I mentioned on our post about Savor Pittsburgh that my mum is becoming a bit of a foodie-in-training, and I’m proud to say she’s also becoming a wine-fan in training! We took my parents on their first wine tasting excursion last summer, and this year, we wanted my mum to join us for one of Pete Hanowich’s Tastin’ Tuesday wine classes down at Station Square.
We started attending Pete’s wine classes last year, and we try to go whenever there’s a class offered on a day I’m not working. The classes are held down at the Sheraton Station Square, and they are a great time for any level of wine-lover. Pete is SUPER down-to-earth and really goes out of his way to make sure everyone gets the most out of the experience, whether you’re drinking your wine out of a box, or from a bottle made many decades ago.
The class we opted to attend was called “French Wines Made Easy (to Understand).” I was interested in this class because the French really wrote the book on wine, and especially when we are in Central Coast, you hear so much about ‘Bordeaux blends’ and climate that resembles the ‘Rhone region’. I was really interested to learn about these wines and see how they influence the stuff we drink every day.
Pete’s promise at the start of class is that, by the end of the hour, you will feel comfortable enough to go out and buy a bottle of French wine for dinner tomorrow night. I liked this approach: he mentioned that you could spend AGES studying French wine, or even studying a single region in France, but you can also do a broad overview which will give you the basics in understanding what you want from French wines.
First things first, understand that French wines are named and classified by region, not by varietal. That being said, certain regions grow certain grapes (or as Pete said, ‘stuff grows better in some places than it doesn’t grow in others’). Pete started us off with a broad map of France and a list of the major regions and what sorts of wines grow there.
(But come on, you know you want to attend Pete’s next French wine class, so I can’t give away all of his secrets! Suffice to say: you can pick out seemingly-complicated wines by knowing their regions and what sorts of grapes they grow there. Now check your email and wait until you can go drink with Pete! 😉
We sampled three whites, a rosé, and four reds. I can honestly say there was not a wine in the mix that I disliked. Not every wine would be perfect for every occasion, but I felt like there was an occasion for each wine (for example, the Baron de Rothschild Mouton Cadet White Bordeaux was a clear ‘sipping on the deck in summertime’ wine, while the Domaine des Carteresses Tavel Rosé would be the perfect accompaniment for a breakfast meat-featuring brunch on the patio).
I also was getting really creative around the end of the reds, and was convinced that the Chateau Greysac wine we tried was an ‘on-the-farm wine, like, drink this with your horses style.’ (Maybe it’s good that I don’t yet have a horse?)
My mum, who is not a big fan of dry wines, liked the fruity Sauvion Muscadet Sevre et Maine white the best. This was the least acidic of the three whites that we sampled, something that would be a good match for a spicy shrimp or other shellfish dish. But it had this excellent, round body to the flavor, like almost a feeling of thickness.
Yet the one the two of us preferred was the one I’d had pinned as my likely favorite from the start: the Paul Jaboulet Cotes du Rhone Parallele 45. (Since you’re wondering, my tasting notes for this one were ‘spongy late-night-bad-decision-style wine.’) This wine left me CRAVING a big ol’ steak in a SERIOUS way! In fact, I have a pretty good feeling what I’m going to pick up if we manage to have another night of grilling before the summer is officially over…
As usual, we had a great time at Pete’s class, and we learned a lot! Even my mum, who is not as crazy about dry wines as we are, really enjoyed herself. I can’t wait until next month, when we will be able to attend one more of Pete’s classes (this time, on food pairings with the wine). And I can’t wait to show off my fancy new French-wine-picking skills the next time we have a dinner party!