While I sort through hundreds of photos from our unexpected trip to France, I thought I would share a fun wine event @dormantchef and I attended this past weekend. It was a perfect follow-on to our ten days in France. The International Culinary Center in Campbell, CA was celebrating Bastille Day, France’s celebration of the French Revolution, with several French-inspired recreational food and wine classes. We attended the Rosé tasting class -- the wine of choice in Provence, where we spent the second half of our vacation.
The International Culinary Center, which I first visited when I met Emily Luchetti last year, is a hidden treasure in the South Bay Area, offering professional degrees in food, pastry, and wine as well as two levels of amateur/recreational classes. The facility is just lovely – non-descript from it’s exterior view at the intersection of San Tomas Expressway and Hamilton – but the interior is modern and impressive from a $1M wine theater where we attended the class to a number of cooking and teaching facilities.
Another little-known benefit of living near the facility? They offer free lunches Monday – Friday when you have the chance to eat what the students are cooking (3-course meal) or dinner 3 nights a week (MWF). All meals are free except for the Monday night dinner which includes a wine pairing. All they ask for is your feedback and your appetite. Contact Emily O’Mara ([email protected]) to reserve a spot in any of these events. Your taste buds and the students will thank you.
Now back to the rosé class - it was entertaining and educational. The instructor was Laurie Lindrup who is the Director of Special Events at the Center and a Certified Sommelier. She started with some basic background on wine making and tasting, then moved into the specifics of rosé, touching on the three techniques used to make rosé – saignée, skin contact, and blending. She also mentioned the frequent association of rosé with white zinfandel – the much maligned pink wine that was, despite its sweet flavor, a real boon to the wine industry in the ‘80s.
Laurie hand-picked 8 rosés – starting with a sparkling wine and then seven additional shades of pink from several regions of France as well as Italy, Uruguay, Spain, Argentina, and Carneros, CA. Surprisingly, no selection from Provence!
Here is the list of wines:
- NV Pierre Sparr Crémant d'Alsace Brut Rosé, Alsace, France
- 2011 Rocca Di Montegrossi Rosato Toscana, Italy
- 2011 Muga Rosé, Rioja, Spain
- 2011 Etude Rosé, Carneros, CA
- 2011 Chateau Grande Cassagne, Costieres de Nimes, Rhone, France
- 2011 Rosé de Haut-Bailly, Bordeaux, France
- 2011 Crios Rosé, Mendoza, Argentina
- 2011 Pueblo del Sol Rosé, Juanico, Uruguay
After teaching us how to taste and eliciting distinct flavor experiences from each of us, she offered us a plate of fruit, meats, cheese, and olives as well as a tomato mozzarella basil salad to identify favorite pairings and favorite wines. Some of us placed the food items next to the glass that we felt it paired with best. The fruit, in particular, helped us train our nose to identify fruit-based aromas in each of the rosés.
I find it particularly difficult to identify specific flavors/smells in a wine but this exercise boosted my confidence. Though I must admit, after so many wines and so many flavors, my confidence quickly waned and my confusion returned. Hopefully, at my next wine tasting, this exercise will bear fruit and I'll be describing the cherries and raspberries I sniff and taste in each glass!
While summer is still firmly rooted in our midsts, go buy a rosé. It is a lovely warm weather drink that will pair well with almost any appetizer or main course including ethnic flavors. But rosés are not meant to be stored or saved. So shop for 2011 rosés – they will be the most fruit forward and flavorful. Older than that, and the store you are shopping in has kept them too long and you will not have a rosy rosé experience.
Do you drink Rosé wine? Do you associate it with sweet wine or have you had the chance to experience the broader category of wine that it really is? I’d love to know – it was only last year when @dormantchef started travelling to Provence on business that I learned of its distinct and lovely characteristics.