My freshman year of college I took a fascinating intro linguistics class; one of the articles we read had to do with terminology in the wine world. Granted, it has been about seven years since I read this article, but this is what I remember about it: When a wine is described as having “nutty,” “citrusy,” “tropical,” “hints of cedar,” etc., according to this linguist, it’s all kind of crap. The language used to describe wine by sommeliers or wine experts or foodies or whoever is pretty personal to how they would describe it, but it’s very difficult to capture a common taste and define it. I truly understood this on my trip to Sonoma County.
After lunch one day, we had headed back to Lytton Springs Road, and made it to Ridge. Their outdoor tasting flight featured a chardonnay, a zinfandel, a blend of 5 wines, and a syrah. Generally speaking, I know how wine tastings are supposed to look. You put your nose in the glass, breathe deeply, try to smell things like dainty rose petals and unicorn blood coupled with a rogue hint of chestnut. Swish it around a bit, make a comment about the “legs” of the wine. Take a swig, swish some more (this time inside your mouth), and again search for that elusive taste of aging hyena or what have you. Well, this time I actually could identify a taste to a smell and it wasn’t totally baloney.
“Fuschia. If fuschia had a smell, that would be it,” I said of the Zinfandel of their Funsten Ranch property. The only way I could describe it was fuschia. And then it hit me—the smell reminded me of those scented crayons, you know, the ones from when you were a kid and maybe took a nibble once, just to see if the snozberries actually tasted like snozberries. Waxy almost, but in a good way. But I’m certain that my father sitting next to me would never in a million years have picked that out as a taste. After I mentioned it, though, he agreed that he could see how the fruity crayons might play a part in my taste. Or maybe he was just humoring me, but I”ll take what I can get.
For the record, I do not make it a habit to eat wax. Or crayons.
A few days later…
The first winery we made it to after a TASTY lunch from Big Bottom Market in Guerneville was Ferrari-Cardano. Modeled like an Italian villa with beautiful gardens, it certainly fit the visual bill for a winery.
My dad and I shared a 4-wine tasting. Being the consummate documenter that I am (not), I forgot to write down the names of the wines we tasted. Definitely one was a Zinfandel. Maybe one was a Sauvignan Blanc. I know for sure we tasted a Gewurstraminer, because I requested it. And a sweet dessert wine called Baci, which was infused with chocolate.
The point of this is less to detail what we drank and when, but I do want to share that I actually tasted—and NAMED—flavors for all of them before reading the description on the tasting menu! Success! One had a hint of strawberries, another had an oaky flavor, and another was crisp. For a regular wine aficionado, maybe this is a small feat. But to me, it was pretty exciting!
We stopped at 2 more vineyards after that, both family owned and operated. The only memorable wine from those two, for me, was a really nice Zinfandel at Wilson Winery. And I usually don’t really like Zin!
Have you ever gone wine tasting? Share your experiences in the comments!