Wine-tasting for writers

Today Rob and I hosted about fifteen writers for a wine-tasting. We tasted a variety of wines from top-shelf to rock-bottom. The idea was to learn how a wine snob would approach wine as opposed to a hard-nosed detective. I asked Rob to find some flawed wines as a contrast to the good ones. As a non-wine geek, I have learned that I can tell the difference between bad and good wines, but that mediocre and good are harder to tell apart.

He arranged the afternoon into three flights of wine. Each flight looked at a different common style of wine. Here’s the fact sheet he prepared for the folks who attended today.


Sutter Home
White Zinfandel (rosé)
California, 2006

As the bottle proudly proclaims, this is the original “White Zinfandel”. While certainly not the first rosé produced from Zinfandel, it was the first made is the light-bodied sweet style and marketed aggressively. It is produced from Zinfandel grown and vinified in California´s central valley on a prodigious scale. It is a true mass-market wine.

Domaine Sautereau
Sancerre rosé, Côtes de Reigny
Loire Valley, France, 2006

Situated in the village of Crezancy this 18 hectare estate has been producing wine for 9 generations. Sancerre is primarily of producer of Sauvignon Blanc but Pinot Noir is also grown to make red wine and occasionally rosés such as this one.


Chardonnay, Oracle Vineyard
Willamette Valley, Oregon, 2003

Included today as an example of an overtly flawed wine. It has been “cooked” in transport. Wine is a living substance and poor handling can injure or kill it. This is one gross example of such abuse.

Domaine Dujac (Druid)
Meursault, Le Limozin
Burgundy, France, 2000

Domaine Dujac is a highly respect producer of red burgundy in Morey-St. Denis. This is an unusual example of a white, which is produced from purchased grapes of the Le Limozin vineyard (a village cru but one of premiere cru status). This is Chardonnay but made is a racy and refined style.

Alexander Valley, 2005

California Chardonnay – big, buttery, oaky. Love or hate it, this is what built the California wine industry into what it is today.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Barton & Guestier
Vin De Pays, Cabernet Sauvignon
France, 2003

This is a typical inexpensive table wine, a style produced around the world for everyday consumption. A comparable American example would be Charles Shaw (2 buck Chuck) from Trader Joe’s. Grapes, or juice, or even finished wine is purchased, blended and bottled by some entity which then sells the wine under its own brand. Occasionally, one finds a pleasant bottle in this category but they are intrinsically generic.

Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley, 1998

While this winery is within the Napa Valley appellation, the vineyards and winery are near the top of Mt. Veeder at an elevation of 1,800 to 2,400 feet. Robert Travers, the winemaker, strives to make intense, long-lived wines in the tradition of great red Bordeaux which express the personality of the vineyard – the terroir. Like nearly all Bordeaux, this is a blend with small portions of Cabernet Franc and Merlot added to the Cabernet Sauvignon for balance and complexity.

I suspect we will do another of these. The thought at the moment is to do a vertical flight (same wine, different years) to show how wines evolve. Also we’re thinking of pouring the wine in three different types of wine glasses to show how the vessel can impact the flavor.

What would you want to get out of a wine tasting for writers?

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2 Responses

  1. Amal

    Wine fascinates me. I’ve only come to appreciate it recently, and I’m really intrigued by the culture that surrounds it, and how knowing something about it really enriches the experience of the wine itself.

    I’ve never been to a wine tasting, but the kind of fact sheet that Rob put together looks great to me. As an inexperienced amateur, I think the kinds of frameworks you’re talking about (vertical flights, experiencing how vessel affects taste) are great; being able to describe taste and scent are important to me, so breaking the experience of wine-tasting into more easily appreciable parts seems ideal, the better to later grasp the whole.