the evolution of taste

I first became interested in wine in 2007 when I was writing my Master’s thesis. Holed up in my family’s cabin, 45 minutes from the nearest city (if you call Hilo, Hawaii a city), I was in desperate need of something to procrastinate with, instead of tackling the statistical mire that my investigation into spawning cycles of reef fish had become.

Yellow Tang Fish pic

Here’s my little study subject.

I decided to learn about wine, which has its own challenges on a tropical Pacific island, but I didn’t let that stop me. Nor did I let the fact that the nearest wine shop was 45 minutes away slow me down. I had the internet. I had a corkscrew. And most importantly, I had discovered a tour guide who was engaging, spoke in simple language about wine, and who didn’t make it seem elitist, complicated, or expensive. His name was Gary Vaynerchuk and his show, WLTV, was my gateway. Here is a link to a classic video of his, in case you are unfamiliar with his particular…style:

What wine pairs with cereal?

Six months later I was back on the mainland, still interested in wine, still the world’s expert on female yellow tang reproduction, and willing to spend a little more money on my new hobby.  My husband and I began to seek out Washington wines together, which is particularly easy from Seattle. Turns out, one of his elementary school friends’ family owned a winery in Woodinville…and just that like that, we were on our first winery mailing list.

Betz wines, because they were some of the first we tasted together, and because they were definitely the first bottles we ever spent more than forty dollars on together, will always be close to our hearts. My first taste of their Boushey vineyard syrah, the 2005 La Serenne, was one of my wine epiphany moments. Here is my note from that bottle, dated July 2nd, 2008:

Nose: dense and meaty, with a layer of spice and black cherry.

Palate: one of the best wine I have ever had. Really complete mouthful of silky, sublime dark fruits, tannins are covertly hidden, but give mouthfeel depth. Cigar and clove on the finish. I can’t believe this stuff. I try to take a sip and instead it becomes a gulp. Outstanding.
1 hour later:
Nose: After an hour, sweet caramel comes through on the nose, but alcohol also appears (due to temp increase, I can only assume). some minerality is sensed as well. Cool stuff.
Palate: still drinking beautifully. Tannins have emerged from slumber, but nothing out of place. Still finishes with cigar and also a sizeable amount of black tea. 95 points.

Betz 2005 La Serenne

Betz Family Winery 2005 La Serenne

Clearly, I was in love.  I have come to realize, however, that my palate has shifted considerably since my early days of wine tasting.  I have become much more sensitive to alcohol in wine, and I now very much prefer less alcoholic punch and more delicate flavors. This is not an unusual shift among wine drinkers; if you talk to enough of them you will hear of the common progression from favoring big, in-your-face, rich-fruited wines toward more elegant, subtle examples.

We opened a bottle of the 2005 La Serenne last night with company. I enjoyed it, but even though I decanted it for about 2 hours before dinner and kept it at a cool temperature (outside on the porch between pourings), the alcohol was too high for me.  This makes me a little sad, since I, like any true wine lover, spend entirely too much time, energy and money trying to recreate my elusive epiphany moments. However, I take comfort in the fact that the more I learn about my palate, the better equipped I become to find the next life-altering wine. Because there is always another epiphany out there, just waiting to be discovered.

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