Master the art of wine tasting

Competitive wine tasting

Wine tasting in St. Helena, CASome people taste wine competitively. This year, the world was surprised when a Chinese team got a perfect score, identifying twelve French wines by taste alone. If you’d like to become an expert in the art of wine tasting, join a wine club and go to wine tastings. Learn to recognize the different notes in the taste of Cabernet Sauvignons and Pinot Noirs.

Wine tasting at a vineyard near St. Helena, CA

Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards in Napa Valley, a 10-minute drive from 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. One tasting fee can be waived by joining their wine club.

The 2010 Signature Vintage Cabernet Sauvignon, a deep purple wine with a slight red edge that comes from the best two barrels of the vintage, has an aroma worth a full paragraph of description. It begins with a strong cassis, with streaks of plum and red berries and highlights of crushed roses and anise. The oak adds elements of tar to the bouquet. The palate of the ’10 Signature is similar to the aroma, with the taste of black, blue and red fruits, licorice, tobacco and rosehips. This wine is a showpiece for the skill of the Anderson’s Conn Valley winemaking team. Anderson’s wines are sold online and in five locations in Napa Valley, and many other locations nationwide. Join their wine club and order some of their wines today.

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How to taste wine like an expert

Notice the look and taste

Wine tasting in St. Helena, CAIf you’re a member of a Napa Valley wine club, you may get an invitation to a wine tasting. Dress well but comfortably. When handling the glass of wine, don’t hold it by the bowl or your hand will warm it. Look at the wine against a white background to judge its clarity and color. White wines darken with age, and red wines get browner. Swirl it gently to reveal the wine’s body and bring out the aroma. Think of what the smell reminds you of — there are a number of aroma wheels that categorize the aromas by type and origin. Then taste it, looking for the sweetness of fruit and the bitterness of tannins.

Wine tasting at a vineyard near 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. Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards produces world-class wines at affordable prices. The vineyard is a 40-acre estate just south of Howell Mountain, and has been owned and operated by the Anderson family since 1983.

One wine you might get to try at an Anderson’s Conn Valley wine tasting is the 2009 Right Bank, a ruby blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot with an aroma of espresso, cedar, blackcurrant and black pepper. This is a full-bodied wine with a rich finish, tasting of ripe black fruit, mocha and chocolate. Join the Anderson’s Conn Valley wine club today.

Understanding wine descriptions

Things you hear at a wine club’s wine tasting

Wine tastings in St. Helena, CA

A lot of the wine tastings language you hear in a wine club is straightforward. If you know the smell and taste of fruits, vegetables and spices, a lot of the description of the aroma and flavor of wine will be easy to understand. But there are many other terms that seem to defy such understanding. What does it mean, for example, to say that a wine is “angular” or “round?” This refers to the mouthfeel. The sensation of drinking a round wine is very smooth and pleasant, like a smooth surface. If it has low tannins, it might be “velvety.” An angular wine affects the mouth only at certain places, and isn’t as pleasurable.

Wine tasting at a vineyard just outside St. Helena

At Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards in Napa Valley, a 10-minute drive from downtown St. Helena, cave tastings are $65, but one tasting fee can be waived by joining their wine club or making a $100 purchase. One wine you might get a chance to try is the 2011 Right Bank. 2011 was a cooler than average year, but Conn Valley saw plenty of sunlight. Thw ine has a nose and palate of blue violets, fresh red raspberry compote, menthol and anise. Its grape and oak tannins blend smoothly together to accompany the bright acidity and fruit. This wine is expected to age well for up to 30 years. Anderson’s wines are sold online and in five locations in Napa Valley, and many other locations nationwide. Join their wine club today and schedule a tasting.

The aromas of wine and where they come from

Wine club wine tasting

Wine tasting in St. Helena, CA

One thing that will help you sound more knowledgeable at a wine tasting held by a wine club is the aroma wheel developed by winefolly.com. This wheel classifies aromas according to the point in the winemaking process where they appear.

Primary aromas come from the grape itself, or where it was grown. Most of the different aromas come from this. The categories include flower, tree fruit, red fruit, dried fruit, vegetable and a category called “noble rot” which includes beeswax, ginger and honey. (Tomato is listed under “vegetable” rather than “red fruit,” which will irritate some people.)

Secondary, or microbial, aromas come from the fermentation process. They include truffle, sourdough and butter. Tertiary aromas are only found in old wine. The categories are general aging and oak aging, and include such classic aromas as smoke and vanilla.

Then there are the faults. These are aromas like farmyard, vinegar, bad eggs and cork taint that make a wine less popular. Hopefully these won’t come up at your wine tasting.

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 and schedule a tasting.

Appreciating wine

How to taste wine

Wine tasting -St. Helena CA

When going to a wine tasting, dress well but comfortably. If you’ll be spending time outdoors, plan for the weather. You may want to split your tastings with a friend, to keep from spending too much on tasting fees, not to mention drinking too much.

Always hold a glass of wine by the stem or the base, so the warmth of your hand doesn’t heat the wine up. Examining the color and clarity of the wine will give you a sense of its age. Aerate the wine by placing the glass on a flat surface and swirling it a little. This will not only reveal the body of the wine, but bring out the aroma.

When tasting the wine, pay attention to how it feels in the mouth as well as the taste. It might have the sweetness of the fruit or traces of unfermented sugar, or the bitterness of tannins. After you’ve swallowed it, try to notice the aftertaste, or finish. With most foods, an aftertaste is something unintended and unpleasant, but with wine the finish is an important part of the experience. Drink water between wines, to clear the palate.

Wine tasting at a vineyard near 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. Plan a visit this year.

Your very first wine tasting

You’ve been invited to a wine tasting

Wine tasting - St. Helena, CA

If this is your first time at a wine tasting, don’t worry. They’re genteel affairs full of pleasant conversation and fine wine.

Dress well, but not to the point of discomfort. If the tasting is somwhere you’ll be walking around outdoors, prepare for sun or rain. Don’t wear perfume or cologne, or anything else with a strong smell. A big part of the pleasure of wine tasting is appreciating the nose of the wine. Speaking of which, be sure to breathe in the wine’s aroma before you take your first sip. Put the wine glass on a flat surface and swirl it a little. This is called aeration.

There’s a good chance there’ll be fees to taste. You may want to split your tastings with a friend, to keep from spending too much (to say nothing of drinking too much). There may be a spittoon available. Using it might seem gross and wasteful of good wine, but it keeps you from taking too much alcohol on board over the course of the tasting. This is important if you happen to have a low body mass or low tolerance for alcohol. As further precautions, drink water (which will also clear your palate) and eat something.

A wine club worth joining near 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 current releases and library wines may be sampled and visitors can learn all about the process of making and storing the wine. Anderson’s wines are sold online and in five locations in Napa Valley, and many other locations nationwide.