Wine Tasting Suggestions

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ClairefromClare

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For some time now, we've been hosting wine tasting parties. Rules are fairly simple: we search out a wine that's not well known but readily available and set a reasonable price point--usually $20 maximum. Invite four couples. Each is to bring a bottle of that wine in an unmarked bag. We taste them blind, discussing as we go. Vote on our favorite and give a prize to the winner. Then we drink all the wine with dinner.

It's fun, because even grownups need party games. As a result of this, we were drinking Malbec (for instance) before anyone else had ever heard of it. Ditto South African Pinotage and a few others.

We started donating this event as an auction item for some local charities, and all of a sudden we're hosting one or two of these a month. Fun but tiring.

My real problem is that I'm running out of wines to assign! It gets boring for us to taste the same wine multiple times.

So--we're hosting our last this year in about three weeks, and I have no clue what wine to assign. Ideas? It can be red or white, but should go with cold-weather, hearty food. I figure beef tenderloin with a spice rub for read or stuffed pork loin with white, but could be convinced otherwise.

Thanks!
 
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Smallville

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I know I can't help on this one! I think you already know that White Xin is the only "wine product" that I drink unless it's the REAL champagne (the $100 a bottle stuff, not the sparkilng wine that thinks it's champagne!). OK, so I drink that too, but only because I can't afford the real stuff
 

julie_m

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I know I can't help on this one!
The only thing I know, and the first thing I thought when I read the title, is:

Spit!

I'm sorry. I'll go to bed now. :curl-lip:
 

TheNewBrad

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I'd be happy to attend your wine tasting Claire if you handle the 'small matter' of the travel costs. :D
 

JB

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Claire,
I can help you out with this one. Give me some details. Do you want it by category, wine maker, area?
 

ClairefromClare

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Claire,
I can help you out with this one. Give me some details. Do you want it by category, wine maker, area?
I knew you could, Josh. We tend to give people fairly broad categories, to be sure we get a variety. Recently, we've done South African Pinotage, California Petit Syrah, Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, Chilean Camenere, etc. So it's just geography and variety, not vintage, wine maker, etc.

Brad, we'd love to have you, but this is for charity. The idea is to raise money, not to spend it. Didn't you say you were heading to the states next year?
 

TheNewBrad

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Brad, we'd love to have you, but this is for charity. The idea is to raise money, not to spend it. Didn't you say you were heading to the states next year?
Maybe Oct next year (subject to change). I have a cousin in Sausalito & a friend in Minnesota. By the way - is your beach house in the Hamptons vacant then?
 

JB

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Claire,
I will give it some thought, and PM you with my findings.
 

ClairefromClare

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Sometimes multi-quote works, and sometimes I doesn't:

Maybe Oct next year (subject to change). I have a cousin in Sausalito & a friend in Minnesota. By the way - is your beach house in the Hamptons vacant then?
That's some serious continent-hopping, Brad. My SIL's house may be available, but then you'd have to deal with her. Next to her, I'm a total pussycat.

Claire,
I will give it some thought, and PM you with my findings.
Thanks. WSJ just did an interesting piece on Oregon Pinot Noirs, but I'm not a huge Pinot fan.
 

JB

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Depends on the Pinots. There are a few up there that are fantastic
 

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I'm a little late to the party, but a style of wine that my wife and I were recently introduced to is Gruner Veltliner. It's a white wine, the bottle we enjoyed was Berger Gruner Veltliner 2007. However, depending on where you live, there might not be many bottles from which to choose. Our local store with the widest selection of wine only had three different bottles available.
 

Smallville

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Two Buck Chuck. Decent wine with a story behind it.
 

worst_shot_ever

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Two Buck Chuck. Decent wine with a story behind it.
Smalls, you hurt me when you say things like that.

Claire, have you tried doing red table wines from Portugal? It remains a bit off the radar still for non-fortified red wines, but it's long history of port production makes it a natural up-and-comer, and it should work within the price point you described. I drank a bunch of these when I visited Portugal a few years ago, but don't recall any of the producers. Nonetheless, there are some hidden treasures out there.

The other obvious contenders for good wine at less than 20 bones would be wines from places like Argentina (malbec), Chile, Uruguay (great tanat), New Zealand (pinot and several whites), and Spain, of course. I realize you've probably exhausted many of these, so another thought is to create a theme where you specify a region's less famous varietal, such as Australian cabernet, or Spanish or Argentinian whites (Argentina produces some good whites up north, but I can't remember the name of the area).

Sounds like fun!
 

Smallville

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Why is that WSE?
 

