I am veering of the cocktail course temporarily to discuss wine.   Last night my wine club, the Vindivas, reconvened after a long hiatus.  The theme for the evening, chosen by our fabulous hostess Holly, was inspired by the movie Bottle Shock. We blind tasted California and French wines of the same varietal for comparison.  This method provides  the opportunity to taste without making assumptions based on what you think you like or don’t like.  In some cases our pre-conceived ideas did not match with what our taste buds told us.  We had fun and learned a lot about how the way a grape is transformed into wine in California vs. France makes all difference in how it looks, smells and tastes.  A personal highlight was that I learned that I have a pretty good wine palette—I could consistently distinguish the French from the Californian by following the distinguishing characteristics described by our own “grande dame” of wine, Pilar (and in this reference I am focusing on the prestige and knowledge of our friend, not the age, my dear!).

As the self-appointed historian, I always have my trusty notebook and pen ready to capture our reactions and opinions about what we are thinking about what we are drinking.  We had 5 pairings that ranged from sparkling to cabernet sauvignon.  Rather than bore with tons of details (and frankly my notes get a bit shaky as we neared the end of the tasting), I’ll share some highlights.  [Note: Californian wines are named for the grape, while the French are named for the region.]

We began our tasting with two sparkling wines—a Veuve Clicquot Brut (FR) and Chandon Blanc de Noir (CA).   James described the fragrance of Chadon as “its like when you kick through a pile of leaves in the fall.”  Both were good—the group was equally divided about which was best.

For our first grape to grape comparison we tasted a Chenin blanc and a Vouvray.  While both wines are a bit sweet in fragrance and taste, the distinction here is that the French Vouvray is a bit heavier and a bit more complex flavor.  Karaugh’s first reaction to the Dry Creek Vineyard Chenin Blanc perfectly captured the refreshingly lightness of the wine—“It tastes like spring time.”  The French Silex Noir Vouvray was a personal favorite of the evening for me.

Next was the chardonnay grape.  I typically am not a fan of chardonnay because its way too oaky for my taste, a characteristic of California chardonnays.  So, I immediately could distinguish the French from the Californian here.  The French use stainless barrels instead of oak barrels, so I got none of that characteristic woodiness that I don’t like.  I loved the Chateau Laboure Roi (FR), the Goosecross Chardonnay (CA) not so much.

We moved onto reds starting with Pinot Noir, or Burgundy, as the French call it.  This entry level red is pretty tasty.  Both had peppery notes, but the French was a slightly heavier, a bit more smoky with more complex autumnal flavors. We tasted Roessler’s Red Label Pinot Noir (CA) and Louis Jadot Bourgogne (FR).

Our final taste was the cabernet sauvignon grape.  Both were earthy, full-bodied and were nicely complimented by the delicious Lebanese meat pies I made. Our French Bordeaux, Chateau Clos du Moulin, was smokier and had a drier finish that our slightly more fruity Arbios Alexander Valley cab.

So, who wins in California vs. France?  Sorry USA, this girl’s going with the French! 

Cheers!

The Vindivas really like their wine. Here are Julie and Maura with all the bottles we tasted.

I am veering of the cocktail course temporarily to discuss wine.   Last night my wine club, the Vindivas, reconvened after a long hiatus.  The theme for the evening, chosen by our fabulous hostess Holly, was inspired by the movie Bottle Shock. We blind tasted California and French wines of the same varietal for comparison.  This method provides  the opportunity to taste without making assumptions based on what you think you like or don’t like.  In some cases our pre-conceived ideas did not match with what our taste buds told us.  We had fun and learned a lot about how the way a grape is transformed into wine in California vs. France makes all difference in how it looks, smells and tastes.  A personal highlight was that I learned that I have a pretty good wine palette—I could consistently distinguish the French from the Californian by following the distinguishing characteristics described by our own “grande dame” of wine, Pilar.

As the self-appointed historian, I always have my trusty notebook and pen ready to capture our reactions and opinions about what we are thinking about what we are drinking.  We had 5 pairings that ranged from sparkling to cabernet sauvignon.  Rather than bore with tons of details (and frankly my notes get a bit shaky as we neared the end of the tasting), I’ll share some highlights.  [Note: Californian wines are named for the grape, while the French are named for the region.]

We began our tasting with two sparkling wines—a Veuve Clicquot Champagne (FR) and Chandon Brut (CA).   James described the fragrance of Chadon as “its like when you kick through a pile of leaves in the fall.”  Both were good—the group was equally divided about which was best.

Our first grape to grape comparison was chenin blanc.  While both wines are a bit sweet in fragrance and taste, the distinction here is that the French Vouvray is a bit heavier and a bit more complex flavor.  Karaugh’s first reaction to the Dry Creek Vineyard Chenin Blanc perfectly captured the refreshingly lightness of the wine—“It tastes like spring time.”  Our French chenin blanc, Silex Noir Vouvray, was a personal favorite overall for me.

Next was the chardonnay grape.  I typically am not a fan of chardonnay because its way too oaky for my taste, a characteristic of California chardonnays.  So, I immediately could distinguish the French from the Californian here.  The French use stainless barrels instead of oak barrels, so I got none of that characteristic woodiness that I don’t like.  I loved the Chateau Laboure Roi (FR), the Goosecross Chardonnay (CA) not so much.

We moved onto reds starting with Pinot Noir, or Burgundy, as the French call it.  This entry level red is pretty tasty.  Both were had peppery notes, but the French was a slightly heavier, a bit more smoky with more complex autumnal flavors. We tasted Roessler’s Red Label Pinot Noir (CA) and Louis Jadot Bourgogne (FR).

Our final taste was the cabernet sauvignon grape.  Both were earthy, full-bodied and were nicely complimented by the delicious Lebanese meat pies I made. Our French Bordeaux, Chateau Clos du Moulin, was smokier and had a drier finish that our slightly more fruity Arbios Alexander Valley cab.

So, who wins in California vs. France?  This girl’s going with the French!

Cheers!

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