One of our team members suggested a great concept for a Thursday Night Swirl wine tasting that was perfect during the Winter Olympics weeks: several of our staff would choose a wine they liked to present to the Swirl participants, the participants would then evaluate and rate the wines, and a winner would be named.
In order to level the playing field I decided that the wines needed to fall into the $25 to $30 price range. To eliminate opportunity for bias, the wines would have to be tasted blind which means that bottles would be kept covered and the Swirl participants would only know each wine’s grape variety or blend, region of origin, and vintage year. None of the competitors would be allowed to know which wine any of the others had chosen until the big ‘reveal’ at the end of the competition.
Four of my team members stepped up right away so I became the fifth one, and we all set about diligently doing research to choose our winning wine. I took the challenge seriously and invited my wine friend Kathy over to help me wade through some of the bottles. We tasted a B.C. Riesling, a red blend from Portugal, a Washington Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Washington Meritage blend that night. I had already applied myself to the sampling of a Sparkling Burgundy and a Pink Port, and my boss Paul had helped me evaluate a B.C. Meritage and a Spanish Tempranillo, Cabernet, and Merlot blend after work one day. I assure you that this was no small endeavor. I ended up choosing the Washington Cabernet Sauvignon because it was fairly big and juicy with some very nice bright berry and cherry flavours and a noticeable vanilla mocha undertone that greatly pleased my palate.
The big evening finally arrived, and with it a guest list so long that we had to move the event to a larger room in the Ramada Plaza Conference Centre. The Culinary Team provided us with Greek style tapas and a tray of cheeses and breads to go with the wines. Paul had determined the order of the presenters. I introduced the Swirl participants to the concept and entrusted them with the serious work of evaluating and rating each of the wines presented based on colour & appearance, aromas, flavours, and overall quality & value. Bree was first and she presented a 2008 vintage dry Australian Riesling from the Clare Valley with perfect flinty apple and citrus characteristics. Next, Jonathan tasted us on a 2004 vintage blend of Merlot, Cabernet, Garnacha, Syrah, and Tempranillo from Spain. It had great berry and earth components with aged complexity, but there was some sediment in the bottles that ended up in a few of the glasses. Marc was the third presenter with a 2007 vintage Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah blend from Mendoza, Argentina. The wine had firm structure and showed great balance between fruit and tannin. After this, Brandon had us sample a 2007 vintage Shiraz from southern Australia that was rich and concentrated with ripe red fruit, a dash of pepper, and a great long finish. When it was my turn I poured my 2007 vintage Cabernet Sauvignon from Walla Walla Washington, quaking because I already knew that it was lighter in style than the two that had come before it. I flirted with the crowd to remind them that they loved me best and that it was their duty to ensure that my wine won.
After all of the ratings were tallied, Paul announced the winners: tied for first were Marc and Brandon, Jonathan came second, and tied for third were Bree and me. Sigh…. The team lined up behind our paper bag encased bottles and prepared for the big reveal. On the count of three we tore the bags off and revealed our choices to the Swirl participants: Pike’s Clare Valley Riesling at $28.49, Vinos Pinol Portal Terra Alta Crianza for $27.49, Clos de los Siete for $28.99, Bird in Hand Two in the Bush Shiraz at $25.99, and the Magnificent Wine Company Steak House Cabernet Sauvignon for $27.49.
We had a lot of fun that night. Our next Swirl takes place on April 15th at 6pm when we will taste an assortment of wines from South Africa.