How to Setup Your Own Blind Tasting

Blind tastings should be simple – those tasting should not know the identity of the wines being tasted.  When it comes down to it, there’s 8 basic rules to always remember:

  1. 6-12 people is the best for wine tasting. This way you only need one bottle per wine.
  2. Arrange the wine tasting so they are trying whites to red. From sweet to dry – light-bodied to full-bodied.
  3. Ask your guests not to wear perfumes or smoke.
  4. Bag or cover the bottles so they cannot been seen.
  5. Prepare a tasting note guide and answer sheet for your guests.
  6. Make sure you have crackers and a cheese platter, or some type of finger food.
  7. Supply plenty of water to drink between tastings.
  8. Use wine glasses, not paper or plastic.

Now you’ll have to decide what kind of blind tasting you would like to do. A Single-blind wine tasting is one varietal ie: Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir.  The bottle should be covered, but you can see the wine in your glass.

A Double-blind wine tasting is where your guests will not know anything about the wine and they have to list its Varietal, Country and sometimes region.

And yes, there’s even a Triple-blind tasting where your guests are actually blind-folded and know absolutely nothing about the wine.

This will help you get started along hosting your own blind tasting at home with friends and loved ones, but the most important rule not to forget, is to just have fun!

Don’s April Collector’s Series Top Picks

I confess to having a penchant recently for polished, complex Tuscan reds such as Morazzano’s 2005 Re.  And what a wine Re is.  Born on the hills of Montescudaio close to Sassicaia and some of Tuscany’s other illustrious names, Re outperforms most Brunello di Montalcino in my book and a host of lesser “Super Tuscans,” too.  Consequently, Re is one of my top picks for the month time.  Give this beauty some breathing time, and then taste it again and again as it works its magic.

My other Top pick for this month is Alejandro Fernandez’s 2005 El Vinculo, an old vine Tempranillo from La Mancha.  El Vinculo demonstrates La Mancha’s ability to produce outstanding Tempranillo.  It is one of the finest wines I have ever tasted from La Mancha and another resounding success from Alejandro Fernandez, Spain’s King of Tempranillo; hence, my choice as this month’s other Top Pick!

A Votre Santé!


So What Do I Drink …Off the Job – Part II?

King prawn and fennel risotto with a glass of Barbera

When beef, lamb, and game appear on the menu, red Bordeaux, California Cabernet Sauvignon (preferably with some bottle age), Châteauneuf-du-Pape, full throttle Spanish Tempranillos from Rioja, Ribera del Duero, or elsewhere, Super Tuscans, and thick rich Syrah based wines from Australia, California, or South Africa are likely to be my wines of choice.  I like to mix up what I drink with red meat.  When pork, pastas with thick tomato sauces, and spicy bean, sausage, or vegetable dishes are the order of the day, Carmenère from Chile, country reds from Spain, California Zinfandel, and of course a whole host of Italian reds will more often than not join me at table.  To be frank, I love good Carmenère that is made from physiologically ripe grapes.  It drinks well young, needs very little breathing time, and delivers more flavors for the money than almost any other varietal.  The best examples are great on their own or with simple dishes; however, not all Carmenères are created equal so sometimes I am disappointed.

While discussing preferences, it is fair to say that risotto is one of my favorite foods, and here I am quite particular about what I like to drink with risotto.  I can think of no better wine to accompany risotto than Barbera, Barbaresco, or Barolo from Italy’s Piedmont.

Poultry, cream based pastas, salmon, soft cheeses, rare tuna or for just plain sipping, what wine beats Pinot Noir, and that includes red Burgundy and the finest California, New Zealand, and Oregon Pinots?  When Oregon experiences a good vintage, who offers better quality and value Pinot Noir than the top Willamette Valley producers?


A Votre Santé!


Don’s April Premier Series Top Picks

Shiraz is one of the world’s great red grape varietals. Yet, there are many over cropped, underperforming examples of Australian Shiraz in the market.  With that said, I am proud to say that this month’s Primary Red, Berton’s The Black Shiraz, is not one of the underperforming slackers.  Although still quite young, Berton’s The Black Shiraz offers plenty of rich varietal fruit, pleasing spice tones, and adequate tannin and structure to improve further in bottle.  This wine scores high on my quality/value scale.

Yet, equally impressive is Armandière’s 2008 Ancestral Cahors Malbec, an authentic and traditionally made “black wine” from Cahors – Malbec’s spiritual home.  It, too, offers superior quality and value, which makes it my second Top Pick for the month along with Berton’s Shiraz.

However, I can’t overlook Vergenoegd’s 2011 Runner Duck White, another excellent example of how far South Africa has come in producing wines that the rest of the world wants to drink.  Runner Duck is a rare blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Colombard.  It scored high with our tasting panels both here and in South Africa.  I love this wine’s flavor profile, purity, and eminent drinkability.


A Votre Santé!


Easter Brunch; Wine for Breakfast

Brunch is my favorite meal, because there are so many choices in foods and wines. We always think of Champagne to pair with our Easter Brunch meal.

So the question is; Rose Champagne, Brut Champagne or Sparkling Wine? Rose Champagne and sparkling wine is one of the number one wines to pair with breakfast foods, both “demi-sec”, which means slightly sweet, or “brut”, which means dry.

Lobster, shrimp, bacon and bagels with lox are just a few of the many foods that pair very well with the pink bubbles.

Waffles, crepes, pancakes, cheese, fruit and other slightly sweet brunch foods pairs well with the demi-sec Champagnes.

Egg dishes like poached eggs, scrambled eggs, omelets, frittata and eggs Benedict would pair well with a French bubbly called Cremant de Alsace, this bubbly comes from Alsace in France, near the German border. It is made with Chardonnay & Pinot Noir (Pinot Blanc grapes). Or you can use a more budget friendly Sparkling Wine will pair very nicely.

Let’s not forget dessert; pastries, roasted pears, warm apple pie, cheese cake, cobblers, custards, strudels and French toast drizzled in syrup and whipped cream. I think of Moscato di Asti or an Iced Wine a German wine Eiswein. Drizzle the Iced Wine on vanilla ice cream or skip the syrup and use on the French Toast.

The options are endless that is why I love brunch with wine. What type of foods and wine do you have on your Easter table?