Back in my working days, I would use a unique system to taste and evaluate wine samples. I first learned the technique working for a Sonoma-based winemaking consulting firm called Enologix. I went on to use this technique at several different wineries where I made wine and for our own wine brand Rocinante.
The beauty of the system is that you can quickly evaluate hundreds of samples a day and have a numerical result can easily be manipulated in a database to give you predictive information about a wine style and the type of consumer who will prefer that wine style. This is valuable winemaking information, not least because you can adjust your winemaking techniques to match the markets and price points you are trying to hit.
However, the best part may be that the technique lends itself particularly well to blind, informal group tastings at home. Someone who has never tasted wine can participate next to a seasoned wine professional and both will have fun and learn something about wine styles and, most importantly, wine styles they actually prefer (not wine styles they have been told to prefer or want to think they prefer). We did hundreds of these tastings over the years when we still had a "normal" house. We'd have anywhere from four to 12 people at a tasting and the food and drink would carry long into the night.
Since we've been on the road, we haven't had the venue to do one of these tastings. Now that we spend the summers up in North Idaho, we've mentioned these tastings to friends up here and have had a lot of offers from them to provide venues.
Since it's been warm, I decided to blind taste a group of Brut style sparkling wines from the U.S. made in the traditional Champagne style. We had Roederer Estate, Domaine Chandon, Mumm Napa Valley, Gruet, Gloria Ferrer, and Scharffenberger.
In the beginning, it was all very dignified.
By the end, things were a little more loose.
This flight of wines was interesting because of the subtle differences. We had some great results that even surprised me. One of our friends has a brother visiting from Australia later this month. I think we'll need to do Australian Shiraz vs. U.S. Syrah in their honor. I'd like to see the Aussies pick a Rocinante Syrah as their favorite!