Alex and I spent the first week of December in Napa Valley. Whenever I teach in Northern California, we try to make a weekend out of it. We just happen to hit “the valley” at the perfect time. There was a chill in the air, and no tourists in sight (except us, I suppose). We got a beautiful room at Southbridge in St. Helena on the main road, complete with a fireplace, 135 degrees of windows, overlooking our favorite hamburger stand (Taylor’s Refresher, coincidentally). Bonus: They gave us yummy chocolate covered cookies when they turned down the bed. How these people are able to live here and not weigh 300 pounds is beyond me. There is just too much good food around.
On our last night, we had dinner at Brasswood Bar + Kitchen. The most interesting part of the dinner was actually their “Scent”-sory experience right next to their retail shop. (Well, that ,and the freshly made mozzarella on grilled toast.) On a back bar, in a room with a long communal dining table, was a scent bar. A row of bulbous domes with a stopper on top were lined up on the bar. In side, were the common scents associated with various wine varieties. I was like a kid in a candy store, opening each of the orbs and sniffing the inside. Then re-sniffing and trying to remember that chardonnay I had earlier that day. I don’t profess to be a wine expert, and, frankly, I don’t really want to be one. I just enjoy the experience of sharing good wine with others.
Maybe one day websites will come with a scratch and sniff feature. Until then, you’ll have to imagine these aromas for yourself… or visit Brasswood. Cheers.
Sauvignon Blanc– This was the start of my wine education. Though no longer my favorite, occasionally I’ll find a real jem. Flora Springs has a fantastic one. Bright citrus and green grass, tart and refreshing.
Fun Fact: The Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc were grafted many moons ago to give us the iconic Cabernet Sauvignon.
Gewürztraminer– Memories of the Rhine and Danube drift through my mind as I sniffed the roses and butter. Typically very sweet, I prefer the more dry version.
Cabernet Sauvignon– Pepper, earth, and oak with a hint of red berries. The grande dame of Napa Valley, it is hard not to find a great one in every direction you look. My favorites include Flora Springs Rennie Reserve and Caymus.
Chardonnay– Citrus, yeasty bread, apples and nuts, and a hint of flowers. While many love the pure un-oaked version, I love the well oaked versions, thick with vanilla and butter. One of my favorites is the J Lohr Arroyo Seco Chardonnay.
Sangiovese– Spice and herbs take center stage in this Italian variety that is the basis of Chianti. It reminds me of that Tuscan village with 14 towers, with me in one of the windows overlooking the town well, wondering what roulade or porchetta will be on the menu tonight.
Tertiary– May I never stop learning. I had to look this one up. Tertiary aromas are those that develop through bottled aging, and as you may have noted above, are some of my favorite. Vanilla, nuts, and chocolate.