Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tasting Notes: Brown Bagging It at JavaMonkey

In Mindfulness there's a concept called Beginner's Mind, wherein you shelve preconceptions, expectations, and interpretations and experience things as though you're seeing, hearing, or – most importantly for this post – tasting them for the very first time. I think I got my first inkling of this in graduate school, when the newest darts player would usually score the highest. This concept came back to me clearly during this past Thursday's brown bag tasting at JavaMonkey.

For wine beginners a brown bag tasting involves the wine bottles being covered by a brown bag and numbered so that the tasters are blind to what's being poured other than it being a red or white.* This means the clues you have to what you're drinking come only from your senses, so it truly is mindful wine tasting. I'll admit – I'm not good at this type of tasting and fully expected Dan Browning, who's had a decade more to develop his palate and knowledge, to kick my ass. Surprisingly – or maybe not so – we were both trounced by the newbie** at the table, at least the one who was actually trying. The other beginner was merely labeling what she drank as "wine."

The wines:

Number one had a floral nose, and those notes carried to the edges of the palate with fruit in the middle. The texture had a slight effervescence, and it was so delicate I guessed something like a Semillon. Dan guessed Australian Riesling since the bottle was obviously a screw top. The newbie guessed it was a Sauvignon Blanc, and he was right. It was the 2009 Cartlidge & Browne Sauv Blanc from Napa.
Newbie: 1
Dan: 0
Cecilia: 0
Rating: Good

Wine number two didn't have much of a nose, but it was so tart that I guessed Sauv Blanc, and Dan went as far as to say it was from New Zealand.

"Hmmm," said the newbie with a swirl, "I'm going to say Pinot Grigio."

Once again, he was right. The kicker is that Hubby and I had tasted the 2008 Montinore Estate Pinot Gris on our recent trip to Oregon (yeah, that's one of the blog posts I need to catch up on). My notes in the tasting room were melon, green apple, and pear. I guess I got more of the green apple with this pour.

Newbie: 2
Dan: 0
Cecilia: 0
The wine: Good to Very Good

We were all in agreement on wine number three in that it was a Pinot Noir. Newbie and I both said Willamette, Dan said New Zealand again. It was the 2009 Montinore Estate Pinot Noir, which we hadn't tasted because it wasn't out yet. Again, a little fizzy on the texture, fruity with white pepper overtones, and with a nice, buttery finish.

Newbie: 3.5
Dan: 1
Cecilia: 1.5 (I'm awarding half points for guessing the region)
The wine: Good to Very Good

Those will be the last scores because the Newbie didn't get any of the other ones, and Dan and I only got the last one beyond this.

Wine number four threw us all. It came out of the bottle dark and inky, and it had smooth fruit with a cedar-spice finish. I decided to throw caution to the wind and guessed (hopefully) Petit Verdot. Wrong! This beauty was the 2008 Protocola Tempranillo (Castilla, Spain).
Rating: Very Good

Number five had a plastic nose, dark fruit middle, and hot finish. Dan and I guessed Merlot or maybe a Cotes du Rhone blend (can you tell we were foundering?). Nope, it was the 2008 Viña Borgia Garnacha (Borja, Spain).
Rating: Good

Finally, Dan and I both guessed number six to be a Shiraz from Australia. Oaky with blueberry overtones and a chocolate finish, the 2008 Cimicky Trumps Shiraz (Barossa Valley, Australia) was yummy.
Rating: Good to Very Good

Discussing it at the end, Dan and I figured that we had overthought the tasting. Apparently one of the regulars had nailed five out of the six varietals.*** This tasting demonstrates that I need to do more drinking with my nose and palate in Beginner's Mind mode. I can definitely live with that.

Final Scores:

Newbie: 3.5
Dan: 2.5
Cecilia: 3

* Yes, I realize that most of you know what a brown bag tasting is, but I figured I'd explain just in case there's someone out there who thought we were drinking wine that's typically drunk from a bag-wrapped bottle, e.g., Mad Dog.

** I mean no disrespect or condescension – he's in a similar field to mine, so I'm not sure whether he'd be okay if I identify him.

*** Bitch.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Wine Shop Opens in Avondale Estates: The Little Wine Shop

So I'm finally moved out of my old office, and tomorrow is move-in day for the new one. Yes, I think I'll need a nice bottle of wine to celebrate. Thanks for your patience, and look for more frequent updates from now on...

Eco friendly canvas wine bag:

I'd be excited about The Little Wine Shop opening in Avondale Estates even if it wasn't selling my favorite beverage. After years of stalled development and depressing empty storefronts, it's a welcome, vibrant addition to College Avenue. Hubby and I were invited to the sneak peek in September, where we got a taste of the good things to come.

Previously a gallery, the space now occupied by The Little Wine Shop immediately invites you in with its warm wood, but also appears larger due to the high ceilings and openness. The selection of wine doesn't hurt, either. Owner Rebecca Hadj-Taieb and Wine Guru and CSW Marty Shaver aim to sell good wine at affordable prices. They carry three hundred labels, forty percent of which are in the $10-$13 price range, and thirty percent between $13 and $18. Sure, there are more expensive bottles for special occasion, but this is a great place to stop by for a bottle – or case – on the way home from work.

Wine newbies need not fear. Although the boutique aims to be a "cute little place" like in NY, Hadj-Taieb promises that it's "not uppity," and my (and others') experience with Shaver has been that he's helpful and not at all snobby. He seems to enjoy talking about wine as much as I enjoy drinking it! In other words, the atmosphere is just as one would hope to find in a neighborhood shop.

Marty Shaver is ready to serve the wine, bread, and cheese.

The selections that Shaver had open for the sneak peek event impressed me. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised that he'd gone past the typical white varietals to pick an Austrian white for the first pour. The 2008 Domäne Wachau Federspiel "Terrasen" Gruner Veltliner had green apple and pear on the nose, and citrus going to mineral for a nice finish.

The reds were equally as interesting and good:

Domaine Des Meurgets Bourgogne (Burgundy, France, imported by Scott Levy):
Yep, Burgundy is the French Pinot Noir, and this one had smooth texture balanced with bright fruit on the palate and a pepper bite at the end. I found it to be very cheese-friendly.

2008 Don Nicanor Bodegas Nieto Senetiner Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina):
Gorgeous dark color. Smooth and dark on the palate with hints of chocolate and tobacco. This was probably the most expensive wine poured that night at around $18, but it would make a nice Sunday dinner bottle with a roast or steak.

Other good-to-know facts:

The store also carries breads from Holeman & Finch and a great selection of cheeses from Atlanta International:

They'll have wine open every Saturday and tastings once a month.

Have a fear of commitment? Then you'll like the walk-in wine club, $85 for 6 bottles that change monthly.

The event capacity is 30-40 "mingling." However, since it's not licensed as a wine bar, these are tasting events only.

Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, Friday and Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Address: 100 North Avondale Road, Avondale Estates, GA 30002