Showing posts with label Wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wine. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Matter of Taste

Taste may be the least understood and most personally unique of all the senses, with genes and even geography playing major roles in the flavors we prefer.

History of Tasteful Discovery ~ Click for PDF
The mistaken notion that the tongue is sectioned into specialized zones for sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and later umami, resulted from a haphazard study done in 1901 by a German scientist named D.P. Hanig. Yet despite its inaccuracy, the "tongue tasting map" took hold and reigned until 1974 when another scientist, Virginia Collings, finally examined the research in enough detail to expose its folly. 

Adding to its mystery, taste is integrally tied to the sense of smell. In fact, much of the flavor we experience in our mouths is actually the result of aromas that flow toward the olfactory lobes through a connection at the back of the mouth. This is called Retronasal Olfaction and is the reason behind the slurping and swishing sounds that are common in wine tasting.

Lauren Buzzeo, Tasting Director for Wine Enthusiast Magazine, demonstrates the practice of "aspirating"- using the tongue to suck air into the mouth - in Step 4 of this video Wine 101: How to Taste.
Smell and Taste connect

A Festive Rogue River Blue Cheese
Of course, flavors and aromas are enhanced by all the other senses, creating the impression we record in memory.

An attractive presentation is often what we notice about a food in the first place.  An interesting texture that invites being touched can also spark curiosity about how it would feel against the tongue.

From a practical perspective, it is not surprising that all the senses influence our experience of taste.  This interplay has been our best help in learning to avoid being poisoned.

Flavor Descriptions ~ Click for PDF
As engaging as the biology may be, it is the pleasure (or disgust) of the experience that first comes to mind when we talk of tasting. Fortunately, the ability to appreciate flavors, textures, and aromas is not limited by economic status. There no reason for anyone to be intimidated by the idea of slowly considering what they've placed in their mouths.

Everything we eat presents an opportunity to develop an educated palate to impress the only audience that matters - our own selves. In this respect, taste is a personal revelation that the tongue evaluates and then describes through language, the foundation of all cultural heritage. A kiss, a flavor, a word spoken in love, the tongue is a gateway to the essence of being alive.

In the video below, Julia Powers, an ACS Certified Cheese Professional and graduate of the Academie Opus Caseus Affinage Program, takes us through the few simple steps that begin a lifelong journey of the senses.  By all means, Enjoy!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Washington Wines and the Northwest Wine Academy

Pike Place Tasting Room ~ Seattle 
California no longer continuously tops the list when someone requests an excellent domestic US wine. Washington State was one of the first US regions to cultivate wine grapes and those years of experience have been producing distinguished results for more than a decade.

Even European vintners are taking notice of Washington Wines, exploring the region for possible collaboration and development. In 2011, Paul Beveridge and his Seattle based Wilridge Winery represented Washington State in the Consorzio di Nebbiolo in Stressa, Italy. 

NWWA Monthly Release Tasting
Nebbiolo is an old and revered Italian grape with origins in Piedmont and Lombardy. So it was a particular honor that the Italians were impressed by the Wilridge Estate Nebbiolo and invited Paul to return the following year to speak about his success with cultivating Nebbiolo in the Northwestern United States.

Historians often credit the Hudson Bay Company with planting the first Washington vineyards around 1825. Unlike those cultivated around the Monasteries of California, the majority of Washington grapes at that time were the Concord variety destined for juice, jelly and some fortified beverages.

The earliest noteworthy Washington wines were produced in the 1900’s but were quickly quelled by Prohibition and other restrictive regulation. Meanwhile, in California, sacramental wine was allowed in spite of Prohibition so the Monks were given a market advantage they may have appreciated. 

Home winemaking in Washington, however, did quietly thrive over this period, establishing a dedicated group of family vintners and a small but appreciative audience by the end of Prohibition. 

