Quintet Tasting—Who Wants to be a Better Wine Drinker?

apple Hill Quintet PhotoHaving just finished the Portopia experience (of food and wine pairings) last weekend in the cellar, it’s time to talk about Madroña’s second tasting in our educational series—our 19th annual Quintet tasting (March 16th and 17th). (Already know you want tickets, Click Here!)

Having just returned from a trip through Bordeaux, it’s amazing how much one can learn by being there and by doing. I now have tasted the difference between Left Bank and Right Bank wines and why Merlot-based wines grow one place and Cab Sauv-based wines grow in another. It’s one thing to taste a Bordeaux wine in a restaurant in San Francisco. But it’s a completely different thing to experience the wine in Bordeaux, looking at the trellising system on the vines, smelling the soil, and talking to the winemakers who imagined the wine in the first place.

Now you’re starting to get a sense of what the Quintet tasting here at Madroña is all about. This is an education, an experience, and an opportunity. It’s kind of like learning about science at the Exploratorium in San Francisco by pushing buttons and pulling levers. It’s not reading it out of a book or having someone lecture it to you (like in some tasting rooms!!!).

“So,” you ask, “how does Madroña’s Quintet tasting make me a better wine taster?” It’s all about understanding, man, understanding!

The concept is really rather simple—learn about making wine by actually making wine! And the glorious aspect of it all is that wine, like art, is subjective. So in the process of blending, you actually will start to understand your own palate and what you like and don’t like. No two people are the same, and you, my friend, are unique.

“So,” you ask, “how does the tasting work?” Well, the tasting is broken down into three simple parts.

  1. We gather in a seminar-styled seating and taste three older vintages of Madroña’s Quintet. The reason is to give everyone an idea of what to aim for in a finished wine (and you’ll be taught what a “finished” wine is too!). Ageability, balance, fruit, approachability, etc. will all be covered in building the foundation of your own personal wine tasting experience.
  2. Next, we taste each of the five Bordeaux varieties as 100% varietals. This in itself is an experience as you taste the differences between 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, 100% Cabernet Franc, 100% Merlot, 100% Malbec and 100% Petit Verdot. We’ll discuss the pluses and minuses of each and how blends might come together to accentuate the positives of each wine.
  3. Now it’s time for everyone to get down to work. Each person will be using graduated cylinders and pipettes to make 50ml blends to taste. Maybe your first blend is too tannic or too fruity or too something, and you adjust for your second blend. And then your third, fourth and fifth until you start to understand your palate and the wines even more.

“So,” you ask, “why don’t more wineries do tastings like this?” To be honest, this isn’t a tasting trying to sell wine (which is often the point of why California wineries do wine events!). Instead, it’s all about education and learning more about wine (and that doesn’t make money!). But then again, Madroña’s never been the smartest winery—looking more towards the experience rather than anything else.

“So,” you ask, “what do I as a wine taster get out of this experience?” Ah, good question.

  1. After experiencing the Quintet tasting, you will have a better understanding of wine, wine blending, and cellaring. Essentially, this tasting makes you a better wine taster when you go to Napa, Sonoma, and Bordeaux!
  2. You get to experience the amazing 2017 vintage from the barrel!
  3. You’ll have a better understanding of your own palate. And even better, you will start to understand that your wine style is unique, and that’s good because you are unique!
  4. And you will leave having had a fun experience learning about wines with others equally interested in wine!

“So,” you ask, “what does Madroña get out of all of this?”

  1. You, as a wine lover, will definitely remember where you learned about blending and the Bordeaux varieties.
  2. This last one is a bit of a selfish winemaker thing, but you will understand that blending wines isn’t as easy as one might think. We do this exact same tasting, trialling out different blends over two days just to come up with our Madroña Quintet blend. It takes time, patience, taste buds, and faith to make a great Quintet. And maybe you’ll remember that the next time you drink one of my Quintets with a great dinner!

This tasting fills up fast. So if you’re interested in really knowing more about wine, get tickets before they sell out (we only do three seminars total, and it’s limited seating!). Click Here for tickets and we’ll work through the 2017 Quintet together.



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