by John Dunham, advicesisters.com wine columnist
A Virtual Wine Tasting With Snooth.com
Its been a few months since the Advice Sisters last attended a Snooth.com virtual wine tasting. These events are held every few months by Snooth.com, an on-line community for wine lovers. By hosting these tastings, Snooth.com allows community members to interact with wineries, stores, fellow wine lovers, and wine professionals in real time from all over the world. For us, the Snooth.com virtual wine tastings provide an opportunity to drink some wines we might not have heard about, and learn from experts that we would not normally have contact with. Its also an opportunity to invite some of our fellow wine lovers to try something new.
Muriettas Well Winery:
This tasting featured four wines from Murrieta’s Well, a historic winery that is part of Wente Vineyards, in Livermore, California based producer that is considered to be the oldest continuously operating, family-owned winery in the United States. The virtual tasting was hosted by Snooth co-founder Mark Angelillo and featured Murrieta’s Well winemaker Robbie Meyer.
Before we discuss the wines, we wanted to note that while Wente is a fairly good sized producer, the Murrieta’s Well bottlings are all small production, and may not be generally available in all areas. Snooth.com sent us the wines for the review.
Generally, for Snooth’s virtual tastings, the wines being sampled will be available through retailers linked on Snooth.com. If your state does not allow for direct shipment, this is a good way to find smaller production wines. For states with direct shipment, the wines from this tasting are available direct from the winery at https://murrietaswell.com/wines.
How to Prepare for a Virtual Wine Tasting:
Preparing for a virtual wine tasting is similar to hosting one yourself – but with the added plus that you don’t need to learn about and research the wines in advance. Snooth.com is a great place to find these tastings, but other sites host them as well.
While we love working with Snooth.com and connecting with like-minded others around the world, if you are so inclined you can even host your own virtual tasting with friends and family. All you need is a twitter account and skype.
To prepare for a DIY Virtual Wine Tasting Do These Five Things:
First, sign up and second invite a few friends over. We have found that you need at least 4 people (remember you will be sampling 4 to 5 wines). You don’t want to invite too many. We’ve done tastings with a dozen people and they simply degenerate into a party, so probably 8 people for a tasting would be a maximum.
Next, you will need to determine what wines are going to be tasted and purchase enough for the number of people attending. Generally, you will be tasting 4 or 5 wines, so if everyone has a glass of each they will be drinking a whole bottle (that is if they don’t spit and honestly who does at a friend’s tasting). *if this is virtual everyone is buying their own wine but having friends there in person is part of the fun, We also recommend having a “starter wine” for those who come early.
If you, like us, will be drinking about 4 glasses of wine over the course of a few hours, be sure your guests have enough to eat and enough time to sober up before going home. We generally just provide cheese, bread, fruit and other nibbles. Others who have joined us on Snooth.com tastings host full dinners. Do your research to match your food with the wines being tasted.
You will need to have a place for people to watch the hosts on a screen as these events are usually hosted over some form of streaming video. Streaming to a large screen is best. We can’t do this and keeping the social media and conversation going at the same time is challenging. Test your hookup prior to the event as sometimes the feed isn’t perfect.
Finally, right before people begin to arrive ensure that your white wines are chilled and your reds are opened and if necessary decanted. Once the the event kicks off it will go quickly and the house sommelier in our case me) will be running around filling and changing glasses as you go through the wines.
Once the event starts – participate. Ask questions of the host through the streaming service. Make comments. You should encourage your guests to discuss the wines including their color, their nose and finally the taste. Remember there are no right and wrong answers to what people see, smell and taste as everyone has a different palate.
A good host should encourage discussion and participation because in the end a virtual tasting is not just supposed to be fun but it is also supposed to be educational.
The Oldest Family Operated Winery in the United States
We had 5 people over and with 4 bottles and a starter that was a bottle per person over a two hour evening. This means that my notes by the third or fourth wine were getting a bit frayed. Even so, we had a great time and learned a lot about Livermore Valley wines.As was mentioned before, Wente is the oldest family operated
As was mentioned before, Wente is the oldest family operated winery in the country and wine has been produced in the Livermore Valley since the late 1800s. The region has predominately gravel based soils and has wide day/night temperature swings due to winds off of the the San Francisco Bay.
Wines from the valley earned recognition at the 1889 Paris Exposition, becoming the first California wines to win a competition in France.
Like its northern neighbor, Napa Valley, the Livermore AVA produces a wide range of wine grapes, and is well known for producing Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Rhone varieties. Murrieta’s Well takes advantage of this range and focuses on the production of small-batch blended wines.
As Mr. Meyer said during the tasting, they make their wines one block at a time (even for varietal bottlings) with blocks chosen so that they are not all similar.
We sampled four different wines from Murrieta’s Well, beginning with Murrieta’s Well Chardonnay Small Lot Livermore Valley 2014 ($44) and The Whip White Wine Blend Livermore Valley 2014 ($24)
The Chardonnay is made using grapes from a range of different blocks throughout the vineyard. These are fermented in the barrel using 50-75 percent new French oak. The wine was golden in color and had the oaky buttery nose that is common with California Chardonnay wines. There were some citrusy lime notes on the nose as well. I’m not personally a fan of California style Chardonnay but this was a nice wine. While too buttery for my taste, it has a light character, with peach notes and some citrus pith on the finish. The tasting notes for the wine say that there are a lot of tropical fruits, but on my palate these simply did not appear. This is a nice cocktail hour wine and paired well with the light cheeses that we had for the tasting, and would also go well with lighter dishes like chicken or summer salads.
The second white was one of Murrieta’s Well’s blended wines. Known as The Whip, the wine is made up of Semillon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Orange Muscat, Muscat Canelli and Viognier varietals. Mr. Meyer said that this wine represents a survey of the vineyards, and will change from year to year depending on conditions. The 2014 is a light golden yellow color with a very floral nose redolent in orange blossoms. There are loads of floral notes on the front of the palate, with peaches, tropical fruits and a bit of honey across the tongue. On the finish there are not peppery notes. This is a nice wine with light minerality and good balanced acids. When we paired this with light cheeses it really brought out the orange notes, and we would recommend this wine for something like a cheese pairing or with very simple and bland foods. The wine is complex and a pleasure to just drink and enjoy.
Moving to the reds, we began with Murrieta’s Well Cabernet Sauvignon Small Lot Livermore Valley 2013 ($58). This wine which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Pitite Sirah, Petite Verdon and Merlot was fermented in stainless steel and then aged for 2 months in 70 percent new French Oak barrels. The wine is very dark red to almost black in color. The nose has a bit of the laundry room notes that one often sees from Malbec but was focused on red fruits including raspberry, cherry and strawberry. The wine was slightly tart up front but opened into an orgy of fruit including cherry and blueberry There was some spice on the finish. The wine was a very good vision of a California fruit forward Cabernet and would be great paired with duck, stews and roast beef. We pictured this wine paired with a duck and olives dish that we had at Restaurant Allard in Paris.
Finally we tasted Murrieta’s Well The Spur Red Wine Blend Livermore Valley 2013 ($48). This wine is a similar blend to the Cabernet, with Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, and like the Whip represents a survey of the property. The wine was a dark red color, with vanilla up front on the nose moving toward strawberry and plum notes. The wine has an excellent structure with some plum and cherry up front and a lot of spicy notes across the palate. The wine was not nearly as fruit forward as the Cabernet and it good structure and balance would make it a very nice pairing wine for grilled foods like ribs, pork chops or a nice steak.