Posts Filed Under wine tasting

Wining Combinations: Lessons in Wine & Food Pairing at Wayne’s Flavor Restaurant

Vinted on March 25, 2009 binned in pennsylvania, wine tasting

I have a (potentially unhealthy) love affair with Teikoku, the Chester County, PA restaurant that birthed the increasingly excellent and expanded series of Win Signature Restaurants, whose cuisine is headed by Executive Chef and Iron Chef Japan alum Takao Iinuma.

Anyone who doubts the potential success of pairing wine with the complexity and uber-spiciness that is the hallmark of pan-Asian cuisine need only attend one of the Win restaurant’s several wine & food pairing events, as I did on a recent trip to Win’s Flavor in Wayne to attend their first-ever Wine Appreciation event.

Chef Iinuma takes wine pairing seriously – so seriously that instead of offering selections and helping wine reps chose wines to compliment them, he first tastes the potential wines for each event and then masterfully constructs small plates to highlight the pairing of the chosen wines.  It feels the wrong way around, but if the results are wrong, then I don’t want to be right…

There’s no mistaking the Asian vibe at Flavor, and the general atmosphere – dimly lit but also inviting – is a cross between a Buddhist temple and a cozy living room.  While Flavor’s wine list offers a similarly varied and approachable mixture of selections, Win’s wine & food pairing events usually focus on a mixture of in-house and special selections, as was the case during my visit.

The standout pairing of the night: the vibrant juxtaposition of flavors, heat, and texture of Dionysus Vineyard’s Washington State Riesling with Iinuma’s Fresh Wild Albacore jalapeno Ceviche.  The apple, honey & flower aromas and searing acidity of the Riesling might be a bit much on its own, but it cut right through the fat of the Ceviche.  Here’s how my tasting notes described the experience:

“Like spicy fish meat-butter served by winged Valkyries while Wagner’s “Der Ring” blasts triumphantly in the background.”

Sure, I was probably buzzed, but there’s no doubting a pairing like that!  Lucky for me – and you – that they’re planning more Wine Appreciation events at both Flavor and Teikoku.

If you go: Flavor Restaurant – 372 W Lancaster Ave. Wayne, PA 19087 – 610.688.5853





RSVP Now for the Biggest TTL Event Ever!

Vinted on March 13, 2009 binned in twitter taste live, wine tasting

22 Varieties

3 Time Zones

1 Wine Dude

Hospice du Rhone, Twitter Taste Live, and 1WineDude are teaming up for the Biggest On-Line Wine Tasting Event EVER on April 17th!

RSVP now!




Judging the Judges: Study Shows Wine Judges Aren’t That Reliable (or does it…?)

Vinted on January 27, 2009 binned in commentary, learning wine, wine tasting

The Journal of Wine Economics has just published a study authored by Robert T. Hodgson titled An Examination of Judge Reliability at a major U.S. Wine Competition. The reported findings should make the fodder for about 10,000 wine blog articles over the next few weeks.

The study tracked the ability of wine competition judges to replicate the scores that they gave to wines (during blind tasting competition) at the California State Fair. The study found that (emphasis is mine):

…judges were perfectly consistent… about 18 percent of the time. However, this usually occurred for wines that were rejected. That is, when the judges were very consistent, it was often for wines that they did not like

Let the blood-letting commence!

I fear that the media will take hold of this and start to sound the death knell for the ability of so-called experts to taste and rate wines (again), or use it to shake up an already arguably unfavorable view that wine appreciation and competition is the height of snobbery.

Neither are true, and this study does little to bolster either point. Why? Because wine tasting is, at its heart, heart a subjective exercise.

The study is clear on its intentions, which was not to shake up the world of wine competition, but to “provide a measure of a wine judge’s ability to consistently evaluate replicate samples of an identical wine. With such a measure in hand, it should be possible to evaluate the quality of future wine competitions using consistency as well as concordance with the goal to continually improve reliability and to track improvements associated with procedural changes…”

To understand why this study doesn’t ring so true with me, I need to give you a little detail on the mechanics of the study:

When possible, triplicate samples of all four wines were served in the second flight of the day randomly interspersed among the 30 wines. A typical day’s work involves four to six flights, about 150 wines… The judges first mark the wine’s score independently, and their scores are recorded by the panel’s secretary. Afterward the judges discuss the wine. Based on the discussion, some judges modify their initial score; others do not. For this study, only the first, independent score is used to analyze an individual judge’s consistency in scoring wines.

In summary: the judges weren’t consistent when faced with tasting hundreds of wines in a day, and there revised scores (based on panel discussion – which can have a huge impact on how you would evaluate a wine) weren’t used.

