I learned to enjoy wine in my teens when our family lived in Spain. We lived in Madrid, where my parents offered us watered wine at Sunday dinner and if we ate out. We spent the summers in Basque country and drank the wonderful rosado which was delivered to our small hotel every day in casks.
In university the wines of the day were Mateus and cheap Chianti. As I grew older, my palate matured and I had a few favourites. Then kids came along and wine was not on the menu. The kids grew up, and Dave and I started to look at developing a favourite list again.
Through all this time, I was never taught how to taste wine. I relied on my own palate, and a bit of desultory investigation, to figure out what I liked.
My first formal wine tasting experience was at the Palmez Vineyards in the Napa Valley in 2013. The Palmez winery is underground – built by a school chum of Dave’s – and it is simply amazing. We sat in the dome of the fourth level down, at the intersection of four tunnels. Four Palmez wines, three reds and a white, in Riedel glasses, and four impeccable bites of food greeted us when we walked in.
The owner’s son explained each wine, telling us what to expect and why the bite of food was paired with the wine. We swirled, observed, inhaled, took a mouthful, inhaled some more, and eventually swallowed. What a special day! And to top it off, one of our party, an operatic tenor, sang a classic piece from Carmen. We thought we had died and gone to heaven when he hit the money note and it travelled up and down the tunnels and around the dome of our cavern.
Last summer, the Star team went to the Cypress Hills Vineyard & Winery for a staff outing. Kyle Gentes was working there at the time, and led us through a tasting of their wines. We were impressed, both by the wine and by Kyle. It was a great experience, and even the staff who did not drink wine enjoyed learning about the process and what makes each wine special.
And now, I am happy to report, Kyle Gentes works for us. He and Chef Joel have collaborated on wine pairings for six wines Kyle finds worth talking about – two whites and four reds – and an ice wine. Chef Joel and his team will craft seven bites of food to pair with the wine.
I’m not promising a performance of Carmen, but you will learn about what goes into wine-making, where it can go wrong, and how to judge a wine in the glass and on the palate. You will also try food that pairs well with the selected wines, and learn what to look for when choosing a wine for your next meal. Quite a good way to spend a Sunday afternoon, I think.
It all happens Sunday, March 15 at 3pm. Call us at 306-662-2202 to reserve your place. Tickets are $50 each. Seating is limited. Hope to see you there!