Talking about the smell and taste of wine

At a wine tasting

Wine tasting - St. Helena, CA

When you first sample wine at a wine tasting, hold the glass by the stem or the base, so the warmth of your hand doesn’t heat the wine past its serving temperature. Before smelling and tasting the wine, it may help to get a copy of Ann C. Noble’s Wine Aroma Wheel and study it beforehand. This convenient device, available from, has most of the words commonly used to describe the aroma of wine, grouped in categories like “spicy” and “caramel.” It even includes less complimentary terms like “hydrogen sulfide” which hopefully you won’t need. In wine tasting, texture and mouthfeel are key parts of the experience. A good wine is full, rich, smooth and balanced.

Wine tasting at a vineyard just outside St. Helena

Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards in Napa Valley, a 10-minute drive from downtown St. Helena, holds tastings in its barrel caves, where visitors can sample current releases and library wines and learn about the process of making and storing the wine. Cave tastings are $65, but one tasting fee can be waived by joining their wine club or making a $100 purchase. Join their wine club today.

One wine you might get to try at a wine tasting is the 2008 Èloge. This dark ruby red blend was born of a turbulent year with a cold, dry early spring, a cool late spring and summer and a hot early fall, producing a wine both rare and excellent. The aroma carries the smell of chocolate, cassis, mocha and crushed rocks, with a distant hint of smoked meats. The wine has a rich flavor of chocolate-covered black cherries, currants and plums, with hints of toffee, mocha and spices.


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