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Taste of Wine

Would you know your favorite wine in a blind taste test?

Those of us who enjoy all that wine can and will give us to enhance our lives, at one point in our journey will want to take the next step forward and broaden our horizon.

Not only to learn about as many wine styles as we can fit into our day, but to understand and test those styles in stimulating rituals and contests that determine our skills as wine connoisseurs.

One of the most exciting and challenging tests of wine tasting skill is that of a “Blind Tasting.”

A simple question that asks, “if I cover the label of your favorite wine and add a number of other wines into the mix of tastes, would you be able to identify yours?”

Easy you say?

In a recent internationally certified test of professional wine skills called the Court of Master Sommelier Diploma Examination, held in Colorado, four San Diego advanced sommeliers tried and failed to win the Master Sommelier distinction.

One passed the “service” part of the tests, but failed, as the others did, at the blind tasting portion.

I happen to have the guidelines for the Court of Master Sommeliers Blind Tasting.

So here is what you need to know when going through this requirement:  Comment on Visual: is the wine bright, dull, transparent.  Is it clear, hazy, cloudy?

Describe the color of the wine you’re tasting.

With its Nose:  alcoholic power, fruit, earth, wood, flowers. What do you taste on the palate?

Dry, sweet, body, fruit, earth, wood, flowered, spices, herbs, acidity, tannins, and complexity.

Conclusions:  new or old world, cool or warm climate, grape variety or blend, level of quality, age.

What country region, vintage?

So give it a try with others.

Discuss what you are tasting and trust your palate.  I will wager you will get some questions correct and more as you go forward.  You may get all and identify your favorite wine from the group, but in 2014 only six candidates out of 165 made it to master sommelier — you would be in the top 4 percent of blind tasters.  Cheers! And good fortune.

The Oldfangled Unaffected Wines of Bonny Doon

Bonny Doon sales Manager Keith Shulsky shows off a Clos de Gilroy Grenache 2013. Photo by Frank Mangio
Bonny Doon sales Manager Keith Shulsky shows off a Clos de Gilroy Grenache 2013. Photo by Frank Mangio

Vittorio’s Restaurant, in the Carmel Valley district of San Diego, seems to have the edge in bringing in small, quirky wines, brilliantly made by eccentric small production masters.

Such was the case again when Bonny Doon from Santa Cruz opened up their best, including my pick of the evening, a Clos de Gilroy Grenache 2013 ($20).  It was served with a grilled Swordfish over Crab Cake, Tomato and Onion Relish.  Learn more at

The next wine dinner at Vittorio’s will be Benziger Family Winery with winemaking facilities in Sonoma on 160 acres.  The winery was just purchased for between $70 million and $80 million. The date is June 25 from 6 to 9 p.m.  Cost is $49.50.  RSVP at (858) 538-5884.


Wine Bytes

The Westgate Hotel Downtown San Diego presents Rosé on a mid-summer eve June 20 from 6 to 8:30 p.m.  Rosé wines served with Chef Fabrice’s selection of charcuterie.  Live funk music by the 14-piece Bump and Brass for dancing.  Tickets are $89. Call (619) 557-3655.

The WineSellar and Brasserie in Sorrento Valley has a wine and food Tribute to Italy “Una Buona Notte” June 20 with tasting from 2:30 to 5 p.m., and then a reception and dinner at 5 p.m.  Tasting of 20 wines is $29; dinner is $89. RSVP required at (858) 450-9557.

The Barrel Room in Rancho Bernardo has a Napa Cabs for Dad, June 21 at 2 p.m., plus meat and cheese on the patio. Price is $60 for six unbeatable wines.  For details call (858) 673-7512.

Bella Notte is the musical, wine and dinner theme at Europa Village Winery in Temecula, June 25 from 6:30 to 9 p.m.  A gourmet four-course dinner, each course paired with Vienza Wines.  Tickets are $85.  Call (951) 216-3380.


Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web.  View and link up with his columns at, and reach him at  Follow him on Facebook.

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1 comment

Bonny Doon Vineyard July 20, 2015 at 4:42 pm

Thanks for mentioning our Gilroy Grenache. We are so glad you enjoyed it!

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