It all started a little over a year ago when I received an e-mail from Natalie MacLean, a popular Ottawa wine writer informing me that she likes the way I write my blog posts and if I would be interested in contributing wine reviews to her site? “You don’t have to be a wine expert as I’m looking for an Ontario food lover’s perspective on wine.”
Well, I was certainly intrigued and extremely flattered, considering I had just started Spice Wife only 6 months earlier. I had read Natalie’s first book, Red, White and Drunk All Over, while on a vacation in Niagara-on-the-Lake enjoying plays and touring wineries. Let it be known that I am definitely not a wine expert; but it sounded like a new experience and I was up for it.
I do love to cook. And I do love to share my table with family and friends. When I am asked by my guests what they can bring, I always ask for either a dessert (I would rather cook the main meal than prepare a dessert), or bring a wine. My friends ask, what are you serving? Which cuisine are you preparing and which spices are you using? With this information, they head off to the local LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) and chat with a knowledgeable salesperson into selecting an appropriate wine for dinner. So really I am doing my guests a favour on two accounts: One: I am inviting them to share my theme for the evening, and Two: I am giving them an opportunity to discover and learn more about food-wine pairings.
And so, from these gifts of wine, I have been writing for Natalie MacLean on her website over the past year. Not an overabundance of posts so far but I try to keep up appearances and state that a selected wine tasted perfect or paired well with a particular ethnic meal.
A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail from Natalie inviting me to her home for a grand wine tasting of about 60 wines on Sunday, August 17th. Me? Who else is coming? I would be the only non sommelier in the bunch but she said I can be the food blogger with a passion for wine. Me, a passion? It was a research passion, from my background of being a statistical analyst, and I wanted to analyze this pairing phenomena.
Natalie interviewed some of the experts during the tasting. Her terrific blog about the event can be followed here: Wine Tasting Blog Post .
Nervously, I entered the home with my tasting glass and spit bucket (actually, a metal milk frothing container from my cappuccino machine) — I even watched a YouTube video on how to spit wine! I was wearing white slacks and wanted to ensure that I didn’t miss the bucket! There were 60 wines laid out in categories across three rooms with 15 tasters, that is, 14 experts and me! I sat at one station of light whites and gave it my best shot. Swirl, sip and spit…hmmm, not bad. However I was so nervous, I couldn’t hold my glass by the stem, in fear that I would spill, but held it by the body, which of course is not good for the temperature of the wine and furthermore, left fingerprints. But with more sampling, I calmed down, ‘thought’ I looked as professional as the rest of them and continued on my mission.
Everyone was serious and writing their comments on laptops, tablets, smartphones or paper. After a few samples, I could start to distinguish the aromas of various fruits and vanilla and spices. Peppery notes. Cherry and blackberry aromas. I was able to taste the differences too. However, after sampling about 30 wines, I told Natalie that I was already overwhelmed and I was calling it a day. Leave the 60 wines to the experts. And I needed to get home and start writing up some of the reviews with reference to how they paired with particular foods. As a foodie, that was an easier task.
All in all, a fun learning experience and a unique afternoon for me.
So in closing, this is how this experience has affected me so far:
1. I am starting to read Natalie’s book: Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines
2. Last night we went out to see the new movie: The Hundred Foot Journey , a delightful movie about an Indian family opening a restaurant across from a Michelin-star French restaurant. I invited friends over for a light dinner of Sag Paneer, an Indian spiced spinach and cheese dish, to have a dinner and a movie theme. My girlfriend asked which wine could they bring? Well, a Reisling or Gewurztraminer, of course! She brought over a terrific Ravine Vineyard Estate Gewurztraminer 2012. I have already reviewed it on Natalie MacLean’s website.
Look at that. I’m starting to get it.