Tuesday Night Wine Tasting

Ruby Tuesday
Naramata Bench, Penticton BC
Viognier, 2009

I know, I know…it’s been over a week since I last posted.  Sometimes life has a way of telling you to think about other things for the time being.  Last night, 3 of my classmates and myself, got together for what will now be (I think) a monthly get together for tasting.  And let me tell you, with the events from the previous week, this tasting was a welcome reprieve!

To make up for lost time, hang on to your hats as I post about all of the wines we tasted last night!  And let’s get this out right at the start:  this was blind, and my percentage of picking the right wine was only 25% (sigh).  That’s alright!  Onward to more tastings and developing the palate!

Now, I think MOST of us don’t know much about the Viognier grape.  I mean, have YOU ever heard of it?  It certainly doesn’t spend much time in the limelight like the Chardonnay, or the Sauvignon Blanc grape, but once you’ve tried it…I guarantee you will reach for it on the shelf time and again.  This grape has it’s origins in the Northern Rhone Valley of France, but there are some great bottles of this stuff coming out in the New World.  And this wine above, is a good Canadian Viognier with the typical flavours of peaches, apricots, violets, and even a touch of honey.  It is great with any spicy Thai dish, and in fact, I served a Washington State Viognier with salad rolls dipped in peanut sauce.  Nice pairing to be sure.  Just don’t break out any cheese…this is one wine that cheese just does NOT go well with, especially any of those creamier cheeses like goat, brie or Camembert!

Oh and by the way?  This was the wine I guessed correctly! Must’ve been all those red shoes on the label….

Summerhill Pyramid Winery
Okanagan Valley, 2009
Pinot Gris

On to wine number 2, the second of three Canadian wines that were tasted.  This was the wine I brought to the table…never had it before, but guessed it wrong!  Ha ha!!  I found this one to be lacking as I’ve tasted better Pinot Gris’s before.

So, did you know that that Pinot Gris grape was kind of an accident?  It is actually a mutation of the Pinot Noir grape.  “Pinot”, meaning “pine cone”, because that’s what the clusters look like, and “Gris” is French for “gray”, the colour …because the grapes tend to be a pinkish, bluish gray.  How’s that for a colour description!  Ha ha!!  Our friends in Italy would call it “Pinot Grigio”.

It had apricot on the nose, along with tinges of minerality. There was something else there that I just couldn’t pinpoint, and I kept coming back to it a few times just so I could get it. About the 5th time around, I got it:  cheese.  Not the stinky kind, but just a clean, creamy cheese.  I’ve never gotten that in a wine before! It was a clean wine with medium acidity.  It just didn’t grab me though.  First of all, I didn’t guess it, and second of all, it just didn’t stand out, or make me want to buy it again.  Perhaps you have tried it, and you like it!  Fantastic!  After all..it IS Canadian! 🙂

St. Hubertus Estate Winery
Okanagan Valley, BC
2010 Chasselas

On to our third Canadian wine…so if you haven’t heard of Viognier, then I bet you haven’t heard of Chasselas either eh? Other than our fine host, the rest of us hadn’t either.  Where did this mysterious grape come from?  Not to mention, how do you pronounce it?  Chhhzzhhhhh…..that’s what Harjeet said…just kind of run all the syllables together!  Actually, it’s pronounced SHUS-la and it’s a varietal said to have originated in Switzerland, and widely grown there.  Obviously, it’s growing elsewhere too, since this is a Canadian wine!

There’s not a lot there with this wine.  A bit of pear and lemon zest at the end, but that’s about it.  It DID, however, taste very good with the goat cheese.  And, according to the label, it is the quintessential “fondue” wine..cheese fondue that is! Hmm…maybe I’ll give that a try!

Highfield Wineries
Marlborough, New Zealand
2010 Sauvignon Blanc

Last, but certainly not least, the Sauvignon Blanc. This was the token New Zealander in the mix.  And guess what?  I didn’t guess this one right either.  If we would’ve had the reveal later, perhaps I would have.  Every time I went back to this wine, I got something new from it.

When we first started, I got mango, lychee and honey on the nose.  The second and third time, I started smelling herbal and vegetal notes.  About the 4th go-round, I was getting green peppers.  It was at the first whiff, those fruit flavours, that led me to believe it was the Pinot Gris.  And when I tasted, I was waiting for that wall of acidity to hit me…but it didn’t.  To me, it only had a medium acidity, which, if it’s a Sauvignon Blanc, that acidity should knock you over.  One big party in your mouth!  And again, I was getting those lychee, lemon-y flavours, but as I went back to it, I got the fresh cut grass and the green pepper.  Not so much the green pepper, but the fresh cut grass is certainly indicative of a Sauvignon Blanc. 

The more I tasted this wine, the more I appreciated it and enjoyed it. This will definitely be a Sauvignon Blanc that will be on my “patio wine” list for summer 2012.  Drink them young, as these grapes are not particularly known for their ageing qualities. Will you give it a try?

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