Saturday, April 15, 2006

Mayo Reserve Room: Seven Wines for Seven Nibblers

In the Sonoma Valley, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a Mayo Family Winery tasting room. There are four total, and I passed two on my way to their latest venture: the Mayo Reserve Room. Open for about a year now, the room sports an in-house chef who serves tasty little bites that pair with seven wines, a nicely put together atmosphere, and as you can see, fancy pointy dishware.

I was greeted cordially, if a little stiffly, by both the tasting room wine director and the Chef. I kept wanting to poke them in the ribs, get them to drop the act and chat with me. While the wines were being poured, I got what was probably the usual explanation of the typical characteristics of the varietal, what I could expect to taste, and why it worked with each pairing. I'm not a fan of this. Lemme 'splain.

This tasting room is designed to bring a sense of how the flavors of wine and food work either together or off each other, and the pairings are done very well. However, see--maybe it's just me, but I really dislike being told what I'm about to taste before the wine hits my lips. I understand the idea behind it, which is to help folks who might be trying to train their noses and palates to catch all the hints of white roses and candied apricots and supple leather or whatever, but ultimately, this pre-explanation isn't really working toward that goal. If you've been in the wine biz, you know well that if before you smell a wine, I tell you it smells just like bananas, you're gonna smell bananas. It's like trying not to think of an elephant. I'd suggest to the guys that they let people taste the wine and the food first without all the explanation, then answer questions. The best way to teach people about wine is not to tell them what they're going to get, but rather to ask them, "What do you taste?" That gives people confidence in their own palates.
And that will make the tasting room a really special experience.

I would still recommend catching it if you're toodling around the Sonoma Valley. Skip the other Mayos and drive to Kenwood for this one. For $25, you get seven wines and seven carefully and successfully paired nibblets, which is a nice deal.

Awright, road trip fans...I've got lots coming down the pike: Will Bucklin of Bucklin Vineyards, a rouge winemaker from Davis, and plenty more where that came from. Stay clinkified.



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