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I was introduced to the similarities between wine and coffee with the Nez du Cafe coffee aroma kit. The kit is to develop a sense of smell for the many different flavor accents that can be found in coffee. It comes with 36 aromas altogether. The creator of the Nez du Cafe kit previously made one for wine called the Nez Du Vin. These translate literally to the “nose” of coffee and wine.
Last week, I visited the J Lohr vineyard in Paso Robles, on California’s Central Coast. J Lohr (The J is short for Jerry) has been a family-run wine maker for around 40 years. My brother raves about their Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon, so I decided since I was in the area that I would visit for myself. It was an opportunity for me to not only gloat about the visit to my brother, but to engage the similarities between tasting coffee and wine.
As I prepare to open the Make Good Coffee Co. in San Diego, California, I’ve been roasting and evaluating many small batches of coffee. The evaluation involves cupping the coffee after it’s been roasted, against a profile evaluation form. I decided I would go into J Lohr using the same evaluation for their wine as I would for coffee. Also, the night before, I watched the movie Sideways, particularly the hilarious scene above. I am not the wine connoisseur that my brother is.
I arrived as the tasting room was opening so I could have my host’s undivided attention, and ask lots of dumb questions. She offered me six complimentary pours from their list of wines. The wines listed were not those available at the local grocery store, but rather exclusive wines available only at the vineyard or over their website.
I chose six red wines, since my brother raves about their Cabernet Sauvignon. I brought a notepad with me to scribble as many notes as I could just as though I was evaluating coffee. For whatever reason, I find the first impressions of smell to be fleeting, so that you get one good shot at picking up what is unique about it. The fragrance doesn’t go away, but I find the sensitivity of smelling it to be powerful just once.
With each of the six pours, I took notes on five attributes that I evaluated separately. The first involves smelling the wine, and the other four involve tasting the wine. This meant being careful to break each of the six pours into four sips or tastes each.
– Aroma/fragrance: I smelled the wine, and probably looked like Miles from Sideways, spinning the wine in the glass and sticking my ample nose into it. I was looking for anything that stood out.
– Flavor: With my first taste of the wine, I was looking for specific accents. Anything that would separate that wine from others. For instance, that it is sweet, spicy, fruity, etc.
– Aftertaste: With a second sip, I would evaluate whether the aftertaste was short or lingering, and what it consisted of in flavor. The aftertaste could offer a different experience than the initial flavor.
– Acidity: An often misunderstood characteristic (at least in coffee), this is the tart or brightness. Was it mild (think of the flavor of a banana) or did it have a “pop” (think of the flavor of a raspberry)?
– Mouthfeel: Finally, an evaluation of the body of the wine. When evaluating mouthfeel in coffee, it can be thin like skim milk or thick like whole milk.
After many scribbled notes, my finalist was their Carol’s Vineyard, a Cabernet Sauvignon, produced from land that J Lohr owns in California’s Napa wine country. I liked the heavy body, fruity flavor, and nice aftertaste. As you can see, my description of wines has room to grow!
As a side note, Carol Lohr for whom this wine is named, was Jerry’s late wife. Proceeds from this wine are donated to breast cancer research. A big wine and a great cause.
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