The last time I attended a blind wine tasting several years ago at Jamesport Vineyards. I was in the dark as to what to expect. I knew that I enjoyed the wines, and thought it would be fun to try to guess. Little did I know that walking out a couple of hours later I would hold the proud distinction of being dead last in the room!
Flash forward to the present and another blind tasting opportunity at Jamesport, on the North Fork of Long Island. After summoning all my reserved bravado, I figured why not. Surely by now I’d learned something about the aromas and tastes in the nose and finish of wines. Surely by now I’d have a fighting chance at getting around between a pinot noir and a merlot. Well, at least it was a good way to find out!
I arrived at Jamesport not sure what to expect. There was a large group assembled (larger than the downstairs barrel room could handle, so the event was held in the main tasting room). While waiting for the main event, there was wine trivia to be played (such as, which California region produces the best cabernet sauvignon, to which I answered none of the above…but to which the actual answer on the card was Rutherford… debate that amongst yourselves…) and cheeses to nibble.
Finally, Meghan Cerola (wine club manager) and Laura Hoch (tasting room manager) got the ball rolling, with Ron Goerler Jr (owner/winemaker) narrating on the side with some wine tips and facts. First out of the gate was a barrel tasting of a forthcoming white. Cloudy appearance (it was a barrel sample, so had not gone through final filtration!), but clean nose…wait, was that a bit of vanilla, or was it fruity??? The evidence pointed to sauvignon blanc…one right!
And so, on to the next with a newfound confidence. Meg, Laura and Ron made it clear…no wrong answers in the sensory stage…use the handy dandy tasting sheets and aroma wheel, and mark it as you smelled/tasted it. Of course, the one thing they neglected was to also to go with first instinct! After putting down riesling, I second-guessed and went to chardonnay. Right, then wrong…
And so it went down the line. Lots of smiles, lots of tidbits about climate, growing seasons for different grapes, why some work so well and others don’t…and mostly the stories behind the wines themselves and why Jamesport, founded in 1986, has stayed on top of their game for so long. The reserve chardonnay did come third, followed by the pinot noir, East End Merlot and Sidor Reserve.
At the end, I managed four of six, but realized it coulda shoulda been all six but for my second-guessing myself on two of the wines. But a whole lot better than the last time, and…something to shoot for next time.
So, if you get the chance, a blind tasting is the thing. There are no wrong guesses about what you think you’re smelling or tasting…and you might just learn something in the process about wine and have a lot of fun, which, after all, is the real point! — by Steve Bedney