Recommended wine for today’s entry: Tormaresca chardonnay from Italy. This was one of the big winners at last night’s wine tasting, an inexpensive favorite that my friends described as, “lemon, citrusy” and “tart at first, earthy middle, clean finish.” One person did not enjoy the smell, but otherwise it got rave reviews! I’ll pass along some other finds in future blogs.
It was a room full of 8-year-olds off their ADD meds. No, not a room — a candy store. And the dentist didn’t even know they were there.
OK, it was a room full of middle-aged (but still very attractive) women without their husbands; it wasn’t a candy store, it was a wine-tasting. And our liver specialists don’t know we exist except for the one day a year we show up and write down that we drink “sporadically.”
Yes, a bunch of friends had a wine tasting last night. It started because my friend Jody had this cool wine tasting kit — complete with everything we needed to have such an event. Except the wine. And we had a plan to score the wine.
At a New Year’s Eve party, a group of us conspired to put together a fun tasting for the end of the month — just to get rid of the winter doldrums, you understand. We in NO WAY intended to overindulge.
But just in case, we enlisted teenagers and spouses to drive us home. And for those who didn’t plan in advance, we suggested perhaps picking up a hitchhiker and letting him take the wheel. That is because we are nothing if not responsible.
A spectacular event like this doesn’t plan itself. So, as I explained to my husband, Jody and I had to go to Napa River Grille and have a little wine (to get in the mood and all) while we made a guest list. Then Jody and Beth and I had to get together one night over dinner and wine (again, the mood) to plan the menu. Finally, we had a logistics meeting.
In my follow-up notes to myself, I wrote this: DON’T DRINK WINE WHILE CONCEPTUALIZING ANYTHING LOGISTICAL. IT IS STUPID.
Because we came out of the logistics meeting with some convoluted plan that involved three wine glasses per person, labeled 1, 2 and 3; rubber placemats with the bases of three wine bottles traced on them placed strategically thoughout the room (for side-by-side tastings of similar items); seating for 12 people where we would sit, classroom-style, and recap our findings, neatly writing the adjectives used to describe each wine on a large chalkboard; and actually telling people they had 15 minutes at each station and then having someone issue the order to rotate (OK, in my own mind, I got to be the boss who shouted “ROTATE” in an authoritative yet fun-loving tone.)
Well, as they say, failing to plan is planning to fail. So this party was destined for greatness after the three long, tedious (OK — festive) planning sessions.
Here is how it went: Everyone grabbed a glass — one glass — and put their name on it via one of the cute little paper rings supplied in the kit. They each had a glass of wine (a primer, if you will) while we waited for everyone to arrive. Each guest brought a bottle of the wine of their choice. Then, because in one of our planning sessions, we realized that the cute cloth bags provided in the kit would become waterlogged if put on a bottle of white wine that we kept on ice, we devised this program:
We numbered each bottle as it came in, sticking a label near the top of the bottle. White wines were carefully wrapped in foil and corks were transposed to prevent ANYONE from discerning what kind of wine it was before the exciting disclosure at the end of the evening. Maybe I wouldn’t get to write adjectives neatly on the chalkboard, but there could still be that quiet moment when all eyes were on bottle number 4 as we peeled away the foil — Ahhh….so THAT was the Frascati, everyone would say, thunking themselves on the forehead … I can’t BELIEVE we didn’t figure THAT out.
For the red wines, we got to use the cute bags and they were a heck of a lot easier.
Anyway, Beth and Jody and I had divided the food prep, which worked out great, and even a couple other people brought delicious items. So there was a LOT of yummy food. Since, of course, mine wasn’t ready until the chaos began, I was glad it was an all-girl affair, because I saw my friend Becky take the mushrooms out of the oven right before sure and imminent disaster struck. Girls are good at taking action when they smell smoke.
Let’s just say the mushrooms were finished and I was on the far side of the room immersed in a discussion about breast reductions.
OK, so here’s how the rotation thing went: It didn’t. Mostly everyone clumped around the container bearing the European whites; then after about an hour, we rotated to the American whites, but not because of my authoritative tone — because Marcie said, “Hey, let’s go taste the one I brought. My neighbor gave it to me and I think it was expensive.” Well, that’s all it took to lure 10 women to the next station.
The red wine, artfully displayed atop the bar, was largely ignored for the first two hours, probably because there was a 2-foot deep wall blocking it from immediate access. So, like an Easter egg hunt, once someone found the treasure trove there, the third and final rotation took place. All without any instruction from the logistical planners. Go figure.
Also, because the kit told us to make sure everyone had water, there was a bucket with ice cold bottles of water … and a page of stickers with a pen, so that people could label their water bottle and avoid any chance of spreading those vicious winter germs. Well, no one used any of the labels. I don’t know what kind of grades these women got in following instructions, but if I’d been their kindergarten teacher, I would have been ratting them out at parent conferences.
As for the unveiling … right. Not. While at each bucket, after two or three people compared notes about a wine, they’d just peel off the foil to see what it was. No…no…NO! my controlling demon was shouting inside my head. You’re breaking the privacy contract! What happened to the “blind tasting?” Cover it up, man, COVER IT UP!”
Luckily, all that went on inside my head, so I do still have some friends. I can’t help it, I just like rules.
The quality of our evaluations might be so-so. Except for Beth and Becky, who actually know what a palate is (for a long time, I thought that was someone missspelling “plate”) and can discern between the start, the middle and the finish of a sip (I think perhaps I don’t take enough time in my sipping for this to happen.)
“What does this smell like?”
“I don’t know, what do you think?”
“It smells … like … hmm… I know! It smells like gross.”
I think that’s one of the descriptors the writers at Food & Wine magazine use frequently.
Also, someone said that one of the whites had an odor of mushrooms. W-e-e-l-l, I’m not Albert Einstein, but I think perhaps the newly salvaged stuffed mushrooms that were perched right behind the woman were possibly causing a little confusion here.
Maybe our tasting wasn’t the same as the ones you see in Town & Country, but we did really well for a group of women who may next convene at a tractor pull.
Anyway, we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, even if exactly NONE of the carefully planned wine tasting logistics actually took place.
The lesson learned: You can’t boss around 40-year-old women who are drinking wine.