If the study proves anything, I think shows that trying to judge hundreds of wines in a day is a first-class non-stop ticket to palate fatigue, even for experienced wine judges.

Now that I think about it, blind tasting is so notoriously difficult that I give the judges in this study credit for being consistent almost 20% of the time. That would be a respectable hitting percentage in baseball (not sure… I don’t follow baseball actually)…

While the media may latch onto this one, the study hinted that there is some modicum of possible salvation for the madness surrounding wine competitions in general – not by way of wine judges, but by way of the ultimate judges of wine: the Consumer.

…a recent article in Wine Business Monthly (Thach, 2008) conducted as a joint
effort by 10 global universities with specialties in wine business and marketing found that consumers are not particularly motivated by medals when purchasing wine in retail stores. If consumer confidence is to be improved, managers of wine competitions would be well advised to validate their recommendations with quantitative standards.

Interesting conclusion. And a hopeful one.





Blind Tasting Smackdown: East Coast Vs. West Coast!

Vinted on November 14, 2008 binned in best of, California wine, Penns Woods, pennsylvania, wine tasting

Actually, it’s not so much a smackdown as, it turns out, a comparison of apples and oranges. Or, a comparison of Old World style vs. New World style.

After visiting both Opus One and Penns Woods Winery, located on the Left and Right Coasts, respectively, I thought it would be interesting to host a blind tasting between the 2005 vintages of both winery’s Bordeaux-style red blends.

What would a clash of the titans like this prove?

Not much, it turns out, but it was an enlightening experience, and one that you will want to read if you appreciate differing styles of fine wines, and are interested in a bit of a litmus test on how far wines from both coasts of America have come…

Or, if you want to read the extremely geeky musings of two wine dorks.

Your call…

Anyway, for this blind tasting, I was reunited with my 2WineDudes partner in crime, Jason Whiteside, who was in town taking a few of his exams for the WSET Diploma in Wine & Spirits. The wines (hereby referred to as Wine 1 and Wine 2, until such time as their true identity is revealed) were decanted a few hours before our tasting, and neither Jason nor I knew which wine was poured into which decanter. Both wines were then poured into separate (but identical) Riedel wine glasses.

Following is the uber-geeky tasting play-by-play:

The Visuals

  • Jason: “There’s really good color in both of these wines. Wine 1 is Ruby with a nice garnet hue, and it fades more at the rim than Wine 2, which suggests that it wasn’t handled as gently. Wine 2 is deep ruby with blue tinges and nice pink legs.”
  • Joe: “I really want to drink both of these suckers.”

The Nose

  • Jason: “I definitely get a Pennsylvania harvest/Autumn leaf aroma on Wine 1. Lots of smoke, not quite as complex as Wine 2. Plenty of bright red fruit, with black cherry, currants, spice (coriander and cocoa), and Macadam/tar. The finish on Wine 2 is waaaaay long and the wine is more concentrated – bakers chocolate is going on here, Lots of oak, menthol, and heat. Wine 1 might have had more exposure to oxygen and is a little more reductive. “
  • Joe: “Wine 1 is more subtle on the nose. I’m getting a lighter red fruit on it than Wine 2, which suggests PA more than CA. Wine 2 is very dark with more fruit, I’m thinking figs, mint leaf and plums. I’m not going to spit either of these, though…”

The Palate

  • Jason: “Wine 1 is mineral-forward. The finish isn’t extraordinary, but it’s good. It’s got medium intensity and great acidity; it’s just really well-balanced. It’s very Italian in style, weight, and acidity. If you hadn’t told me these wines were from PA and CA, I’d have thought this wine was from Tuscany. Wine 2 has more dry extract, it’s got to be riper, thicker-skinned grapes. Wine 1 has to be PA, and Wine 2 is from CA.”
  • Joe: “Wine 1 has ‘greener’ fruit to me. I would’ve expected a little more on the length of the finish though, based on how well the wine showed up on the nose and on the visuals. Wine 2 has more oak tannin, I think, and good acidity; it feels like a wine built for a “longer haul” to me. By the way, what the hell is dry extract?”

The Verdict

  • Wine 1 was Penns Woods Ameritage, and Wine 2 was Opus One.
  • Jason: “At a quick glance, these wines look and feel very similar. But when you investigate them more deeply, they are very, very different wines. What’s striking is how the different raw materials – the grapes – come through, even with two flawlessly crafted wines; which these both are.
  • Joe: “Totally agree. Bottom line for me is that Penns Woods is aiming for an Old World style, and the wine totally begs to be sampled with food. Opus has more of a New World/CA thing going on. Both are clearly made with passion. Let’s get stupid on the rest of this stuff!

There you have it. East Coast meets West Coast turns out to be more like Old World Italy meets New World California. Who’da thunk it?





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