Thank goodness the weeks of February seemed to slip by a lot faster than originally anticipated. With the onslaught of more snow, more cold weather – I have learned the only thing that keeps the cold away in the great state of Minnesota, is WINE. Plus, the more you work, the more time dissolves just that much quicker. Mix work AND wine together – zoom! The month of February, already behind me. Spring, here I come!
Time was spent the week of Valentine’s Day teaching a few classes at Cooks of Crocus Hill, speaking at two wine dinners, orchestrating two private events and fulfilling one media showing. All of great fun and all, as it turns out, is great info for recapping. So with that – I begin with one of my favorites of February’s Valentine week – a class that I taught with Chef Mike Shannon and the Star Tribune’s Wine Guy, Bill Ward.
A class with a theme that I had been sitting on for almost four years – Men are from Bordeaux and Women are from Burgundy. Taught under the assumption and the realization, from a sommelier’s perspective, that NOT ALL FOLKS TASTE EQUALLY. Or at least, don’t describe what they taste ‘equally’.
I have always listened intently as women describe wine and men of the same – night after night – class after class. From a male perspective, the wines are always described from an ‘end’ result. From a female’s, a more ’round about’ description. The feminine side with sometimes, more compassion for the grapes – an understanding of the smells around them and a feeling attached to the taste of the wine itself. Not to say, sorry guys, that you ALL zoom to that ‘quickie’ standpoint when it comes to vino – but you get what I’m saying, right? It sort of lies under the ‘why do women wear lingerie’ idea. After all, you’re looking for the ‘end’ result here as well, aren’t you? Guys are more apt to say within the first minute either ‘I like it’ or ‘I don’t like it’ when it comes to wine – and women, sort of have to dance around the subject for a minute or two -observing, sensing, perceiving, then giving their two cents.
With this in mind – I asked my good friend, Bill Ward, to teach this male vs. female perspective with me in our Valentine’s Day class ‘Men are from Bordeaux and Women are from Burgundy’. The title stemming from the idea that men are strong with intent – reaching for a good, bull-like wine that will ‘shock their existance’ (IE: most folks perception of Bordeaux) and women, poetically describing every nuance of a scenario from scent to sensation (IE: the perfect description of a wine from Burgundy).
The stage was set with 9 (yes, I said it…9!) blind wines, 40 blind folds, one spectacular chef with a menu that rocked the room, and 9 blind jars filled with items that were ideally linked to the smells that would come of the wines poured. From feminine smells to more masculine – the items ranged from dirt and raw peppercorns to honey and rose petals. As each course was sat, wines were poured to link the softer more elegant sides to the dishes to wines that brought out the more structured pieces of each dish.
Course after course – with wines lined up like Paso Robles Syrah vs. an Italian Dolcetto, Burgundian Pinot Noir vs. Cabernet from the left bank of Bordeaux, to Napa Zinfandel vs. Alsatian Pinot Gris – the room oohhed and aaahhed with excitement. Each person of each couple giving his/her reasoning behind the ‘perfectly paired’ wines. And with Valentine’s Day at hand, the room quickly left any sort of ordinance behind it – louder with each pour, with the sounds of happy, well-fed folk.
While the food paired and the wines poured were certainly a hi-lite course after course – there were many things throughout the night that peaked my interest with this experiment.
1. With my first pour – I had the men blindfold the women. I then poured a dry, boutiquey Napa rosé from Hendry Vineyards. Made from Caberent, Cabernet Franc and Primitivo – the wine was flinty dry, with hints of crushed strawberry and zippy pepper. I asked the women to describe first what they smelled, tasted and felt. Words like: fresh, crisp, acidic and lively came from the women. After their descripts, I asked the men (knowing that they had also tasted the wine, but could see it) to describe this wine to the women as if they were ‘selling’ it to them but with words that correctly described the wine at the same time. The men said words like: girly, sweet, foo-foo and lushy.
Case in point… the men made assumptions, describing this what they saw as a ‘girly’ package with words like ‘sweet’ when in fact, the wine was bone dry, peppery and no where close to ‘girly’. Yet, the women were right on with their descriptions – of crisp, refreshing and peppery.
2. Second wine, the same scenario was presented. Women blindfolded their partners, the wine was poured and the men used words to describe while the women were asked to ‘sell’ it. The men said: sparkling, dry and Champagne. The women described it with floral notes, creamy sensations and round fruit. The wine poured: A dry Prosecco made with Prosecco and Pinot Noir – again a pink, but this time with a sort of life saver center, definitely floral BUT dry and it was NOT Champagne.
Very opposite of a wine that would represent the region of Champagne.
Case in point…the men wanted results, right now! It’s bubbly so it must be a Champagne, right? Wrong! The women gave the wine character, description and length. The men were more interested in the answer than the overall descriptors of the wine. Fancy how that happened?!
The night went on with more scenarios of the same. Soon after our first wines, we started describing each blind wine with ‘personalities’. For instance, if the wine were a movie star who would it represent and why? The Burgundian Pinot Noir was described as Susan Sarandon and the Bordeaux, Sean Connery. Again, funny how that happened. Soft and feminine vs. structured and distinct.
Overall, the evening – a HUGE success. Folks wouldn’t leave by class end they were having so much fun! Another Chef and Sommelier inspired Cooks of Crocus Hill class hit with a home run… all from the idea of how each of us perceive a wine’s color, smell and sensation. Outstanding! Certainly a class I will never forget. And so good, that it might just have to be replayed again sometime…after all, I still have the blindfolds. And for those of you who ‘slipped’ away with your blindfolds, I hope you had fun!
Thanks to all who made it a ridiculously fun experience!