lacks any freshness and is a bit too “Old World” for my palate but others may find it intriguing.
 Rajat Par and Jordon Mackay, Secrets of the Sommeliers (Ten Speed Press; First Edition edition, 2010), page 29.