Every time the Advice Sisters has a chance to review one of Snooth’s virtual wine tastings we jump at it. These are always an excellent opportunity to taste wines with a well-informed group of “virtual” people under the guidance of Snooth’s resident expert, Editor-in-Chief Gregory Dal Piaz. We always learn a great deal about the particular region or varietal that Snooth is featuring. A virtual wine tasting is not really much different than attending or hosting a wine tasting event in person. Wines are pre-selected on a theme, scheduled to be opened and tasted in a particular order, and if you are fortunate, you have an educated guide or host who will tell you about the wines you are drinking as you are doing so. You’ll get a chance to compare your own thoughts on the wine with those of other people, and perhaps, pair the wines with various types of food.
A virtual wine tasting has all of these elements, only you’re not all in the same room. In fact, the participants can be in their own places literally all over the Country or the world. And when they’re participating on Snooth’s website, they’re usually well-informed about wine, and under the guidance of Snooth’s resident expert, Editor-in-Chief Gregory Dal Piaz. The communication is conducted via chat room while participants watch a live video feed usually with the wine-makers and/or travel experts in that particular area. The Advice Sisters always learn a great deal about the particular region or varietal that Snooth is featuring. With Snooth, there’s no need to hire a sommelier who will spend hours preparing for your particular tasting. As we continue to attend these virtual tastings, we have started to recognize some of Snooth’s “regulars” and it’s fun to chat with this dedicated audience of regulars, who are enthusiastic about the wine, and the chance to discuss it, intelligently with one another. We also love listening to people’s food pairings.
Unfortunately, the virtual world and the real world do not always interact perfectly, and at the last virtual tasting – this one featuring four wines from the Dona Paula Estate in Argentina’s Mendoza region – was hampered by technical problems. Because of this, we were disappointed that the virtual feed didn’t allow us to hear or interact with Gregory or with Dona Paula’s Head Viticulturalist, Martín Kaiser –but still, our little group of Advice Sisters guests had an interesting experience participating on the chat room with other Snooth guests, and we did learn something about the wines y discussing them amongst ourselves.
Doña Paula is among the largest Argentinean wineries, and exports nearly all of its 750,000 cases of production. The Dona Paula Estate collection consists of Doña Paula Estate collection consists of 5 wines, 4 of which were featured in the virtual tasting, and two of which, the Malbec and the Torrontes, we tasted. In addition, the winery produces a Chardonnay, and a Cabernet Sauvignon that were featured during the virtual tasting, as well as a Malbec-Syrah blend.
Having recently attended an Argentinian walk-about tasting, we were particularly happy to taste the two most popular grapes of the Mendoza region. This area is Argentina’s most important wine region and produces almost two-thirds of all of the wine in the country. It is a hilly region with a continental climate that has been compared to the Bordeaux region in France. Its lack of temperature extremes and low rainfall provide a good climate to manage grape production and maturation. Meanwhile the alluvial soil composed of loose sand over clay allow for good drainage. No wonder the Bordeaux style grapes prosper here.
The first wine that we tasted was Dona Paula Estate Torrontés (2011). As we discussed in our recent comments on Argentinian wines, the Torrontes grape produces a distinctive white wine with a very floral nose and a somewhat salty palate that reminds one of the seashore. The wine has been compared to a Vigonier, but we thought it was uniquely different. Torrontes also does not age well,which is why it is not exported to a great as an extent as Malbec. But it’s go to go when you drink it now.
Dona Paula Estate Torrontes (2011) sells in the United States for about $15 per bottle. The grapes are grown in the mountains at an elevation of nearly 5,600 feet (1,700 meters) above sea level, in an area with hot days and cold nights. Grapes are harvested over three periods with each period providing a different feature to the wine – early harvest provides acidity, themed harvest the floral notes, and the later harvest the fruit aromas. Dona Paula Torrontes had the expected floral nose, with aromas of jasmine and orange blossom. On the palate it had a bit more of a mineral taste than other versions of the varietal that we have sampled, and we thought it a bit harsh. That said, the minerality would help the wine pair well with food, and participants in the Snooth virtual tasting suggested that they were enjoying it with Thai food. Others also recommended that the Torrontes be served very cold. We had not chilled the wine much prior to the tasting and that may have also added to the bitterness that we found in this particular wine.
In full disclosure, press receives courtesy and some sampling of wines when we participate in tastings, but we don’t get everything to taste. We waited for others to taste a Dona Paula Cabernet, we poured the Malbec. The Dona Paula Estate Malbec (2011) is also priced at a very reasonable $15 per bottle in the United States. This was we felt an excellent Argentinian example of this Bordeaux varietal, and we enjoyed it a great deal. These grapes come from the winery’s best vineyards in Altamira and Gualtallary (and like the torrontes are grown at high elevations). This cool climate and minerally rocky soils produce grapes with a low yield but substantial character.
The Malbec was an intense purple color, with a spicy, peppery nose with a hint of violet. While the winemakers notes on the Malbec suggested that there were mineral and graphite notes we really did not see these, but tasted a pleasantly fruity wine, with black fruits and plums, almost the type of fruit that one would expect from a Merlot. In fact we compared the wine to a fruit forward Pacific Northwest Merlot. The wine was well balanced with soft tannins, suggesting that it should be served fairly young, and though it could stand some cellaring, this would probably not be appropriate for this particular Malbec.
Our verdict? While this particular virtual wine tasting had a few glitches, we still learned that Dona Paula produces some excellent wines, particularly at an affordable price of roughly $15.oo per delicious bottle. And we got to share our delight with friends new and old, through Snooth Virtual Tasting. They’re a great way to learn about wines from the comfort of home.
Visit http://Snooth.com to learn more about Snooth and all of the things they offer for wine lovers, and you can also check out some of the previous wine tasting events, including the two that The Advice Sisters participated in (hint: I’m logged in as “AdvicesisterA”) , at: http://www.snooth.com/video/
the advice sisters thank John Dunham, our wine enthusiast, for helping with this review