Sunday, August 7, 2011

Wine at the Movies

It sounds like a cool idea, the Washington Wine Academy sponsors a tasting event prior to the 7:30 showing of a movie at my local Arlington Cinema Drafthouse.  The movie was pretty good, Hangover 2.  The tasting was a hot mess.

I'm a little reticent about blasting this tasting.  I am a student at the other wine school in town, Capitol Wine School, and I don't want you to think this is inter-school rivalry.  I might actually need to take some classes there for my WSET Diploma.  Let me just give you the facts.

The woman running the tasting intimated that she had passed the WSET Advanced test, the same level as me.  But she knew nothing about the wines save the breakdown of a Rose.  She kept telling me to just read the back labels because they were interesting.  Second, she put a sweet Norton right into the middle of the lineup instead of at the end.  Putting sweet wines before dry ones makes the dry ones that follow taste like crap.  Third, they were charging $1 for a 1oz taste of wines that wholesale for about $5.  That's a 260% markup, which is restaurant level.  For that kind of money, one should expect white linen tableclothes, crystal glassware, and knowledgeable servers.

Last, she was serving a wine that was clearly off and telling customers how wonderful it was.  The wine in question was Tarara Rose 2008.  I know the folks at Tarara, and while I am not a huge fan of Virginia wine or their particular version of it, I know they don't put out flawed wines.  I may or may not like them, but they are clean winemakers.  I actually sat with my book "Wine Faults: Causes, Effects, Cures," by John Huddelson, trying to figure out what made this wine taste so bad.  Finally, I figured out it was both cooked and sun-faded.  But no WSET advanced certificate holder should have served it.

Here are the wines I tasted:

2010 Fire Road Sauvignon Blanc - Marlborough NZ
Actually very good.  Flint and Grapefruit on a racy acidic frame with a medium-plus finish.

2009 Alvarez y Diez Rueda Mantel Blanco Verdeho - Spain
Restrained nose.  Lime and green apple flavors.  Lots of stemmy, unripe flavors too.

2008 Tarara Rose - Virginia
See note above.

2010 Chrysalis Norton (Barrel Select?)- Virginia
Nose has some fruit, but is dominated by Diacetyl and Acetyl Pyrazine.  Diacetyl smells like butter, and is a byproduct of malolactic fermentation.  Though it is key to production of obnoxious Napa Chardonnay, most consider it a flaw at dectectable levels.  Acetyl Pyrazine is the stuff used to make "butter flavored" popcorn.  So, this wine had huge levels of buttered popcorn aromas but wasn't a chardonnay.  On tasting, it was also sweet and fizzy.  It had started a secondary fermentation, which is the result of unclean winemaking.  Flawed wine!  Also sweet, which makes the next wine taste thin and crappy.

2010 Pongo Pinot Noir - Marlborough NZ
Once I got past the other wine, this was fine.  Earthy, with dried cherries, leather and smoke.  It wasn't very generous.  At the price point, it's quite a buy.  Blind, it is merely acceptable.

All told, I won't be going back for the wine.  The drafthouse does have a full bar with excellent beers.

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