Monday, November 24, 2008

The Art of a Virtual Tasting

Last Friday night at 8 pm I joined a group of other wine geeks to taste wines and compare our notes. We all went through the proper motions: swirl, sniff, sip, swish and swallow (I don’t think anyone spits in this crowd). We were all meticulous in noting the different flavors and aromas that our senses perceived. I might be the only one to admit it, but some of us got a little tipsy. And we did it while we were all hundreds of miles from each other.

We were all participants of a tasting on Twitter Taste Live. On November 19th Lenn Thompson of LENNDEVOURS announced that he was hosting the tasting and that his choice was four wines from Humanitas Winery, a winery owned by Judd Wallenbrock who is also the winemaker. I read Lenn’s blog all the time so I decided to check it out. Judd blogs at Drink Charitably and the concept of his winery is a beautiful one, to make good wine and to give back to charities in local communities where the wines are sold. The profits from the winery go to three primary causes: hunger, affordable housing and illiteracy. They have chosen Feeding America (formerly America’s Second Harvest), Habitat for Humanity, and Reading is Fundamental as their targeting charities, but do not limit the donations to only those. Judd and company are just as likely to donate to local charities that best address these issues in individual communities. One of the best winery missions I have heard to date.

If you’ve never seen or heard of Twitter before, you are not the only one. It might be the latest online craze, but then again it might not. The format of using Twitter Taste Live (TTL) was an interesting one. The notion is that everyone buys the wines and meets at the same time and tweet about them. Yes, that’s the new verb, and no I did not coin it (thank goodness). TTL was created by Craig Drollett, John Hafferty, and Chris Gillis and was originally connected to their retail store Bin Ends. Today TTL has distanced itself from the store and is completely open to the world of the wine industry, especially the consumers. The userbase is currently nearing 500 with participation in 8 countries. Not bad for a site based on tweets.

“The real vision is that this platform is a direct line of communication between consumers and wine makers,” explains Craig. “So far it’s working out very well.”

The tasting itself was very interesting, but turned into a case of the hiccups that won’t go away. I loved being in an online space where there are so many people who love to talk about wine all expressing their opinions of the same wines. The way it works is that as long as your tweet has #ttl included then it will pop up on the live feed. The only problem was that every ten to fifteen minutes or so the live twitter feed (I almost said tweet feed, but that seemed wrong somehow) would cut out. The only thing that really kept everything together was Matt doing a live video feed from his house.

All said and done, it was a good experience. The wines we tasted were:

  • Humanitas Sauvignon Blanc 2006, 13.8% ALC, Monterey County, California, USA

  • Humanitas Oak Free Chardonnay 2007, 13.8% ALC, Monterey County, California, USA

  • Humanitas Gap’s Crown Pinot Noir 2006, 14.6% ALC, Sonoma Coast, California, USA

  • Humanitas Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, 14.2% ALC, Paso Robles, California, USA

My clear favorite and that of the two others I tasted with (ok, so it is also nice to taste wine with live people too) was the Chardonnay. It was that classic pear and apple that Chardonnay should produce and had a great balance on the taste. The Cabernet started coming through for me after it sat out a while; I had not expected to need to decant it. When I first tasted the Cab it had huge tannins and was extremely rough. It started to smooth out and find some fruit after about an hour or so. I’ll know better for next time.

You can buy the wines here, and be sure to check out Twitter if you have not done so yet and Twitter Taste Live.


2 comments:

Judd Wallenbrock said...

Rob,

Thanks so much for joining in on the fun (madness?) Friday night and thank you for the wonderful comments about Humanitas and my wines. We all have a million choices in wines -- hopefully mine deliver the quality we all want, but give a little extra by donating the charity. Drink charitably!

Lenn Thompson said...

Rob: Thanks for taking part and I'm ashamed to say that this is the first time I've visited your blog.

Welcome to the Twitter fray and I look forward to exploring your blog!

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