Sonoma and Monterey counties
By Laura Villanueva
Let's talk about one of my favorite wine regions, California! California has many different American Viticultural Areas (AVA's) that can be defined as having rolling hillsides, steep valleys, and moderate climates. The San Francisco Bay Area is a perfect place to discover California wine country as there are many different wine regions nearby. In order to experience a laid back California wine tasting trip, Monterey County and Sonoma County should definitely be on the itinerary as they offer a diverse range of wine varietals and styles including my personal favorite sparkling wine.
Wine and wine tasting can be intimidating especially for first time tasters. I remember having no clue what I was doing the first time I went wine tasting. I made common mistake such as drinking all the wines poured in my glass and trying to go to as many tastings as possible with no breaks in between. I now recommend 2 to 3 tastings over the course of a day with a break for lunch in between. As most wineries will allow you to taste between 4-6 different styles of wine, it is wise to take a sip or two of each wine and dispose of the rest in the buckets that are placed at your tasting area. This will allow you to better analyze and determine your favorite varietals.
The most important thing to remember when tasting wine is to have fun! The following tips will allow you to develop your wine tasting skills: see, swirl, smell, sip, and share. The first step is to look at the wine and ask yourself the following questions:
What is the color of the wine?
Is the intensity pale, medium, or deep?
After assessing the color, swirl the wine in your glass: this will allow the aromas to release and the wine to open up. Put your nose in the glass and smell the wine.
What characteristics do you notice in the wine?
Is the wine fruity, floral, citrusy, or spicy?
In addition to flavor profile, the wine's body, acidity, tannin, alcohol can also be picked up when tasting. Body can be light, medium, or full. A light body wine will be like tasting skim milk whereas a full body wine will be similar to whole milk in terms of texture. Acidity can be picked up on the sides of your tongue. The higher the acidity the more you will feel a sensation on the tongue that is similar to biting into a lemon. Tannins come from the skins of the grapes are are present in red wines. A drying sensation along your gums will signify whether the wine is low or high in tannins. A wine is low or high in alcohol depending on the burning sensation in the back of your throat.
I always write down notes when tasting as it can be hard to remember all the wines and how you felt about them once you leave the winery. Notes can be as simple as "I love it!" The beauty of wine tasting is that it allows each individual to discover what they appreciate most in wine. Sante!
Laura Villanueva is the founder of Travel and Champagne, a wine blog focused on sharing wine in a fun, informative, and unpretentious way. Laura is WSET III certified and received the highest in honors in the Master of Champagne certification through Wine Scholar Guild. She is currently taking the Wine Scholar Guild French Wine Scholar program. Laura also offers virtual wine and champagne tastings via Zoom.
Feel free to visit her on the web HERE to learn more.