The Phoenix Wine Mafia met for the first time on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and we had an absolute blast. [Editor's note, I started writing this Fri night/Sat Morn and stopped at this point. Finishing up the post today, Sunday 12/5/10 @ 11:30pm] I do want to get one thing out of the way. There were a couple of "mafiosi" that forgot what "omerta" means and I take great offense to anything anyone is saying about me. For the record: any tweet-rumors you hear about my behavior, nausea, and hungoverness are 100% correct!!! Okay, the truth is any offense I take to anything anyone said about me is because I wish they would have let me say it first here. I would have been happy to give the entire story and it definitely would have been much funnier coming from my fingers. I don't take myself that seriously, and I'm all for full disclosure. As my buddy Dave always said, "If you don't want someone knowing about something you did, don't do it in the first place." Easy advice to live by, no? So regarding the stuff I did, I think its hilarious and I'd be a hypocrite if I tried to hide it from my tweeps. I just wish I was the one to break the news, because even when I'm hungover, I can be a witty motherfucker ;)
So anyways on to the tasting... We had 9 people here overall. Three couples (@fullblownwifey & me, my friends Mike (@scochscochscoch) & his wife Steph, and my parents); our across-the-street neighbor, Amy and her guest Christina (I think that was her name) (Amy's husband, Eric, was unavailable); and my cousin Mike who is a beer drinker that was visiting from Vegas. For clarity I'll refer to cousin Mike as "Mike" and friend Mike as @scochscochscoch. So peer pressure convinced Mike to taste with us. For him, it started out as expected, but I was pleasantly surprised by his remarks at the end of the night.
As I see it, my readers would like one (or more) of three things out of this post. 1. A how-to as to how we put together our night. 2. Notes and opinions on the wines. 3. A good and entertaining story. Too many of some of these may be mutually exclusive with others, so I'm going to try to write with a balance of all three.
First, the wines. We had two flights. As I call them, Wine 101 and Cab 101. Wine 101 was 4 differnt affordable varietals all from the same producer. Cab 101 was really Napa Cab 101 with 5 different Napa Cabs ranging from $14 - $65 (earlier claims of up to $80 were based on unverified information).
Quick notes on the set up: We had everyone bring an hors d'oeuvres/appetizer to share and their own glass just in case there were so many people that we didn't have enough. I bought all the wines for this one and we split the cost evenly - I wanted the control for this first meeting. In the name of safety (and common sense) we also provided bottled water, a spit/pour bucket, and the option to stay the night at our place. We all tasted each wine together and shared our thoughts. I poured lightly (about 2oz per) giving those that wanted another taste the ability to have one. We took about 5 or 10 minutes between the two flights. I read any internet/back of bottle tasting notes I could find, but didn't overly orate (well not too much). This definitely wasn't a wine geek group. I did encourage everyone to express their thoughts, although I didn't record them as well as I would have liked (note to self for next time...). It took a while to get everyone under control and I of course lost it again periodically throughout the night, but all in all everyone was quite respectful. It is a lot less stressful to be on the other side of the tasting table, but I did enjoy my role as host.
Okay, back to the wines...
The first flight:
Angeline was the producer, recommended by my buddy, What's-Her-Name, at the local Total Wine and More. When I described my objective to her, she insisted that the Angeline was a great representation of each grape. So I said, "Sure, why not". We had a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, all around $12-$14 at Total Wine. We each had a taste in this order. Seconds were available for anyone who wanted another taste.
2009 Angeline Sauvignon Blanc:
As most Sauv Blancs are supposed to taste, the tasting notes advertised a floral nose with tropical, green fruit/melon flavors. I thought it was much too "chalky" and reminded me of a medicine I used to have as a kid (although I can't remember which one - Amoxicillin maybe?). Quick side note, my wine tasting vocabulary is severely lacking, so what you get is what's going on in my mind. Not only do I not guarantee that you'll agree, I don't even guarantee you'll understand. Moving on... not to sound snobby, but most of the wine "newbies" and at least one of the "kind-of-sewers", er I mean "connoisseurs" thought it wasn't half bad. I thought the wine was misrepresented and wanted to go back and punch ol' Whats-Her-Name in the nose. Alas, it wasn't #whoopasswednesday, so I refrained and kept a cautious optimism about the rest of their wines.
2009 Angeline Chardonnay Russian River Valley:
I had two Angeline Chard choices, RRV and I think the other was just a "California" Chard. Whats-Her-Name (we're gonna call her WHN from now on) said that the "California" Chard was lighter and more crisp while the RRV was oak-y and buttery. I don't remember if she specifically said that the "California" was 100% steel fermentation or not, but that was the general idea - one with an unoaked flavor, the other a bit more towards the "Cougar Juice" end of the spectrum.
Well never let it be said that I don't like me some Cougar Juice and I figured since we were getting a crisp white with the Sauv Blanc, we'd go for a contrasting flavor with a rich buttery Chard. After tasting it I thought that it was actually quite well balanced between the fruit/acidity and the oaky/buttery flavor. For the price I think it's a great everyday Chardonnay. Don't get me wrong, it's not incredibly complex or layered, but I'd pay $18 for it; which at about $12 makes it a nice little bargain. Most of the crowd agreed. Between sips on his beer Cousin Mike said it tasted just like the last one. Classy!
2009 Angeline Merlot, Sonoma
I thought this was a great representation of a decent California Merlot. Very light and a lot of fruit on the palate. I thought it had nice balance, but some in the crowd thought it was a bit sweet. As long as I've been drinking wine and for as many bottles as I've had, I still can enjoy a bit of sweetness in my wines, but it seems the trend (at least amongst my wino circle) is to shun anything that isn't completely dry or is too fruit forward. So while I did like it, there were a few that poured out their tasting after just a couple of sips. Black cherry, red fruit & berries were all mentioned regarding everyone's impression of the wine. I thought it was a nice everyday wine until I tasted...
2008 Angelina Cabernet Sauvignon
WHN absolutely nailed it. Just as the Chard was a great representation of an oaky RRV Chard and the Merlot of it's grape, this was Cab through and through. The tannins were surprisingly tame for a such a young wine and (of course) there was much less fruit than the Merlot. I thought the most meaningful reaction of the night came from Mike though, "Those [Cabernet Sauvignon] are usually hard to drink. That one is not hard to drink." So "easy drinking" is a great descriptor - this is definitely one I could buy a case of to have for random Wednesday nights. The fact that this one made Mike not crack open another beer actually notice the quality showed me (1.) that it was a pretty good bottle and (2.) that we were actually accomplishing something with these tastings.
I'm tired and this is long, so I'll stop it here and write Part II over the next day or two.
Thank you for reading this!