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For us wine connoiseurs Two Buck Chuck is painful Smalls. But I am not a pretentious wine drinker or lover. I say go with what you like.
 

Smallville

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You do know the story behind Two Buck Chuck don't you?
 

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Actually, I thought I did too, but trying to find it showed me that it was incorrect. But it looks like you beat me to it!
 

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can you play pong with wine?
 

Smallville

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DDB -

You can do anything if you drink enough wine!
 

worst_shot_ever

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Why is that WSE?
Yeah Smalls I'm just razzing you a bit. The story of Two Buck Chuck and Bronco wines really is a fascinating morality tale about human nature and the wine trade in general. Fred Franzia has said and done some provocative things that I agree with entirely, and some other provocative things with which I heartily disagree. Nonetheless, the beauty of wine is that it is a drink for all occassions and all drinkers. There are artificial techniques that some producers employ that cost less and produce equal results as the old-fashioned, artisinal methods in terms of taste, smell, and texture. But there are other techniques that you can identify immediately as artificial substitutes. Often the wines that employ them are refered to as "spoofilated." Two Buck (and Yellow Tail) run in that direction ... things like wood chips instead of oak barrels, color additives, flavoring ingredients, etc etc. But again, if you shut your eyes and drink it and it makes your mouth and mind happy, what more could you ask?

Some notable quotes from a good Wine Spectator article on Franzia (The Bad Boy of California Wine, November 15, 2006, subscription required):

"Fred Franzia is hunched over an adding machine. He punches at the keys, talking his way through calculations, mustering ammo to prove his point—the same one he makes to anyone who'll listen. "Wine doesn't need to be expensive. It shouldn't be so f-ing expensive," he snaps. Franzia—CEO of Bronco Wine Co., based in California's fertile San Joaquin Valley—should know. In 2003, he shook up the California wine world with simple reds and whites bottled under the Charles Shaw label. Priced at just less than $2 a bottle in California, they quickly became known as Two-Buck Chuck and caught fire throughout the United States because of their drinkability and rock-bottom price."

***

"Part of Franzia's strategy for success involves buying surplus finished wine, bottling it quickly and cleanly and selling it cheaply. Or he sells it to other producers, who then market it under their own labels. His is not the genteel world of hand-crafted, single-vineyard wines from prestigious appellations. Franzia deals in the large, commodity-style exchange that forms the backbone of the California bulk-wine market. "

***

"Sometimes he regrets what he says and tries to deny its import—or nastiness. One consistent target, however, is anyone "preaching the high end." "The two worst things, in no particular order, to happen to the wine industry are Wine Spectator and Robert Parker. You do a disservice to the wine consumer," he says.

Still, for all his bluster and combativeness, Franzia has a rough-edged charm and quirky warmth. It's tough to get an objective assessment of him from others, though. Many California vintners have financial reasons for staying on Franzia's good side (several industry professionals contacted for this article refused to speak for attribution).

But however people label Franzia—investment banker, vintner or something less flattering—no one disputes his business savvy. "If anyone thinks they'll be smarter than Fred or get one up on Fred, well, good luck to them," observes Joe Ciatti, owner of wine brokerage Joseph W. Ciatti Co., based in San Rafael, Calif.

"He's one of the smartest people, if not the smartest person, in the California wine industry today," says longtime family friend Michael Mondavi, former CEO of Robert Mondavi Winery. "Fred is the dominant player in the markets he targets."
 

TheGasman

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I prefer a nicely aged bottle of Thunderbird.
 

ClairefromClare

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can you play pong with wine?
We took the kids to Hubby's college reunion in June. At the kids' camp, they were excited to learn to play water pong. Groan. I'd never even HEARD of beer pong before I met Hubby (blame that on Pocket Protector U. again).

WSE, thanks for the suggestions. We've done a lot of them. My basic theory is that when in doubt, head for Iberia or South America. Thanks to our little wine tasting party, we were drinking Malbec before it was on the radar--still patting myself on the back for that one.

There's a cool shiraz I swill by the glass at our club--Qupe. Cool stuff.
 

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We took the kids to Hubby's college reunion in June. At the kids' camp, they were excited to learn to play water pong. Groan. I'd never even HEARD of beer pong before I met Hubby (blame that on Pocket Protector U. again).

WSE, thanks for the suggestions. We've done a lot of them. My basic theory is that when in doubt, head for Iberia or South America. Thanks to our little wine tasting party, we were drinking Malbec before it was on the radar--still patting myself on the back for that one.

There's a cool shiraz I swill by the glass at our club--Qupe. Cool stuff.

haha... start them early, I guess!
 

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