“Become a Wine Expert” Series Taught by Kathleen Morgan
Through arrangements made by Toby Pett and Joey I was invited to take Kathleen (Erickson) Morgan’s wine class at Savour Wine and Cheese in exchange for writing about my experience. Toby had recently taken the class and absolutely raved about it and wanted to bring it to GMG readers. I have mentioned previously that I typically purchase wine based on the attractiveness of the label and I have to tell you that after just this first class I will no longer have to rely on this wholly unreliable method! Tuesday night I tasted the most wonderful and intensely flavorful wines imaginable, paired with some dreamily delicious cheeses, and can’t wait to take the next class (plus all my fellow students are super fun!)
Kathy is a fantastic instructor and she has designed the course into five easily comprehensible evenings covering: 1) Taste, 2) White Wine, 3) Red Wine, 4) Practical Knowledge (including vintage, proper temperature, stemware, etc.), and 5) Special Deluxe Wine Pairing Dinner.
The “Become a Wine Expert” series of classes are held on five consecutive evenings, from 7:00 to 9:00, at Savour Wine and Cheese, located at 76 Prospect Street. Kathleen provides each student with a terrific notebook full of maps from every wine producing country and region, articles, recommended books and links, descriptions of wine varietals, an interesting wine aroma wheel for describing wines, and more.
Savour Wine and Cheese carries wines in a range of prices from $10.00 a bottle up to hundreds. According to Kathleen, there is a “sweet spot,” in prices, where from about $14.00 to about $24.00 a bottle you can get much higher quality and taste for the money than in the $10.00 to $12.00 dollar range. Beyond $24.00, the quality is less incrementally exceptional in relation to the cost of the wine. The wines we tasted ranged in price from $13.99 to $27.99.
The first wine we tried was a classic Sauvignon Blanc by Fernlands of New Zealand ($13.99). Kathleen explains that there are four noble grapes (six if you wish to include Sirah and Sauvignon Blanc), and they are Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet, and Pinot Noir. Noble grapes is a wine term used to describe the grape varieties commonly associated with the highest quality wines. The name Sauvignon Blanc means “Wild White,” which describes its green, herbaceous flavors. The Sauvignon Blanc was the lightest of the wines we sampled and I think would be delicious with pesto, green salads, and chicken. Kathleen paired it with the most wonderful runny stinky cheese, Bonne Bouche goat cheese, which I am going to run over and pick up some this afternoon because I just can’t get that delicious flavor off my mind!
Our second wine of the evening was Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminer from Alsace, France ($27.99). I do not typically enjoy Gewurztraminers and generally find them too sweet. Wrong! This wine was one of my favorites of the evening, simply “Top of the World.” The Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminer would pair perfectly with Thai food, spicy Asian food, and had floral notes of orange blossom and jasmine (although that sounds very sweet, I repeat, was not too sweet). Kathleen recommends serving the Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminer with Thanksgiving dinner and I am most definitely taking her advice!
The third wine of the evening, Meomi Pinot Noir from the Central Coast of California ($24.99), was my very favorite. Wonderfully rich and smooth, and tasting of chocolate velvet cake, cherry-berry, and everything yummy, the Meomi Pinot Noir seemed to be the favorite of the group as well. Kathleen explains that Pinot Noirs are the most expensive wines to produce because the grape (Vitis vinifera) has the thinnest skin, which makes it susceptible to rot, sunburn, and pests. The name is derived from the French words for “pine” and “black” alluding to the grape variety’s tightly clustered dark purple pine-cone shaped bunches of fruit. An inexpensive Pinot Noir is probably not made from Pinot Noir grapes; most likely it is made from Gamay grapes.
The fourth wine of the evening was the Five Vitners Zinfandel from Dry Creek California ($23.99) and here is where I learned not to drink several samples of each wine during the course of the evening. I recall it being delicious, but I was having too much fun and had stopped taking notes at this point…next week we are sampling eight wines and I will be sure to only take a tiny sip of each so I can give a description of all and hold up my end of reporting about this wonderfully enjoyable and enriching experience!
To learn more about Kathleen’s interest in wine (she also has a PHD in history) see Joe’s Good Morning Gloucester interview with Kathleen here.