Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Preparing For A Tasting

I mentioned in my first post that I would be presenting notes from the Midwest Wine Expo next week. I thought as a preview to that I would discuss what I'm expecting, and how I'm preparing for a tasting that includes 700 wines.
First of all I think it is important to note that I haven't been to this tasting before, so I don't really know what to expect from this particular event. Normally I approach a large tasting as an opportunity to taste and evaluate wines that I can't afford to buy. My goal at a tasting is to educate my palate. I have a pretty good idea of what I like in the $10-$15 range, so I don't plan to spend much time tasting those wines. Unfortunately my wallet does not afford me much experience with the $50+ wines, so that's where I'll be concentrating most of my efforts.
The first thing I'm looking for at this particular tasting is the seminars. There are 2 seminars in particular, the one on French wines and the one on Napa Valley sub-appelations, that interest me. The French wine seminar is going to be given by a master of wine, so I expect it to be an interesting exploration of the country with some great wines to sample. The Napa seminar is a focus on sub appellations, and as a rule the more specific the appelation, the more the wine will cost. I think the Napa seminar should be a great opportunity to try some reserve wines from some of the more famous Napa producers that routinely sell for $125 a bottle.
Next comes the dilemma of figuring out what to do with the rest of my time. The seminars should eat up 1 1/2 - 2 hrs, so that leaves another 3 hours for tasting wines. 3 hours of wine tasting seems like plenty of time to get through the over 700 wines being poured. 180 minutes for 700 wines is about 4 wines a minute. Hmm, maybe I need to scale that back a bit. My experience has shown me that I can taste a wine about every 4-5 minutes, so I should plan to taste about 30 - 40 wines throughout the day. I looked through the list Binny's has published on their website and picked out the producers that interest me. I'll have to whittle this list down to about 25 producers. I figure each producer will be pouring more than one wine, so I should expect that I might want to try more than one at a table. Also I want to leave some time (and sobriety) for any wines that peak my interest in the heat of the moment.
Now is a good time to mention the sobriety aspect of a wine tasting. I'm all about responsible drinking, especially when the drinking requires driving to and from the venue. So remember that at a tasting like this, it is perfectly acceptable, and pretty much mandatory at 40+ wines, to spit. 40 1 oz samples would be the equivalent of 1.5 bottles of wine. That doesn't even include the samples I'm going to get at the seminars. If I were to swallow all the wine I tasted throughout the day, I would end up consuming over 2 bottles of wine, and would be WAY over the legal limit when I drove home in the afternoon. It just isn't worth it. Besides, this way I can get home and relax with a bottle of my favorite wine from the day.
Now that I have a plan, and have resolved to spit, all that is left to do is head out the door. I'm counting the days until Binny's Midwest Wine Expo. Hopefully I'll see you there.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Protecting Your Right To Drink What You Want

Tom Wark, over at Fermentation, wrote an excellent post on the current Illinois Bill to ban out of state wine retailers from shipping wine to you and me. If you find this reprehensible, and you should, please write your state representative.

The Premise

I've been wanting to blog about wine for a while now. I'm hoping it will allow me to expand my knowledge of wine as well as offer a platform for me to share what I know and what I experience about wine in Chicago, America's Third Coast City. When I moved to Chicago in 2003, I expected to find a budding wine culture, much like the one in New York or California. What I found was a hesitance about wine. People in the area drank wine, but they didn't consider it part of their daily lives. It seemed to me that ordering a glass of wine at a restaurant was a treat rather than the expectation. It also seemed like a great wine list was reserved for a great restaurant. I have spent very little time in New York or San Francisco in my adult life, but my experience has shown me that even a mediocre restaurant will take its wine list seriously in these cities.
In the past three years I've seen the city begin to embrace wine in new ways. Restaurants are making an effort to improve their wine lists, friends are more interested in learning about wine, and the quality of wine shops is improving dramatically.
I hope you will join me as I explore Chicago's wine culture. Tune in next week for a review of the Midwest Wine Expo in Oak Brook. If you want to check the event out, you can get tickets at Binny's.