Saturday, June 25, 2011


I think I've created a monster, or rather, a few monsters.

I was soooooo inspired by my tasting last week that I surprised my friends with an impromptu tasting of three red wines during a dinner party last night. I presented the wines blind, poured everyone a taste and encouraged them to take a drink. Now I'm not sure what happened exactly, but this novel activity must have set off some sort of competitive chord in their brains because...I swear before I could say a word...I had 5 people earnestly declaring which type of wine they thought it was. When I was able to get in a few words before the next sample, I tried to get them off of the guessing game. “Tell us which one you liked best and why, that’s all.” This didn’t work at all. They continued to profess they knew what wine it was after each sample was poured, and unfortunately, they were overwhelmingly wrong.

Considering that none of these folks are wine tasting professionals, I was certainly not surprised when they had trouble determining what wine was what. I’m absolutely sure I would have had the same problem had I not known ALL THREE were Zinfandels. See, I was just trying to show how differently the same grape can be expressed. And I guess I managed to succeed in doing just that, what with all the incorrect guesses coming from the group. But I feel kind of sneaky, particularly when some of the tasters appeared to be chagrined for mistaking a Zinfandel for a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah or Pinot Noir. For God's sake, they shouldn’t feel bad at all! Most people who regularly enjoy wine would probably be in the same boat. And besides, nobody likes a know-it-all anyway. (not that I would know anything about that...)

Props go to George, who incidentally drinks the least amount of wine in the group, for correctly identifying one of the wines as the exact same wine I had sent home with his wife, Kim, after last week’s tasting. He spotted it right off, but Kim was the one who remembered it was a Zin. And also to Darren, my husband, for correctly identifying one of the wines as a Zin (a different one than George). It is Darren’s preferred varietal so he was bound to spot one of them. No one else guessed Zinfandel.

I've considered providing a bit more info on the wines and establishing some helpful groundrules in case I've scared off my tasters, but with goofballs like Darren and George (see picture above), I really don’t think that’s a concern.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Back in the Saddle

My friend, Laura, wanted to learn more about wine in anticipation of a job interview at one of Portland’s best steakhouses, so I organized a tasting for her and invited Kim to join us. It was a blast, and I can't believe I haven't bothered to do them more often over the last, oh I don't know, 10 years (gulp)!

We blind tasted three each of commonly found whites and reds, all in the $10 to $20 range. As I suspected, my tasting skills have become mighty rusty, but I tried to make up for it in helpful wine industry tidbits. My favorite part of the afternoon was hearing Laura and Kim to describe the wines. While they both profess not knowing much about wine, they were great at identifying flavors and sharing their favorites out of the bunch. I am so thrilled to have done such an official wine-y activity that all I can say is that there will be more tastings to come!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Taking the Plunge

I’ve been saying I would start a wine blog for over a year.

There was much talk about the blog during that time: topics I would cover, dinners I would cook, winery and bottle shop visits I would make and, certainly, bottles of wine I actually did purchase, all in the name of STARTING A WINE BLOG. My husband (who’s face can be seen in the picture below) had taken to guffawing each time I mentioned this non-existent blog. This charming reaction, coupled with my recent layoff, finally gave me the motivation to actually do it.

American Wine Girl is where I will explore how Americans’ enjoy wine. We tend to add a unique flair to every cultural import and find a way to make it our own. And wine is certainly no exception.

I’m going to start with what may seem very commonplace now, but not long ago was extremely rare in the United States - drinking fine American wine with dinner. I was doing just that in the picture above. It’s from a typical night at our friends’ house, George and Kim. Now, they happen to be both great cooks and fantastic hosts, so when Kim said, “Come on over, I’m making paella!”, I grabbed some wine and my husband and rushed out the door.

We didn’t have the luxury of enjoying American-made fine wine routinely at our dinner tables until roughly the 1970s. Until “The Judgement of Paris” in 1976 (the famous blind tasting of French and American wines where the American wines from Northern California won hands down) not many believed you could make wines in the US that would match the quality of the old world. (For more on this, read Paul Lukacs' American Vintage : The Rise of American Wine.)

Thankfully, after that tasting the American wine industry made up for lost time very quickly.

Now, just 35+ years later, I can’t imagine dinner without it.