Black Hawk Ridge Lodi Tempranillo (2005)

Black Hawk Ridge Tempranillo 2005I chose this Black Hawk Ridge Lodi Tempranillo 2005 from California to accompany our dinner of simmered pork loin chops in mushroom sauce. This wine is growing on me as I enjoy it this evening. Full disclosure: This is not my cabernet sauvignon. Okay? That is the wine I love the most. But, I am tasting this wine with an open mind and an appreciation for the qualities of this particular quaff.

The Black Hawk Ridge Lodi Tempranillo 2005 is a dark violet with an unusual bouquet — I wish I could describe it but it is difficult; the best I can do is to say it is that it has a Mediterranean yeasty, musty nose. The taste is plummy with hints of pepper. The tannicity is definitely there, a bit on the dry side, and the body is medium to full. The finish is, again, difficult to describe. Although this is a California wine, it certainly reminds me of a European wine, especially in the finish. It is long but it has none of the bitter, dark chocolate finish, but rather a plummy, fruity, and luscious finish.

I am happy to have Tom back home from his trip to California. We are toasting to the beginning of the weekend. Cheers to Friday night!

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Mirror Lake – Petite Sirah – Central Coast (2006)

Mirror Lake Petite Sirah 2006Tom is in California and is conducting his own wine-tasting event as I write this (see his posts below). Meanwhile, I am holding down the fort at home, taking care of our dog, Trigger, and keeping the home fires burning for when Tom comes home. I have been so busy with work-night events that this is my first chance to relax and have a glass of wine since Tom has been gone. (Correction: Second time I have had a glass of wine; first time I have had the chance to blog about it.)

Tonight, I am finishing a bottle of the Mirror Lake Petite Sirah 2006 from California. I chose this wine because it was open! But, it will go well with the flank steak (wrapped in a pinwheel around spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and feta cheese) that I am cooking for dinner. Although I have reviewed this wine at least twice before, I always taste a wine as though it is my first time. The color is a rich, deep black and has a blueberry and chocolate/coffee flavor. The nose is interesting; perhaps rosemary and a bit of licorice. This is a full-bodied, tasty red. The finish is smooth and satisfying.

Tom, I know the wine tasting will be fun and that you will be a fabulous teacher! Hurry home; I miss you!

Tom’s 3 Tips on How to Taste Wine

Innovations in Learning ConferenceWe’re here at Brandon Hall Research’s Innovations in Learning Conference and some of us are going to a wine tasting tonight at the Beauregard Vineyards Tasting Room at the Santa Cruz Wharf. (Beauregard Vineyards has been a pleasure to work with in setting this up.)

We’ll be tasting eight wines, four whites and four reds. The whites are a sauvignon blanc, a pinot gris, and two chardonnays. The reds are a pinot noir, a zinfandel, a syrah, and a cabernet sauvignon.

For people who feel like newbies when it comes to wine, here are three tips on doing a wine tasting:

o Relax. It’s not a test. There’s no right answer. Don’t worry about what you’re supposed to taste. What do you taste? There isn’t really “citrus” or “vanilla” or “pepper” or any of those things in a wine. Grapes are a such a complex fruit and winemaking is such a complex process that most wines end up with many subtle tastes. People use those words to try to label the tastes. So just try to identify what it tastes like to you. But you’re in charge. If it tastes like old bubble gum to you, that’s what it tastes like. Pour out anything you don’t like.

o The three questions I ask myself when I taste a wine are:

1. How sweet or dry is it? For reds, this is often stated as, how soft or tannic is it? (Tannic is the dry taste you get in your mouth when you drink tea.)

2. What tastes do I taste? People often taste other fruits in wine, such as melon or peaches in whites and blackberries or cherries in reds. People sometimes taste spices in wine, like pepper, or foods, like chocolate. If it just tastes like “wine” to you, try a little harder to compare it to other tastes you’re familiar with.

3. How strong does it taste? Some wines smell and taste strongly of their alcohol (the way a sip of vodka burns). Others are much milder.

o Appreciate winemakers as people. Winemakers are interesting characters. They are knowledge workers; they are creating an original output, like an artist or writer. They are also scientists; they try to control biochemical reactions. And they are entrepreneurs; they are selling a product that has intense quality and price competition. A good question to ask the winemaker or wine pourer is, where do these grapes come from? (Did they grow them themselves or buy them?)

That’s it. Enjoy!

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Concannon Petite Sirah 2004

Concannon Petite Sirah 2004Excellence in Learning AwardsWe held the 2007 Excellence in Learning Awards last night at the Innovations in Learning Conference. It was a lot of fun.

A lot of times at a busy social event you don’t even taste the wine you’re drinking (or the wines served are so bland that there’s not much to taste). But one of the wines served last night was a Concannon Petite Sirah 2004. Even in the midst of the hubbub, its excellent taste shined through. It was delicious: tannic with jammy, plummy fruit and a rich, full body. A great example of a wine with a lot of fruit taste that is also dry so that it’s definitely not a fruit bomb. A really nice wine. (It’s over $10 but it seems to be under $20 and worth it.)

Big Yellow Cab (2003)

Big Yellow Cab 2003Gary in the Brandon Hall Research vanTom: I’m out in Santa Clara, California at Brandon Hall Research’s Innovations in Learning Conference. Yesterday we had fun driving around Silicon Valley in the Brandon Hall van (see Gary Woodill at the wheel at right). We had a wonderful wine-and-cheese hour and dinner at Brandon’s house, cooked by Brandon’s daughter Karen.

Brandon served a Big Yellow Cab 2003, which was excellent: medium bodied and medium tannicity, nice ruby color, with hints of cherries and berries. Delicious.

Aquila D’Oro Chianti (2006)

Aquila d'Oro Chianti 2006This Aquila D’Oro Chianti 2006 is a real value wine from Trader Joe’s. The color is purple and the body is light. The aroma is metal and cloves. (The aroma brings back memories of the monkey bars at my little two-room schoolhouse. This is very pleasant!) The taste is lovely; it is earthy and woodsy. There is fruit but it is not jammy. It is quite tannic. This will go well with our spaghetti dinner.

Tom: This Aquila D’Oro [Golden Eagle] Chianti 2006 is very nice. It has a rich, organic bouquet and taste: a certain yeastiness that seems indicative of chiantis. A nice fruit flavor. Very drinkable.

Oxbow Cabernet Sauvignon (2005)

Oxbow Cabernet Sauvignon 2005I chose this Oxbow Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 to go with a home-made meatloaf that I put together after a very long and busy day at work. It is in the oven now and smells delicious. Although it is more like a grilling night (it is a very warm Michigan evening), I thought a good comfort dinner was in order for tonight.

This California cabernet makes me slap my forehead and say, “This is why I love Cabernet.” It is SO wonderful! We have reviewed this before and we will review it again, because it is a wine well worth purchasing over and over again. The color is rich and dark, the nose is intoxicating, and the taste is berries and oak. The finish is as long as it gets. This is a wonderful wine. You cannot go wrong with this one.

Tom: This Oxbow Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 is a rich, chocolaty, fruit-forward (jammy blackberry) cab. Dry but not super-tannic, it still tastes like “big” — an opulent, Friday-night quaff.