Saturday Glen decided my Christmas present should instead be a wine-tasting course at Culinary Institute of America. The GrayStone building was built in 1889 as a cooperative winery for Behringer and some of the other locals in Napa. CIA has gutted the interior, put up earthquake reinforcements and is installing state of the art teaching kitchens. One of the stone outbuildings has been retrofitted to have a tasting lab, much like the one I saw in the UC Davis new food building. Each station has a chair, a flat workspace, a recessed light panel, a bitty sink, and a shelf above the table that is tiled with about 18 3" tiles that serve as a grid for, in this case, wine glasses. Very clever. Lots of flat screen monitors and white boards that slide around.
I kind of know the vocabulary of tasting wine, but have never been very organized about it except to read tasting notes at whatever winery I was visiting. Turns out there IS an organized way to do this and it is called the wine aroma wheel. This very useful concept will probably help me a lot in the future. http://www.winearomawheel.com/
It was supposed to be a 2 hour course, but in this case, ran 3 hours, which of course no one complained about. We started with a single wine, and looked, smelled, described, and then tasted and described. I realized if my wine were in a black cup, I could not tell by smell alone what color, much less, what grape I had. Smelling is hard! Then after the break we had 4 pairs of wines to compare. We thought about old world (Europe) vs new world (anywhere else) origin, a single grape fermented in very different styles, two different grapes fermented in the same style, dry or not dry, oaked or not oaked, and terroir. The pairs were carefully selected to point out one or two such characteristics. We both learned a lot, but I can tell you by the end of the day, when we stopped at Franciscan Brothers, where we have a membership, I couldn't tell anything apart any more. So, along with not growing up to be President, I guess I won't grow up to be a sommelier either.