(From left: NYC Chinatown for Chinese New Year, fresh snow on Boston College's campus, USF campus just one day later, Sonoma County)Phew! In 10 days, I went from NYC to Boston to SF to Sonoma County (and next weekend I'll be in Chicago!). I was also supposed to visit Minneapolis this weekend, but that plan was derailed by the snowstorms in the Midwest. Too bad, because then I could have added another picture of snow (despite the mild sarcasm, I really do find snow beautiful). Disappointed as I was to miss that trip to visit the U of Minnesota, I was able to join some friends on my first visit to wine country in Sonoma County!
Being the wine country noob, I was happy that my friends are old pros at this kind of thing and planned out the whole itinerary. We caravanned from SF to Sonoma (about 1.5 hours) and spent the entire day visiting the various wineries in the Russian River Valley region. This weekend was also the first weekend for barrel tasting, when the wineries allow the public to sample the "futures" - the batch of wine that was most recently harvested and put into barrels for fermentation.
Oenology, like any area of expertise, is a culture in itself, complete with a set of terms and norms (i.e., wash out your glass w/ the provided caraffe before a new tasting, esp from red to white) that leave the outsider (read: me) feeling like they stepped into a foreign language film. Sonoma's winery culture tends to be particularly laid back and intimate. From what I hear, Napa wineries are larger and more commercial/touristy, but they also do more in terms of educating visitors. I would have appreciated this more structured education. It's kind of embarassing when you don't even have base knowledge to know what kinds of questions to ask! Perhaps I should take some formal wine-tasting class...that's on the to-do list for some day.
What I realized I enjoy most is the art of wine pairing. It's so delightful how various notes in a cheese or dish can be accentuated by a certain wine. That's what I exactly love about cooking, especially extemporaneous recipe-free cooking. Discovering harmonious permutations of flavors and textures is so exciting! Well, I may never be a true oenophile but I will always strive to be an authentic gourmand.