Part the second: Out of character – A whiskey guy goes wine tasting

So, we were at Evening land. Right.

This store was, while still in a dull grey warehouse, considerable better presented once you were inside than Fiddlehead. They had pleasantly Dim lighting and flowers in glass plates with rocks and water, display on a side table with some of the restaurant house wines they produce and the tasting L shaped cloth covered table with their own label wines on offer this day. (They had a much larger bit of warehouse space that would allow for this but that is neither hear nor there). Over all a nicer atmosphere than the first if you like classy joints, I’m impartial myself. They also had a $10 tasting fee and 5 wines uncorked. The odd bit about this one was that the lady running the store front needed to run an errand and the couple who’d arrived just before me had stopped her from getting in her car, now illegally parked right in front of the tasting room door. Apparently the couple were regulars and after I’d tried my first wine with the proprietor they offered to take over the pour for her and let her run her short errand which the proprietor accepted and scurried off leaving me with the other customer’s in charge. Not the strangest bit of decorum I’ve run into in the spirit industry but still a bit odd with the cash register just sitting there and all.

Since I was not in the hands of anyone working the shop professionally I contented myself with small talk about wine and whiskey and reading/discussing the tasting notes. As it turned out the woman pouring for me had a son who was enamored of whiskey and so I was exchanging my knowledge base for hers. They were heading up to the Portland area in a couple months and so I told them to keep on a look out for the micro whiskey distilleries that have been cropping up up there that Jay has been telling me about though the only name I could recall was Hog’s Head. The wines themselves save the first one, a 2009 Chardonnay – Borgogne Blanc (Blue Label) was the only one I actually liked at all and the others were not worth me noting down, so I didn’t. This company specializes in bottling house wines for various restaurants working directly with them to tailor the flavors to the dishes. Cool and all but I was hear to try something avant garde not what ever W. Puck was putting on the table. These were wines I’d tasted before and the reds were way too full of tannin flavor for me to deal with. This was not the place for me. They did however have a laminated map of the Wine Ghetto on the table which after a quick glance over I saw something of promise; “Flying Goat Cellars“.

I hopped in my car and drove half a block to another equally dull and grey warehouse with a poster depicting a purple square and a black goat jumping off the ground on the door, parked and walked in just 20 minutes before they were to set to close.

Despite my poor timing, the lady running the shop was friendly if obviously short on time and walked me through their 5 uncorked bottles. The decor was relaxed and a compromise between the first two shops. This one the decidedly more rustic of the three and most comfortable as it was at least twice the size of the first. Similar conversations took place as were had at Fiddlehead regarding me not particularly liking wine and preferring whiskey in general but being there to learn and so I did. We fairly quickly ran through the offerings, most of which were quite good to my pallet though my tasting notes seemed to have stopped at the last shop (and the fact that I’d stopped spitting when I got to the Goat Shed) as we were rushing a bit. I ended up getting a bottle of Pinot Noir, Solomon Hills-Santa Maria Valley, 2007 as a gift for Adrian as this was probably the most complex flavor profile of any of the 15 bottles I’d sampled this afternoon and had some characteristics and spice notes that made me think of some Speysides I’ve enjoyed over the years. I got nutmeg out of it, but hey that’s with my poor pallet. She corrected me saying “Cinnamon” but that she respects my pallet. I told her; “My pallet has been calibrated and was broken so there was no respect needed of it.” We laughed and I payed my $10 tasting fee and bottle price. I inquired after the name of the cellars and she said her husband, the blender / bottler used to have dwarf goats who had a tendency to climb up and jump off stuff. That’s a good a naming story as I’d like to have so I said my goodbyes. I went out my car right at her 4PM closing time and buzzed off to pick up Ginger and drive on over to the house to meet back up with the wake.

In quick summery; The 3DC tasting notes work quite satisfactorily on wine and I think could readily, without altering any significant alteration, be applied to this segment of the spirit industry. Fiddlehead had the most interesting and compelling expressions and were the most refined on my pallet save the bottle I bought for Adrian at Flying Goat Cellars. Evening Land had the classiest tasting room but lacked inspiration (to my pallet anyway) in the bottles. Flying Goat had good heart and love of the craft that showed through in their expressions even if most were not quite as sophisticated as Fiddlehead but in the end they got my money.


Out of character… A whisky guy goes wine tasting

Raz posting here (a rarity, I know):

So, I did something odd on Friday; Wine tasting.

After going to a morning funeral (for a dear sweet lady who welcomed us without hesitation into her family) and associated wake in Lompoc, CA. Ginger was feeling wiped out so I took her back to the motel. The Family headed back to the house and Casey went along with her Grand Parents while I took Gin back. I didn’t need to get straight over to the house and I’d seen on James May’s wine show recently something about a wine ghetto in town. I happened to have seen a sign directing us to where it was on the way into town earlier that morning and I needed to get Adrian a present too. Further I’d been toying with the concept that the 3dc tasting note format should work equally well with other spirits et. al. and I had my notebook with me as I’d not taken it out of the suit case since WOW last year. Thus all things seemingly lined up to accommodate the whim, I decided to give a go at a wine tasting, alone.

I drove back to the other side of town and turned into the industrial complex behind the Home Depot where Hwy 1 dumps into the South Eastern side of town. There in these bland blue-grey corrugated warehouses are around 12 boutique wine makers / blenders / bottlers that are treating the wine industry much the same way John Glaser seems to be going at the Whisky biz. I did not remember the specific one James May visited (though I would have liked to from the interview on the show, as they seem like 3dc peeps) so I drove about and sort of randomly picked a street Packard to follow into a tasting room.

First I went into Fiddlehead Cellars. A very congenial Kiwi stood behind the bar. By bar I mean a simple couple planks of wood on some barrels with the typical wine racks behind him for selling what was on sample in a room about 10′ X 15′. Friendly, but definitely not fancy. He handed me a tasting sheet and let me know that there was a $10 tasting fee and asked me a few questions as he poured me some wine into a glass. The conversation went something like this:

FH-Q: What kind of wine to you like?
Raz-A: I don’t really like wine; I’m a whiskey drinker, but (setting my tasting note book on the bar) I’m hear to learn.

FH: Well we do Sauvignon and Pinots exclusively so we’ll teach you about those.
Raz-A: OK then.

The first glass was the Sauvignon Blanc 2008 from a mix of barrels and stainless steel aging. It was a very sweet wine but not cloying. Not particularly dry, just the kind of deserty drink I usually go for. The second was the Honeysuckle 2005 put in all new oak aging. This was dry and clean, very light and subtle, especially in regards to tannin (which I hate). I liked this one as another deserty, though much dryer drink than the first. The Gooseberry, all Stainless Steel aged Kiwi wine was then poured. this was not particularly to my taste and though sweet and a bit sour was a bit too much like a candy from the 70s (that I can’t recall the name of). Next on pour was the Pink Fiddle Pinot Rose’ thing. Not really to my taste, very dry and oddly tasted “pink” whatever that means. Lastly was the 728, a Pinot. This was about the best of the lot for me personally. Very complex long flavor profile and despite the deep red color the tannins were very subtle. The most subtle tannins of any of the reds I had that day from any of the shops. This was by far the best overall quality, by my standards anyway, of the three shops I popped into.

Next post will be the next shop in line; Evening Land.