Our latest wine adventure

In January, I described our visit to an urban winery and described the other wine adventures soon to follow.    Recently, we went on the second leg of our Wine Exploration:  Tasting the Master’s Way.   The Master in this case was Randa Warren.  (One of our local art museums, Philbrook, hosts a most popular Wine Experience every year.   We can NOT afford to attend the “Experience” but we could handle the “Exploration.”   So far, this is money well spent—and it does benefit the museum.)

Warren is one of only sixteen female Master Sommeliers in the world.   Her list of accomplishments and accolades is lengthy.

Can I just say this, however?   She is a hoot!

We had taken this same class last year and she is one of the reasons we signed on for the entire series this year.

Last year one of her quotes that stayed with me was “I drink wine to make other people more interesting.”

This year, let’s just say, she was on a roll:

The only time I refused a glass of wine was when I misunderstood the question.

Wine is the only reason I get up out of bed in the afternoon.

An alcoholic is someone who drinks slightly more than their doctor.

I really feel sorry for people who don’t drink.

She inserted her humor throughout the evening along with sharing her extensive knowledge of wine and food.   And, I tried to keep up with my notes.

Yes, I really do write this sloppy. It was not the wine! (There are lots more notes on the back of this sheet and on our numbered tasting chart.)

Basically, our lesson for the evening was to be able to tell Old World wines from the New World.    So you won’t have to decipher my notes, here is the basic run-down:

Old World:  (These obviously encompass French, Spanish, Italian, German and any other EU countries’ wines.)

  • Earthy characteristics
  • Higher acidity (because of the cooler climate)
  • Less intensity and lower alcohol content

New World:   (These wines would originate from everywhere else.)

  • Fruit-driven characteristics
  • Lower acidity
  • Higher alcohol content

We were doing a blind tasting (with a lot of help from Warren).


We started the evening with a glass of Gloria Ferrer 1996 Sparkling Wine.   Then we got down to business.   Warren put us through our paces but coached us on appearance, nose, and taste.

And of course, she quoted Lilly Bollinger for a toast:

I only drink champagne when I’m happy, and when I’m sad.
Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone.
When I have company, I consider it obligatory.
I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am.
Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.

—-Lilly Bollinger

These are the wines (and perfect food pairings) that we had:

  • An Old World Clos de Nouys Vouvray Chenin Blanc (from the Loire Valley) paired with Smoked Salmon, Crème Fraîche and Caviar.
  • A New World Chardonnay from J Vineyards (aged in French oak and from the Russian River Valley) paired with honey, Manchego and a sprinkling of salt.   (This was perhaps my favorite pairing.)
  • An Old World Marques de Caceres Rioja Crianza 2008 (a blend of 85% tempranillo and 15% garnacha) paired with Porcini Mushroom Flan with Blueberry Chutney.
  • A New World Hidden Ridge Cabernet Sauvingon 2006 paired with Smoked Duck with BBQ sauce.  (This wine has an Oklahoma connection.   One of the owners is from Enid.)

Our food pairings (Clockwise from top: smoked salmon, mushroom flan, smoked duck, Manchego)

I could go on and on with advice, quotes and wisdom from Warren but I will close with just a few tidbits:

  1. When cooking, all the best chefs will tell you to use the wine you’re drinking or a comparable one.   Warren somewhat dismisses this.  Use what you like (just not the grocery store cooking wines).
  2. Go out on a limb when asked to describe a wine.   I think she is somewhat famous for saying that the nose of a sauvignon blanc resembles a cat box.    (We had a lot of fun coming up with apt descriptions for these wines including pencil lead, diesel fumes, pinon, and cake batter.)
  3. A highly acidic wine will leave you feeling like you “licked a Harris tweed jacket.”
  4. Pair wine to the food preparation and not the protein.  Also consider the sauce.   The wine you serve with a piece of poached chicken will differ greatly from what you serve with a grilled or roasted chicken.

When asked when she might send a wine back she replied, “If it smelled like wet basement or a gym bag.   Just return it and say it is faulted.”   She advised not to order the same wine because the case or even vintage might be faulted.

I look forward to our next two Explorations in this series:

  • Climbing the Mountain:  Understanding Altitude and It’s Profound Effect on the World of Fine Wine.
  • Pruning & Grafting Seminar to offer a complete perspective from the garden to the table.

Stay tuned for more wine adventures to come!

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