I was fortunate recently to receive a four bottle sampler of wines from Avenue Wine Company for the purpose of holding a wine tasting and sharing the tasters’ feedback with the company. According to their website “Avenue Wine Company produces premium handmade wines using fruit sourced from a variety of Northern California grape-growing regions” and the company is, quite interestingly, made up of amateur winemakers who got together to pursue their hobby more seriously.
“As amateur winemakers, the founders of our company brought together friends and family to create a club where each member participated in the winemaking process. This group had great success, winning five awards over three years at the prestigious Napa Home Winemakers Classic, including two first-place finishes.”
The sampler box contained a 2008 Syrah / King Vineyard, a 2009 Zinfandel / Share Ridge Vineyard, a 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, and a 2009 Chardonnay / Paul Herman Vineyard.
For the tasting event I prepared a variety of foods to complement the wines and to refresh our palates in between varieties. There was a cheese board with a variety of styles of cheese, two different types of home baked bread, a selection of fruits, good quality genoa salami, a wheatberry salad on romaine lettuce and, of course, the classic South Florida party food of fish dip and crackers.
We started with the 2009 Chardonnay because it was the only white wine in the line up and because we were all anxious to dig into the fish dip! The unanimous sentiment among the tasters was that this was not the average overly sweet chardonnay, but rather a pleasantly fruity and dynamic wine with layers of flavor. One taster commented that it “hinted of red apples or pears”, another taster commented on its “wonderful finish” and said “I want more of this at home!”. Another taster didn’t like the finish saying that it made her throat feel overly dry, although she praised the aroma.
We moved on to the 2008 Syrah / King Vineyard for the next round of tasting. This wine was very assertive and the tasters agreed that it would stand up well to full flavored meat such as lamb or beef. The comments for this wine included “bold flavors, rich, luxurious tasting” and “full, rich mouth feel”. One taster said that the flavor had hints of currants or plums and that it had an “assertive” finish.
After the Syrah, we tried the 2009 Zinfandel / Share Ridge Vineyard. This wine had a much softer and more gentle character than the Syrah which the tasters agreed would better complement pasta or rice based dishes. The comments for this wine included “the taste is more complex than the aroma”, “dark cherry and plum flavors”, “bouquet is rich but not heavy”.
The final wine was the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine had a rich berry color and a pleasing aroma, the tasters felt that this would be an easy match with many different types of food. The comments for this wine included “full bodied and lush”, “soft and full”, “thicker mouthfeel”, “figgy” and “long, delicious finish”.
Overall, the winner of the night was the Syrah followed by the Cabernet Sauvignon, the Zinfandel and then the Chardonnay. Of the six tasters who participated, all six identified themselves as primarily red wine drinkers which explains the fourth place finish for the Chardonnay. Despite the universal preference for red wine, all but one of the tasters said that they liked the Chardonnay and would serve it at home with the appropriate meal.
None of the tasters are wine or food professionals so all of the opinions expressed are those of people who know what tastes good to them though they may not always know how to describe it to others. The comments were the real opinions of real people, nothing more and nothing less. Overall, all of the tasters enjoyed the wines and said that they would serve them in their own homes.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received the sampler box because some of my west coast family became involved with the wine company, although at what level I do not know.
This was the first time I have ever hosted a wine tasting and it was a really fun time. I enjoyed picking out foods that would complement but not overpower the flavors of the wines were were sampling and I really liked the process of first looking at the wine for color and clarity, then smelling and finally sipping. I felt that the ritual of the three steps helped me to focus better on each wine and to appreciate it more fully because I was consciously using more than just my sense of taste to experience the wine. I would definitely do it again and I highly recommend hosting a wine tasting party just for the fun of it!