Hosted Blind Tastings | Putting Wine in Context

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Washington vs New Zealand blind tasting, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.

Different vs Different 

"I thoroughly enjoy sharing my passion for wine."

Over the last three years I have hosted many wine tastings at work. It's part of my job as Wine Education Coordinator at the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser, Washington. My guests will tell you that I thoroughly enjoy sharing my passion for wine. No matter if it is a one on one discussion, or a group presentation for 85 tourists, it is truly difficult for me to contain my excitement. So, I don't try.

I wanted to share this subject with you today because... it's been on my mind. On my main Instagram account, @wild4wawine, I share a lot of my wine experiences, including pictures of the blind tastings I host. Earlier this year, a wine industry friend, who also reviews wine, questioned the purpose of these blind tastings. Specifically, the "Washington vs the World" sessions. This is my attempt to explain.

Themes for the blind tastings I host include: 

  • Varietal Blind Tasting:
    Five or six wines of the same variety (Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, etc.) tasted blind. Discussion includes: Where did the variety originate? What are the common characteristics of the variety? What do you smell and taste? Do you like the wine(s)? Which is your favorite? Can you identify the Washington wines? Can you identify the non-Washington wine? Which is the most expensive?
  • Washington vs the World:
    This is a blind tasting and varietal comparison. Typically, four wines, 2 red and 2 white. Example: Washington Chenin Blanc vs South African Chenin blanc, and Washington Cabernet Sauvignon vs South African Cabernet Sauvignon. Discussion on characteristics of the variety, and how location changes the expression of the variety. Purpose? It is not about "good vs bad" it is a discussion on "different vs different" and again, how location affects expression of the variety. Putting the wines in context.
  • AVA Tasting:
    This is a blind tasting of five to six wines, all from the same AVA. Some of these sessions have included: Red Mountain AVA and Wahluke Slope AVA. Can be blind or not. Usually a by request, custom session for a private party.
  • Bubbles and Bites:
    This is a sparkling wine tasting and food pairing discussion. Not done blind, rather each wine is tasted and discussed, with background information on the variety and the producer. Then food is paired with each wine. Discussion is on, did the wine and food pair well? Why? Did the food pairing change your opinion of the wine? 
  • Washington's Big Five:
    This is a bit of a history lesson, as well as a discussion on the Washington wine industry, and wine tasting. Not blind. Big Five is about the five wine grape varieties we grow the most of in Washington state, and make into wine. This includes today, Cabernet Sauvignon (#1), Chardonnay (#2), Syrah, Merlot, and Riesling.
  • Wine 101:
    An introduction to wine tasting and tasting room etiquette. This is usually by request or for walk-ins. A friendly wine tasting Q&A. 
  • Wine and Cheese Pairings:
    Typically, I host the wine portion of this session. I'm not a cheese expert, so the Wine Program Director hosts the cheese portion of these sessions. I've learned a lot about cheese from her. I'm now a big fan of many cheeses from around the world, not just the five go to cheeses I've been buying for years. We work hard to ensure interesting pairings. There's a lot of history in cheese too, just like wine. More dots to connect to the point of origin and helping us put wine and cheese in context. 

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Merlot Blind Tasting at the Clore Center.

My Ongoing Fascination with Wine

Being rather fond of wine, and curious, I've become fascinated by the world of wine. The origins of wine grapes and controlled fermentation, the history of wine, the adoption of wine grape varieties around the world, cultural use of wine and modern re-interpretations. For me, I must understand the context of the wine I am selling, drinking, reviewing, sharing. This fascination manifested when I began selling wine.

Over a dozen years ago, I worked at the largest family owned winery in Washington state. I learned I loved hand selling wine. I used to tell my customers, "Washington state makes some of the best wines in the world." Sometimes, customers would push back, "How do you know?"

How do you Know?

One of the ways  I learn, is by not knowing the answer to a question. So, I must then find the answer. Which compelled me to start writing about wine, (www.wild4washingtonwine.com) and eventually tasting and reviewing wines from around the world. I've had to put Washington Wine in the context of the world of wine, and in the context of place, "Here vs There." Yes, I've learned a great deal and continue to learn.

Now when I declare, "Washington state makes some of the best wines of the world." I also back that up with facts and anecdotes. And, "Washington state makes wines in a New World style of expression, of very high quality. Different than (specific country/place)." Again, not better than, but different vs different. And also, why Washington is special.

Today, I can share my thoughts on the wines I've tasted and reviewed from, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Turkey, Italy, Catalonia, Limoux, the Loire Valley, Bordeaux, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Tasmania, Greece, British Columbia, Virginia, New York, Oregon, Hawaii, etc. And I can match those wines to styles and types of food, along with personal anecdotes.

The blind tastings I host provide me a venue to share what I have learned. Some of that personal enthusiasm, I hope, rubs off on my guests. I view these hosted wine tastings as a catalyst for the exploration of the world of wine.

Explore at Home

Yes, I encourage my guests to take Washington wines home to enjoy with family and friends. I also encourage them to explore the wines of the USA, not just Washington, and wines which come from the point of origin, and their counterparts around the globe.

These days, I love to experiment with pairing wine with food. When I first try a new to me wine, I instantly wonder, "What would pair well with this wine?" Sometimes the answer is instant! Other times, it's not. That's part of the fun too.

There's a world of wine out there. It's thrilling to enjoy the diversity of varieties and styles, alone and with friends. I always want to come back for more.

  • If you would like to attend one of my Wine Tasting Sessions, you can find the schedule of upcoming Events at : theclorecenter.org.
  • If you would like to request a custom, private tasting, please contact: wineeducation@theclorecenter.org

*Want to host a blind tasting at home? This is the blind tasting kit I use.



All the best,

William, The Context of Wine

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