Learning blind tasting from NYC’s top sommeliers, for a good cause!

Recently I attended a fantastically fun wine event, Glass by Glass-NYC, which was essentially a blind tasting workshop where participants got instruction and tips from a cadre of NYC’s top sommeliers while having a fantastic lunch at Picholine.  Even better, the event was a fundraiser for a nobler purpose – support of the Reynolds Program in Social Entrepreneurship at NYU, which cultivates talented students putting their energies into changing the world.  The event’s keynote speaker, Susan Davis of BRAC, observed that the recipients of Reynolds scholarships and Fellowships are like young wines – bright, with outstanding qualities, and most of all, with the potential to achieve great things if given proper nurturing.  You can read more about the program’s Changemakers here, detailing achievements that vary from fighting human trafficking, to using modern business methods to create wealth and fight poverty, to supporting fair trade fashion.

And what about the wine tasting part?  I had an amazing time, learning a lot from great somms from top eateries including Jean Georges, Tribeca Grill, ‘inoteca and many more.  One great tip:  to help you determine the level of a wine’s dryness or sweetness, lick your gums after tasting – you may find telltale residual sugar there.  Another: when checking the rim of a red wine, if the color of the meniscus is neon bright, there’s a good chance it’s malbec, which I’ve otherwise found notoriously difficult to pick out in double blind tastings.

As with any good blind wine foray, I had moments of encouraging success, and others filled with confidence-shattering missteps.  My biggest triumph:  correctly identifying a Greek assyrtiko.  The low point?  Loudly declaring in front of two somms from Per Se that if the wine I was tasting then was not a Napa cab, I would leave.  Of course, the wine was a Chilean carmenere.  Did I mention that blind tasting is a humbling experience?  Per Se sommelier Michel Couvreux was nice enough to let me stay, and Jordan Salcito from The Lion was nice enough to assure me that my error wasn’t that bad because Bordeaux grapes have a lot of overlap.  I think she was being charitable.  What nice people these sommeliers were, and not snooty at all, contrary to popular misperception.  Thanks also to others like Sean Kerby from Tom Colicchio’s new Riverpark, for sharing their secrets to blind tasting, and most of all, organizers Evan Lambert and Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer.

If you get the chance to attend future installments of Glass by Glass, jump at the chance – it’s such a great time, awesome wines (my faves included Bessards Delas Hermitage, a Jadot Pommard Grand Epenots, a Markus Molitor Wehlener Sonnenuhr kabinett, a Marc Morey Chassagne Montrachet, the 2005 Reserve de la Comtesse, a Pio Cesare barbaresco, and a Phillipe Melka cab) and people, and a chance to do some good for society as well.  Most of all, I’m thankful that the event opened my eyes to the whole social entrepreneurship movement – the Reynolds Fellows who were in attendance certainly convinced me that your $$ supporting these kinds of ventures will pay dividends throughout our society for many years to come.  Please check out these links below and support what you can!

Here’s a listing of a number of social entrepreneurship links: http://www.nyu.edu/reynolds/news_events_resources/links.html


Episode 10 Part 2: Tasting Viu Manent’s wines

Hello all,

Here is part 2 of the interview with Viu Manent winemaker Grant Phelps. In this episode, Grant gives us insights into a number of wines that I picked out as the most noteworthy ones that I tasted from their lineup.  One thing that’s unusual about Viu Manent is that they are a Chilean winery with a special focus on malbecs, which is more commonly known from examples from Argentina. We discuss how Viu Manent got into malbec, the difference between their wines and Argentinean malbecs, and the following wines:

Viu Manent El Capilla Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Viu Manent Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon

2003 Viu 1 (malbec blend)

2007 Viu Manent El Olivar Single Vineyard Malbec

More episodes coming soon on:  blending your own wine with a Crushpad Fusebox, review of NOBOS wines from Sobon Estate, and my picks from the Wines of Argentina tasting.

The Amateur Wino Episode 10 Part 2 The Wines from Amateur Wino on Vimeo.

Episode 10 Part 1: Viu Manent winemaker Grant Phelps

Hi everyone,

Today, I’m pleased to post a video interview with Grant Phelps, winemaker of Viu Manent; I sought Grant out because I felt his lineup of wines was the most distinctive among the many wines that I tasted at the Wines of Chile event in New York.  Some of you may have heard about Viu Manent from this post on Dr. Vino’s blog; this interview was recorded before that blog post and the events that ensued with The Wine Advocate’s Jay Miller revising his scores on a number of Viu Manent wines.  Today’s episode focuses on how Grant got into winemaking, how it brought him to Chile, and his approach towards winemaking.

The Amateur Wino Episode 10 Part 1 Viu Manent’s winemaker Grant Phelps from Amateur Wino on Vimeo.

Tune in again soon for Part 2 of this episode, which will include tastings and discussion of Viu Manent’s El Olivar single vineyard malbec, their Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, and their flagship wine, the Viu1.