This is the first in a series of Flavor Guides designed to help you turn wine tastings from one big blur into a catalog of wines you can actually remember. I’ve been to countless wine-based functions and whether the wine is just okay or absolutely delicious, each event has one thing in common: once you leave your tasting glass behind, it’s really hard to remember what the heck you had in it. It’s not the most common example, but when I went to the Wine Spectator Grand Tour event in Las Vegas in May, there were probably 200 wineries represented. I was lucky enough to have already tried over half of the wines at some point in the past eight years of studying, so I had the benefit of repetition on my side, but all I could think was, “Dude, how will these people remember all of these wines?!”
When I meet people who mention a recent wine event they attended, I’ll ask them what their favorite wine was, and if the tasting was only a few days ago, maybe they’ll remember one or two standouts. But after a month, the number of wines they remember drops, often to a big, fat zero. Why is that? I think it’s because so many people in my industry spend time educating for the moment and not for the future. To me, this is ass-backwards. When you have the wine in front of you, the taste is enough because flavor is so immediate; days or weeks later, you need something else to grab onto in order to remember what made one wine different from the next.
The best example that I can express this with is Cabernet Sauvignons from the West Coast. People talk about big West Coast Cabs like they’re all the same, but if you’ve ever grabbed a random bottle and found it not quite to your liking, you know that Cali Cabs, for example, aren’t as interchangeable as some people think.
Most Cabernet drinkers would just say, “I’ll take a Cab!” and be done with it. I mean, we like the big, bold, fruity, and dry-finishing powerhouses California and Washington state offer, but if you were at the Wine Spectator Grand Tour and wanted to try to remember the 15-20 different wines from the West Coast, good luck, right? After the first 6 or 8, all you’re tasting is happiness and tannins.
My Flavor Guides are meant to help solve this kind of “what was what” confusion. By learning what a typical Cab in each growing area would be like, you memorize key identifiers that help you draw a line between what you tasted then and how you remember it now. You may not remember that bold, dark fruit and pine-scented chewy-thick Cab as the Ladera from Howell Mountain, but if you learn what Howell Mountain Cabs taste like, it’ll trigger your sense memory and your mind will start to fill in the blanks. After watching the video, take a look below at my suggestions at the end of this post!
Try These West Coast Cabernets
- Columbia Valley, Washington
- Wine: L’Ecole 41 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: $32 BUY ME
- Napa Valley (Mountain), California
- Wine: Terra Valentine Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon 2013: $43 BUY ME
- Napa Valley (Floor), California
- Wine: Freemark Abbey Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: $50 BUY ME
- Sonoma, California
- Wine: Chateau St. Jean Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2013: $25 BUY ME
- Paso Robles, California
- Wine: Cass Winery Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2013: $40 BUY ME
Mario Luna is a Certified Sommelier and owner of Mario Luna Somm, a company that produces online wine courses, blogs, and other user-friendly content that makes wine education simple, accessible, and above all, entertaining! He lives in Las Vegas where, in addition to working on the famous Las Vegas Strip, he serves as a consultant for large-scale wine events, specialty shops, and all kinds of wine tastings. You can contact Mario through mariolunasomm.com or kick of your wine education with one of his online wine courses.