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This story originally appeared in the Napa Valley Register.
Barolo. Just saying the name sounds important. It sounds regal. It sounds strong. When I lived in the Piemonte area in Italy shortly after college, I knew very little, if anything, about wine. But on the table at every meal, I was drinking Dolcetto and Barbera on a daily basis. It was on special occasions that my friends would pull out a bottle of Barolo. I did not have the vocabulary to describe wine. But I knew that this was a special wine.
At Pebble Beach Food and Wine, a panel of sommeliers lead a discussion of Barolo as we sat down for a tasting of the Giacomo Borgogno wines from 1967 to 2010. Founded in 1761, Giacomo Borgogno is the father of Barolo, the original Barolo producer. He was the first to put the local wine into a bottle and commercialize it, beginning the legacy. The Borgogno family managed the estate for 247 years until 2008 when they sold it to the Farinetti family and a new evolution for the winery began.
Barolo has always been a classic wine, considered one of the best. The name implies a big, bold wine, but in the glass, the lack of a deep color contradicted this.
This story originally appeared in the Napa Valley Register.
Tasting wine uses all our senses. We use our eyes, our nose and our palates. But most of the time, we see the bottle first and conjure up pre-conceived notions of what we will find in the glass.
Too often, we make assumptions about a wine based on everything we have ever tasted, and before we even taste a wine, we jump to conclusions. If it is a sauvignon blanc, we might expect notes of green grass and citrus; if it is a pinot noir, we might expect cranberries, cherries, mushrooms and earth; if it is a cabernet sauvignon, we might expect aromas of dark black fruits, tobacco, chocolate and brown spices.
But what happens if we do not know what is in the glass? What if we just see a white wine or a red wine? Can we make an educated guess as to what is in the glass based on how it looks, smells and tastes?
At Pebble Beach Food and Wine last month, four Master Sommeliers stood in front of a room full of wine enthusiasts as we all tried to guess the eight wines we had in front of us. Master Sommelier Shayn Bjornholm explained that this was not a magic parlor trick, but rather a way to help us be better tasters.
Last year at Pebble Beach Food and Wine, I attended a seminar featuring a vertical tasting of the first growth of Royal Tokaji. This was by far the “tasting of a lifetime” and one that could never be repeated. However, the great thing about wine is that there are many “tastings of a lifetime,” those times when the lineup of wines is like no other, cannot be duplicated and only in your wildest imagination would you have thought about it. And that is what happened at the ninth annual Pebble Beach Food and Wine event. Tete du Cuvee Rose - Exploring Rose The weekend started with a tasting of Tete du Cuvee Rose Champagne. Exploring this more robust style of Champagne, I thought life was really good at this point as I sat with glasses of pink bubbles in front of me from the following producers: