W.H. Smith Wines is a familiar name from their recent acclaim as “Best of the Best” show stealer at the North Coast Wine Challenge with their 2010 Maritime Pinot Noir to their family history in the development of the Howell Mountain AVA in Napa County. With a passion for wine education, T’Anne developed the Wine Sensory Experience, which many have tried by none have accomplished the complete, unique experience that T’Anne started over 10 years ago.
This Wine Sensory Experience is designed to help all level of tasters develop the ability to identify aromas and flavor profiles of wines by learning about aroma development in wine from the grapes growth in the vineyard to the production in the winery. She teaches you how chocolate, clove, smoke, and caramel “get into” the wine.
T’Anne began with a discussion of soils as we experienced a number of Sonoma and Napa grape growing soils and try to identify the memories or senses they imparted (other than the smell of dirt). The descriptors of the senses included such varied smells as wet dog, cement, moss, metallic, mushroom cave, newly mown hay, and forest glen.
The journey then progressed into a personal challenge with multiple stations that let everyone train their senses with various aromas to identify, some of which included chocolate, grass, maple, cloves, licorice, blackberry, lemon juice, cardamom, honey, rose, coffee, vanilla, tea, coffee, and white pepper. The aromas were hidden inside black opaque stemware and we were asked not to peek inside, but to identify the scents only with our noses.
T’Anne also had a variety of glassware with the same Pinot Noir poured into each glass so that we could experience the sensory difference that glassware and rim made on the wine tasting of pinot noir.
After some successes and some “oh, I know this, but what is it” experiences, T’Anne revealed the answers to the aroma challenge. For me the surprise was how much Coke Cola smelt like lemon when it was flat.
Daisy Damskey of Palmeri Wines brought photos of their vineyards and sample of the actual soils to help us unlock the secrets of terroir (often described in wine as a “sense of place”) while we sampled their Dark and Brooding wine. Palmeri wine labels feature the diverse fauna found on their hillside vineyards such as boar, bat, fox and cougar. The name Palmeri comes from Quercus palmeri, a small and scrappy oak that grows in the mountain ranges that Daisy’s husband, Kerry Damskey, gravitates to when selecting his ultra-premium grape growing land. Kerry is the alchemist/winemaker that creates this beautiful showcase of mountain fruit. Daisy then awarded the participants with a “Terroir Expert” certificate as they concluded this fabulous morning of sensory experiences.
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