Friday, July 18, 2014

How to Host a Rose Tasting

Crisp, Clean, Floral, Juicy, Berry Good…words that perfectly describe a fun evening of rose with friends. That’s exactly what we did with a diverse group of friends recently. By diverse, I mean we were all over the spectrum of wine lovers – from our gracious host that owns a large wine cellar – to the sangria-cosmopolitan-wine-cooler-loving gal who stated she was just along for the fun.

It's interesting that Rose seems to be a great equalizer in the wine world. Most of us, familiar with pinky-pinky-pinky-sticky-sweetie white zinfandel, have just rediscovered Rose. What's wrong with a chance to taste and investigate an interesting new “category” of yummy wine with friends?
We started with an invitation – ours was an quick email asking everyone to bring a rose and a dish to go with salmon, tomato and olive salsa off the grill. The bottles were from all over the world, most handed over with the admission that the wine shop employee picked their bottle for them, or they bought the wine because they liked the label. (See, you are not the only person who does this:)

No wine gathering can do without a glass of bubbly handed to each person as they walk in the door. Our choice was Lucien Albrecht Crement d’Alsace. a creamy and strawberry tasting sparkler from France. Rated 90 by the Wine Enthusiast this sparkler is made with 100% Pinot Blanc in the traditional method – just like Champagne. With a price tag just over $20 at Total Wine, it’s a winner in my sparkly rose category!

With a glass of bubbly in hand, the guests placed their wine in the icy wine bucket and it was tagged with a number. An index card and a pen was given to everyone, the appetizers set out and work began!

Our goal was to taste each wine and rate the wine on a scale of 1 to 5 - 5 was worthy of accompanying our last meal and 1 was “I’d order a beer if this was the only wine available..” A large bucket was placed in the middle of the table for dumping and spitting.  (If you want to be fancy – you can call it a spittoon or, in really snooty – in French its “un crachoir”)

Why in the world would you want to spit and dump? The simple answer is that you can’t taste wine when you are drunk.  I love how wine expert Jeff Morgan puts the problem, “Alcohol is ultimately stronger than anyone’s constitution.”. (I’d like to offer an amen to that statement.) My favorite “bucket” isn’t one at all – it's a red or blue colored opaque Solo cup. I can keep it close to me without having to bend over others to spit, which can be extremely difficult, especially with amateur spitters! Always spit and dump during tasting - remember, if you like a wine enough for a glass, you can always go back and pour one to accompany dinner.

I had lots of questions from folks about how to taste – and what aromas and flavors we trying to find. This didn’t surprise me, because when I teach a wine class that’s one of the first things that I am asked. My answer? Its not rocket science. It’s simply smelling and tasting with attention. (This subject is worth a blog on its on, and I’ll write one soon.) For a fun tasting like this gathering, I ask people to try to isolate two aromas in the wine, does is smell like berries? Is there a citrus smell in there? Two other quick things: does it taste like it smells, and how long does it linger in your mouth. With these four questions, each individual can pretty easily decide where the wines fall in the 1 to 5 range.

Our gathering at the ice bucket lasted about 45 minutes of tasting, laughter and comparison. We moved on to dinner, and each poured one of our favorites to enjoy. At dessert, a winner was announced:
The Domaine Pierre Usseglio and Fils Cotes du Rhone Rose 2012. Score one for my favorite wine region in the world, the Rhone Valley in France. This wine provided a mouthful of creamy strawberry and light citrus flavors, perfect for a warm evening and a cookout with friends. Made mostly with the Grenache grape, I found it at Sherlocks wine store in Brookhaven, for around $20. Perfect pairing with the salmon, too!

I can say with lots of enthusiasm that each of us left the party with a better appreciation of the complexity and deliciousness of rose. What a great way to explore a wine type from around the world. The group has promised to get together again – next time we are going to explore Zinfandel and its Italian cousin Primitivo – paired with a delicious dinner and lots of fun.

Here’s the recipe for our main dish, enjoyed by all:

Grilled Salmon with Rustic Tomato Olive Relish

The Marinade:
2 TB Olive Oil
1 TB Lemon Juice
1 Clove Garlic, Chopped
1/2 Tsp Crushed Red Chili Flakes
2 TB Dijon Mustard
1/2 Tsp Cracked Black Pepper
1/2 Tsp Sea Salt
The Salmon: 1 1/2 LB Salmon Filet, Skinned

Combine the Marinade ingredients in a zippy bag - add the Salmon and marinate for 30 minutes. Preheat the grill on high for 10 minutes. Remove the Salmon and pat dry. Turn the grill to medium. Grill just until marks appear and then finish roasting off in the oven – about 10 minutes. 
Remove and top with:

Rustic Tomato Olive Relish
2 TB Olive Oil
1 TB Lemon Juice
1 Clove Garlic, Chopped
1 Cup Grape Tomatoes, quartered
1/2 Cup Kalamata Olives, Chopped
1/2 Cup Green Olives, Chopped
1/4 Cup Italian Parsley, Chopped
1/8 Cup Capers
1/2 Tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/4 Tsp Sea Salt

Mix all the ingredients together. (Great with Pita Chips, too!)

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