These are certainly strange days. With most of the U.S. and the rest of western world on full lockdown during this crisis of COVID-19, many people are stuck inside with not too much to do. As for myself, I work in a hospital so unfortunately my days have become busier and more stressful. I am still holding out some optimism that with significant self isolation we can slow this outbreak to a manageable level, but that is seeming less likely each day… One positive thus far is that online wine retailers have continued to function (at least the ones that I use regularly), so if you are stuck home without much to do, it may be worth buying a case or 2 and conducting a few home wine tastings! At the very least it will give you something fun to do and take your mind off of things for a bit. I’ve put together a few recommended tastings below, designed to be both educational and enjoyable. I would obviously recommend doing this with food. You could also do a virtual tasting if a friend or two have similar wines.

Willamette Valley Pinot Tasting:

  1. Eyrie Vineyards Estate pinot noir
  2. Lingua Franca Estate pinot noir
  3. Beaux Freres Ribbon Ridge pinot noir

This tasting will be designed to show some of the different AVAs of the Willamette Valley. Eyrie is the original winery from the region and one of my favorites. Their estate pinot comes mostly from the Dundee Hills and is consistently delicious. Lighter bodied with fruit leaning more towards red raspberry and cranberry with orange zest, baking spice, and damp earth, these are lithe and highly versatile wines. Lingua Franca was founded by Larry Stone who is a legendary sommelier. Their wines come from the Eola-Amity-Hills near the famous Seven Springs vineyard. Eola wines tend to be a little bit spicier with darker leaning fruit than the Dundee wines. The region though further south is actually the coolest area of the WV due to the Van Duzer Corridor allowing cooling marine air to flow through. Finally, Beaux Freres showcases some of the Ribbon Ridge terroir. One of the best producers in this AVA, these wines are richer with lots of spice and ripe fruits, lovely floral notes, and a bigger body. Obviously you can do this with any different wines, but these are 3 producers that I think are well worth seeking out.

Chablis tasting:

  1. Jean Paul et Benoit Droin Chablis
  2. Louis Michel Chablis
  3. William Fevre Chablis

For those of you that are already experiencing warm spring weather, a Chablis tasting might be a nice way to go. We still have snow on the ground, so its a bit early to sit outside and sip the saline tinged freshness that is Chablis. You could do this multiple ways; taste the same producer at different levels (Chablis, Chablis 1er cru, Chablis grand cru) to evaluate the differences between the qualitative levels; Evaluate the same producer with different vineyards (Louis Michel Chablis 1er Butteaux, Sechets, and Montee de Tonnerre) to see if you can pick up the differences in terroir; or do 3 different producers with wines of a similar level. My example above would show you a village Chablis with some wood aging (Droin), a village Chablis with pure stainless steel aging (Louis Michel), and a Chablis made with some purchased rather than domaine fruit (William Fevre). All three in my opinion are delicious and if you have some fish or seafood, you will be all set to go!

Cabernet sauvignon around the world tasting:

  1. Ridge cabernet sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountains
  2. Chateau Carbonnieux Pessac Leognan
  3. Domus Aurea cabernet sauvignon Maipo Valley (Chile)

Cabernet sauvignon is arguably the most popular grape in the world. It is not my personal favorite, but I certainly enjoy and appreciate it and it would be an interesting tasting to compare some new world regions against the old classic Bordeaux. This could obviously be done multiple ways, but a few of my reasonably priced favorites are above. If you would rather include Napa, I’d recommend maybe the Heitz Napa Valley bottling as this is classic and still reasonably priced. Bordeaux gives loads of options, but you’ll want to stick to something on the Left Bank to get a primarily cabernet sauvignon wine. I enjoy the wines from Graves/Pessac Leognan quite a bit and they remain relatively affordable compared to some of the more famous villages. For your last bottle, there is good cabernet being produced in multiple other new world countries. Chile, Argentina, Australia, etc. So pick one and compare, or pick all three!

Ok I guess I’ll stop there. Three tastings should be enough to keep you occupied for… well at least 3 days! I hope you are all staying strong and socially distant. The end of this pandemic will come and it is my sincere hope that this will remind us that truly one of the most important aspects of life is to be able to interact closely with our friends and loved ones. Also I hope we will be more prepared for the next one of these with multiple lessons learned. Good luck staying sane and hopefully a nice glass of wine or two will help to relax anxieties and provide some entertainment for you! Please feel free to send along other tasting suggestions or reviews of good bottles you have consumed during your quarantine! Until the next time…

J. Newman, CSW

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