Significant support for Washington Wines came when the State recognized the economic value of enology and began investing in the development of a world-class industry. The Washington State Commission was formed as a trade and business association in 1987.  
NWWA Alumni Award Tasting

The Commission's lobbying arm, the Washington Wine Institute, opened in 2003 and partnered with Washington State University to offer degrees in all aspects of the industry. 

Always expanding to meet demand for training, WSU is premiering a state-of-the-art Wine Science Center, located near Richland, in January 2015.

Wine Science Center at WSU Tri-Cities from PixelSoft Films on Vimeo.

Students evaluating components of aroma
According to Steve Warner, president of the Washington State Wine Commission, there are more than 800 licensed wineries with an economic impact of nearly $8.6 billion in the State. "Washington wines now consistently outperform wines from other regions of the world," he said.

A 2013 cutting-edge addition to the Northwest Wine Academy (NWWA) on the campus of South Seattle College is also helping to propel Washington vintners to the top of global markets. 

Culinary School Confections
Granting both degrees and certificates in wine making, marketing and pairing with foods, NWWA is now home to a web ready teaching facility, connecting to partner programs around the world.  

Adding to its attraction, rows of gleaming steel tanks and spicy oak barrels also play host to weekly tastings and monthly releases of student and alumni wines. In conjunction with the South Seattle Culinary School, an array of paired delicacies, arranged to please the eye as well as the palate, accompany these public events . 

Anyone new to Washington wines or looking to augment their appreciation will find a comprehensive resource of news, events, history and education at the Washington Wine Commission website.  A great way to prepare for complete enjoyment!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Feed Your Dreams

Assorted French Vinaigre
Assorted French Vinaigre
Assorted Imported Pasta
Assorted Imported Pasta
Imagine you are invited to shop at a gourmet food store that was profiled in Specialty Foods Magazine. Where would you expect to find it?  Portland? Seattle? San Francisco?  How about Red Lodge, Montana? Already on a short list of heavenly retreats, Red Lodge is also becoming a mecca of artisan food production with specialty retailer, Babcock and Miles, at the epicenter of excitement.

Signature Babcock and Miles Spices
Babcock and Miles Spices
Satisfying a HungerOwners Andrew and Karen Porth, an architect and neurologist respectively, fell in love with Red Lodge in 2005. An original Montana mining settlement near the historic gateway to Yellowstone Park, it is now a year-round resort area of  renowned beauty and recreation Red Lodge, though, is a far distance from the usual culinary charms of a major metropolitan area. So to satify their own hunger for fine cuisine, the Porth's opened Babcock and Miles in 2008.

Steve Haman - Babcock and Miles Wine Specialist
Steve Haman ~ Babcock and Miles Wine Specialist
A Tasteful RevivalDetermined to save a building that “needed love”, the Porth’s purchased one of Red Lodge’s oldest and most notorious landmarks. A former brothel turned girls school turned bike shop and bakery, the structure was literally rotting from the ground up when they started renovation. Extensive repairs, which included lifting the entire building in order to construct a new foundation, took place before the exquisite exterior restoration could begin.

Extensive Cheese Selection
Extensive Cheese Selection
Only the BestNext Andrew and Karen filled their shop with curated selections of the best cheeses, wines and specialty foods available from both local suppliers and throughout the world. The crowning touch was hiring a dedicated professional staff that customers have come to know as a consulting resource even when they are outside of Red Lodge.The shop sends products to all parts of the country on an almost daily basis.  Steve Haman, the resident Wine Buyer, regularly advises customers from outside Montana calling for his recommendations, even on wines that he can't ship to them because of state laws. It is this level of personal trust and rapport that allows such a high end shop to flourish in a small Montana resort town of under 2,500 residents.

The Finest Tools and Supplies
The Finest Tools and Supplies
Locating the SecretBeing a bona fide treasure, Babcock and Miles is slightly hidden from the beaten path. In Red Lodge, though, that only means turning a corner off the main street. Feed your dreams at Babcock and Miles! Babcock & Miles, Ltd. 105 12th St, Red Lodge, Mt 110 ft E (406) 446-1796