Some people might call me particular, or picky, or detailed, or maybe quirky, and sometimes even refer to my silly traits as annoying, as yes, I focus on the details. My philosophy is that if you are going to do something that you are passionate about, you do it right, so you might as well ask for what you want! These traits have always proven to be an asset in business but when I found my passion for wine, I’d have to say that my fussiness has helped me to learn how to really enjoy it and grow with it. So I’ll spend the next few minutes to give you the inside scoop.
One of my most intriguing experiences on one of my California trip’s was when we stopped at a really unique winery that someone had recommended to us called Nickel & Nickel. We were told about the experience of going to visit this winery and that although it came with a pretty hefty price tag for a tasting, that the experience would be worth it…. and well I’m talking about it, so I suppose it was… ha!
So the tour starts out in a beautifully decorated vintage farmhouse where we were welcomed by a large porch, a grande entrance, and a quaint interior, boasting printed textiles and antique furniture. We were led into a grand, sunlit living room with high ceilings, vintage wood floors and decorative mouldings, and in this moment, you felt as though you had been placed as a figurine in a real life dollhouse surrounded by other figurative strangers all waiting to see what will happen next. From here the tour took you through some modernized grounds and barns (housing all of the equipment and action), then down through the amazing stone cave barrel cellar- which while on your way down, you smell many of the possible flavours that can be a part of the wine, including DIRT! But getting to the reason why I am telling you about this magical little winery, is because I found that for me this place opened my eyes up to the most fantastic capabilities of wine. After the tour, we went back to the little “doll house” and we sat in the large dining room where we all lined up around a large wooden table. At each place setting there were four empty glasses and a small snack plate with some meats and cheeses and such. In this room in each of our four glasses we tried one of my favourite classics Cabernet Sauvignon. We tried four of the same grapes, from the same region in Napa (some were literally neighbours), all made by the same wine maker. The most mind blowing part for me was that every single one of them was so incredibly different. I always thought that the wine maker had all of the control over the flavour, when actually that truth is that the grapes have all of the control- the sunlight, the wind, the soil, the elements- their slight geographic variation, made all the difference!! The grapes that grow on the east side of the valley would be so different than the grapes on the west side, depending on the how the sun and the wind would braise upon them. Now that I think of it, it makes sense, it is just like our farmers relying on mother nature for their crops, the same applies here. What amazing faith these vineyard owners need to have in the elements also to make this fabulous drink, and this is why vintages are so important.
Developing along on my appreciation for wine, I started to really pay attention to details, and how everything from the right glass, the wines temperature and the breathing time actually makes a difference.
It is funny how it just takes one key moment in your life to teach you a new life lesson and here is one of mine… After a client toured my associate and I through their giant wine cellar they generously offered us a glass of wine, which of course I accepted- it would have been rude not to! ;) But as we all were enjoying the wine, the client joked to my associate “we will have to teach Tamara about how to hold a glass of wine”. Being my particular self, I was shocked that I was the one in the room failing at holding a wine glass, but really I had no idea how I was doing it wrong. What I learned was that you must always hold a glass by the stem as not only do your fingers dirty up a glass, but they can also contribute to adjusting the temperature in the wine. Both red and white wines should be served below room temperature, red just slightly and white of course quite chilled, so it does make sense to use a stemmed glass and of course then hold it correctly, so that you can gain the best flavour from the wine. There is even the right type of glass for the wine you are drinking but you don’t need to go too crazy, just pick a good middle of the road glass for both white and red and it'll work fine! Unless you are Tamara (me), and you take your wine glasses on road trips and to the beach!
If you like red, take the time to let your wine breathe. Sometimes you don’t even realize that this is a need for red wine, because it just tastes better as you drink it, but that isn’t only you enjoying the wine more as you drink it, but more so it is about the wine opening up from the oxygen. Some reds need this more than others but how you can tell is when a wine tastes potent, tart, or you can feel it radiate in your jaw when you first sip it, then it needs time to breathe. If you are like me and are impatient… I open the wine, so I want to drink the wine… then I do a couple of things. I pour the wine through an aerator (sometimes multiple times), into a decanter, and then give the wine a lot of movement by shaking it up. This can at least get the wine opening up a bit quicker!
I personally find that the swirling of reds (to keep it breathing) and amount of wine in your glass also makes a huge difference in how the wine tastes. At a restaurant I will always ask for my wine in a decanter or a carafe so that I can slowly add it myself and only ever have a small amount in my glass- a sight that makes a good server cringe as they always want to be great at their job and “top you up”. You should try this, the wine tastes better! As for the swirling, it actually does keep the wine breathing and more alive tasting, so try that too! The funny thing is that as wine is my drink of choice at home, for a period of time my kids would swirl their drinks at the dinner table also, because they thought it must contribute to flavour of their drinks as well… Ha!
So give some of these things a try and see if you can notice a difference! Happy sipping!