Sunrise in Sonoma was nothing short of magical, and since we were on Eastern time, we were up well before the light! Our view out over the Chardonnay vineyard at Vintner’s Inn was breathtaking, and it was so quiet!
Even though the morning was a bit chilly, I was able to wear the dress I planned on wearing on my birthday
We enjoyed a really delicious breakfast at the hotel and set off for Napa Valley where the wine is indeed bottled poetry.
The drive from Santa Rosa to Yountville was mostly through winding, forested hills until we reached Napa Valley, which was spread out in front of us, covered in yellow mustard flowers. March is a good time of year to be in wine country. As are September and November.
We were VERY early for our tasting class appointment at Goosecross Cellars in Yountville, so we had a chance to wander around a little. There actually were geese crossing the road, but they honked and flew away when I tried to photograph them.
Located on a side road in the middle of sprawling vineyards, Goosecross Cellars is beautiful and quaint.
To get to the tasting room and barrel storage room, you walk right past the wine tanks.
Since we had about 30 minutes before the tasting class, we did a little tasting at the bar.
And watched their very cool decanter as it spun the Cabernet Sauvignon around. After we wandered and tasted, I met Nancy Hawks Miller, the Director of Education at Goosecross Cellars. Wine education is clearly an important and fun topic for Goosecross, and if you are interested in learning more about wine, you can visit their Education page. I have it bookmarked, and I plan on using the resources as much as possible. There is so much to learn!
The classroom overlooked the vineyards and was the perfect location for learning about wine. Each place was set with a glass of Chardonnay and a glass of Merlot on a white placemat with a very informative take-home booklet summing up all of the points learned in the class.
The class was Wine Basics, so after some great information about Goosecross Cellars, we started from the beginning by learning how to pick up the glass and appreciate the color of the Chardonnay. We went through swirling the wine, smelling the wine, talking a bit about what the aromas were, and then went on to sipping the wine normally, then taking another sip, pulling air in through the teeth, sort of swishing the wine around in the mouth, then “chewing” on it. As Nancy mentioned, when we drink wine in social situations, we don’t often pay attention to all of the beautiful things about a wine, so it was nice to really take it all in. It made me want to slow down with the wines that we drink at home or when we are out.
The Chardonnay was lovely, with crisp, citrus flavors. Because it was a Chardonnay, Nancy spoke in detail about malo-lactic fermentation and the flavors and colors that results that come from the process of malo-lactic fermentation (ML). If you have ever had a buttery, oaky Chardonnay (the kind that made me think for years that I didn’t like Chardonnay!), those flavors were the result of ML. Goosecross does not use the ML process on its Chardonnay which results in the lovely flavors mentioned above. Interestingly enough, the by-product of ML is diacetyl which smells like butter and is actually used to flavor microwave popcorn!
Nancy had a really great wine aroma wheel that was extremely helpful in evaluating the wines. It starts out in the center with general terms like fruity or woody, then branches out to more specific terms: Fruity>Berry> Blackberry, Raspberry, Strawberry, Cassis. I have already downloaded a wheel from the internet, and I look forward to having a little fun with my at home wine tasting!
One of the most interesting portions of the class for me was learning WHY we taste pear or raspberry from a wine that is made entirely of grapes. I am getting better at identifying the various flavors and aromas of wines, but I never really knew why these things came through. Nancy explained it so well; certain plants actually share certain compounds. For example, a Viognier grape and an apricot share a compound called linalool. That is where you get that lovely apricot nose and flavor from in a Viognier! If you happen to be looking for a delicious Viognier, Goosecross happens to make an excellent one, by the way.
I learned so much from taking this course, and it just made me want to learn more. Nancy clearly loves educating others about wine, and she was humorous, incredibly knowledgeable and experienced, and approachable. She answered every question thoroughly, had great ideas and recommendations, and provided us with the perfect Napa Valley morning.