I just spent a fantastic evening with the folks at Binny's Schaumburg. The wine manager put on a fabulous sit down tasting of Bordeaux. All told we sampled 6 wines from the 2003 vintage, each from a different region in Bordeaux. Tasting of each wine included extensive discussion on the region's wines, soil, and location.
The tasting was well organized. When my wife and I arrived, we were checked off the reservation list, and offered a seat. At each seat there was a map of Bordeaux, a description of each region we tasted from, a pencil, water, and 6 stems each with a couple ounces of wine. The wine was already poured and had had about half an hour to breathe. All told there was space for about 30 people to attend, and most of the seats were filled.
The wines seemed carefully selected. Each wine was a high quality example of the DOC it was from. Prices ranged from $23.99 to $54.99, and each one seemed worth the price.
The tasting consisted of a short discussion on the characteristics of the region, and a guided evaluation of the wine as we tasted it. I was very impressed with the guided portion of the tasting. Each time we were asked to evaluate the color, the bouquet, and the palate. What was most impressive about this process was the pace at which it was conducted. It is often the case that someone guiding me through the tasting of a wine will shout out descriptors before the wine has hit my lips, putting me at a handicap for making up my own mind. In this case the instructor's timing was such that I had time to consider the wine and what I thought before he added his own opinion to mine. He acted more as a sounding board for the group than a definitive authority. In fact I think it was an excellent opportunity to calibrate my own thoughts against his. At one point I suggested that the wine had a black licorice component to it; The instructor suggested that anise might be a better descriptor in this case. In another case, after we swirled and sniffed, he announced that the pronounced aroma was "pencil lead" which is a distinctive character of Paullac.
One of the interesting things about a sit down exercise like this is the ability to go back to a wine from the beginning and try it again. I always feel like it takes a little bit of a warming up period to be able to pick out the nuances of a wine. Having that sample in front of me to go back to is always a good way to get the most out of a tasting experience.
The tasting was free. In fact by village ordinance all the tastings are free at Binny's Schaumburg. This was a rare opportunity to enjoy some quality Bordeaux in a controlled setting, and I really appreciated it. Check the calendar for more tastings going on in Schaumburg in the coming weeks. I'll be posting the notes from some of the wines on Snooth in the next couple days. Be sure to check those out.