Last weekend, as I walked through the barrel room at Pellegrini Vineyards with the lovely Mrs. LENNDEVOURS and four friends, one of the biggest reasons I love wine hit me yet again — there’s always something more to learn……always. In fact, I’m not sure you can ever know everything there is to know about my favorite farm product (and beverage).
We were at Pellegrini taking part in the first class in their wine education series, “Sensory Training, Tour and Tasting,” ran this summer. We started with a tour of Pellegrini’s vineyard, winery and various barrel rooms as Juan “John” Eduardo Micieli-Martinez, production winemaker at both Pellegrini Vineyards and Premium Wine Group, answered questions and shared his insight into both grape growing and winemaking. We couldn’t have asked for a better day in terms of weather, setting and tour guide.
With our tour complete, John led us upstairs from the barrel room to the Vinter’s Room, a handsome space on the top floor that overlooks the vineyard. On such a beautiful late-summer afternoon, I would have been content just to sit up there and enjoy the view, with a glass of the well-balanced Pellegrini 2003 Chardonnay ($14), but John had something much more fun, and educational, in mind.
The large table in the center of the Vintner’s Room was set with three glasses per person, carafes of water, spit buckets, wine information and pencils for taking notes. This class, which John developed, is meant to help wine lovers train themselves to recognize the different flavors, aromas and sensations found in different types and styles of wine.
To start, John poured a mixture of half chardonnay and half water – this was our “control” glass that was meant to be “neutral.” We then compared the aromas and tastes of that control glass with four other wines based on that 50/50 concoction, one with tartaric acid added (to highlight acidity), one with sugar added (to highlight sweetness), one that was boiled with oak chips (for oak character) and another that had added nut tannin to highlight the sensation tannin causes on the palate. It was an interesting exercise and one that I’d recommend any neophite try because it was easy to identify these singular wine traits in such a setup.
Have you ever read a wine review (maybe even one of mine) and thought to yourself, “How did he taste blackberry and basil in that Merlot?” Chances are you have and John has come up with a way to help you learn to do the very same thing.
Before pouring glasses of Pellegrini’s two different chardonnays, John passed around sliced apples, pears, butterscotch chips, caramel candies, lemons and limes — common flavors and scents found in Long Island chardonnay. By sniffing and tasting the chardonnay with these food items close at hand, we were able to better identify those scents and flavors in the wines.
We did a similar exercise for Pellegrini’s red wines, with raspberries, blackberries, coffee, tobacco, dried sage, chocolate and strawberries. I’d never noticed sage in a wine before, but with the real deal as a reference, I noted hints of it in the delicious 2001 Cabernet Franc ($18). See? You always learn something.
The last wine we tasted, the Pellegrini Vineyards Finale Bin 1331 ($26), was poured with a wide array of foods, including honeydew, cantaloupe, pineapple, dried apricots, mango and Cheerios, for the “toasty oat” John always finds in the wine. It’s a complex wine and one can find these and many other aromas within.
While this first session of the wine education series has come to a
close, the second set of classes, which are focused on varietal
characteristics and identities, will begin after the New Year. With
John leading them, they are sure to be worthwhile and interesting. I
found him to be an extremely energetic, passionate guy who clearly
knows his stuff. He’s engaging and easy to relate to……the perfect wine
educator. And, in a region where wine education typically starts at $50
a session and goes up (way up) from there, Pellegrini’s wine education
series is a refreshing $25 per class, and includes a significant
discount on wine purchases after the class is over.
For more information, call 734-4111 or visit www.pellegrinivineyards.com