Thursday, August 25, 2005

Down in the valley

The CIA Greystone

View from the CIA Greystone Campus

Ah, Napa Valley. Beautiful, verdent, fertile, white, rich Napa Valley. She is a wonder to behold: every type of tree frames the valley floor, carpeted with acres upon acres of the Noblest of the Noble grapes. As one passes through Napa, Yountville, Oakville and Rutherford on a sunny but cool Sunday afternoon, one cannot help but marvel at the multitude of wineries, septuagenarians, and zeros behind fives on new development billboard advertisements.

Okay, I kid. Napa is lovely, and I met some great people there. But if all the Mexicans left en masse one day, there'd be a whole bunch of trembling white people, huddled in Dean and Deluca, wondering what the fuck to do next. That's all I'm saying.

Three Palms Vineyard

The class I attended at the CIA Greystone was part of a month-long intensive program intended to prep wine professionals for an exam that would earn them a certification from the CIA as a Wine Proffessional (CWP). I was unable to do the whole month (expensive and way more time off work than I can weasel out of my company) but wanted to check out one class and see if I couldn't learn a thing or two. I chose Mastering Wine II, since Mastering Wine I was closed and MWII could be taken without the first part. MWII dealt with some of my favorite varietals: the aromatic whites and the Rhone varietals, and also Zinfandel (which, in its popular port-like vinification, I can pass up quite happily).

I did learn a thing or fifteen, including the stinging lesson that I am not a bad-ass blind taster. Well, not yet. I hadn't yet truly blind tasted, for the sake of identifying varietal, country of origin, oak treatment, and boy did I bomb. (Northern Rhone syrah is nowhere close to Willamette Valley Pinot Noir! Who knew?) But I figured out why: I am the Queen of Overthinking, and now that I know this, I can trust my instincts.

Our instructor was Tim Geiser, Master Sommelier and head of Education for the American chapter of the Court of Master Sommeliers. What he lacks in patience he makes up for in thoroughness, accuracy, frankness, and dry wit. Not your stereotypical MS: you do not want to get between this man and his ESPN (as I learned in the lobby of the El Bonita Inn).

We tasted around 16 wines a day, except for the day we drove up to the tippy-top of Rattlesnake Hill to visit the gnarly old Zinfandel vines. The soil is volcanic and super-rich in iron. Looks like freakin' Oklahoma up there. I'll write more about this vineyard later.

My next few posts will fill your hearts with California Dreamin' as I snatch the time from my schedule to report.

Clinkies for now...


Blogger magpie said...

Can't wait to hear more about your trip!

You hit the nail on the head about blind tasting--you can't over think it.

The key? Don't listen to anybody's "classic notes" schpeil, especially those Master Sommelier nyeeeeerds. Trust your own markers/descriptions. You taste a ton of wine each week, you know it, you know that you know it.

But, let's have was the grub!?!?

7:20 PM  
Blogger taj said...

Oh, I'm getting there. Just wait 'till I get to the SF portion of my trip. That's when the real culinary throw-down happened!

7:26 AM  
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