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The Latest News and Ramblings

A place to share various news, stories and video about wine, travel, winemaking

 

Scott Kelley
 
February 24, 2021 | Scott Kelley

Sense Memory

Yesterday I was catching up with a friend who is recovering from COVID-19. He had a pretty mild case but like a lot of people who have had COVID, he lost his sense of smell and taste. Five weeks later it still has not come back 100%. It made me realize just how important my sense of taste and smell is. As a winemaker, my livelihood depends on my palate and more specifically, my ability to sense the aromas, flavors, textures and taste of a wine. Customers often say, “You must have an amazing palate!” like it is some sort of gift I was born with. The truth is we are all born with the same biological abilities to smell and taste. What separates those that are deemed to have “great palates” is the individual’s ability to connect their brain with their olfactory and reference a previous smell or taste. Remember, none of us were born with a memory bank of smells and tastes, nor were we born with the ability to put language to describe those senses.

This concept of what wine tasting is really became clear one day while watching the “Actor’s Studio” with James Lipton. He was interviewing Dennis Hopper about his many great films and he brings up “Easy Rider”. He asks Hopper what being on the set was like and the many rumors about the drug use during filming. Hopper laughs and explains that while he was never high while acting in the film, he could have never acted out those scenes if he had never experienced being high in real life. He said the essence of acting is relying on your “Sense Memory”. That really resonated as the same idea of wine tasting; we are calling on our sense memory to recall flavors experienced in our past to describe a wine.

Becoming a great wine taster takes two things in my opinion, experience and clarity. Experience comes from our everyday life. Since the day we were born we have been taking in the world around us. Since almost all of the flavors in wine are associated with those in the natural world, our vocabulary of wine terms is often associated with things found in food and nature. I had the pleasure of working with a great chef at one of my first jobs with the Robert Mondavi winery. Her name is Denise and she taught me a lot about the importance of fresh ingredients in cooking. She would often invite me along to purchase the items needed for an upcoming luncheon we were putting together at the winery. As we strolled the aisles at the market, Denise would pull out a pocketknife and started cutting into fruits and vegetables.  “Close your eyes” she said, “here smell this tangerine…now this orange, see the difference?” I had never really taken the time to smell the difference and let it register in my brain. It was a turning point in my career. From then on, I spent more time taking in the smells of the natural world and storing them for later. We all come from different areas of the world and different cultures. Based on your experiences in the world you have specific set of personal sense memories that you can use to describe wine. I will never forget the first time I was invited to sit with the winemakers at my first job, we would taste 6-8 wines blind, then discuss. This particular tasting was chardonnay from our cellar that was being blended for bottling. As I let my pen flow with whatever came to mind, I started listing smells, flavors and tastes. When it came time to discuss, the head winemaker called on me to tell everyone what I saw in the first wine. Looking at my notes I was quite nervous, “lemon curd, pear, yeast, and mother’s makeup” everyone laughed. When asked what “mother’s makeup” was I explained that the wine smelled exactly like the base makeup my mother used to apply. I would sit on the end of her bed before school while she got ready for work…. the wine reminded me of that experience, it was my sense memory.

Another important idea in being a good taster is emotional clarity. When you are experiencing emotions such as frustration, nervousness, worry or anger, I believe our ability to sense aromas and taste wines is greatly diminished. Most days I have a routine where I come in have my coffee, answer emails and then go downstairs to taste through monthly QC, competitive sets or blend tastings.  I have found that if I am still thinking about an email or if something is bothering me, or in general my head is not clear, my tasting notes are simple and nondescriptive. Over the years when I have found myself in these situations I put on some music, the sense memories start to connect, and I am once again able to connect the dots between what I am sensing and my ability to describe it with language. I find Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” is particularly good for Pinot Noir tasting days! Quite often we see first time tasters in the tasting room, and they are worried about the etiquette of wine. Unfortunately, wine has had its fair share of snobbery over the years that makes many people uncomfortable when tasting wine. Tasters are often so worried about how to swirl the glass or what they are supposed to be tasting that they never really get to experience all the great things about wine. We preach non-pretentious education in the tasting room and really try to help people learn and become comfortable with the terminology and etiquette, all the while having fun. I urge you to do the same when sharing wine with friends and family. We can educate without being snobs!

Remember at the end of the day wine is supposed to be fun. We all experience wine differently and there are really only two terms you need to know Yum and Yuck!

Time Posted: Feb 24, 2021 at 3:19 PM Permalink to Sense Memory Permalink
Paul O'Brien Winery
 
February 21, 2018 | Paul O'Brien Winery

Pairing Wine With Winter Steelhead

 

Your Company

Lemon Butter & Garlic Steelhead

PREP TIME: 10 MIN | COOK TIME: 20 MIN
SERVES 2

 

INGREDIENTS:
1 LB Steelhead Filet, Skin removed

2 TBSP Butter

Juice of 1/2 Lemon

2 Cloves Garlic, minced

1 TSP Parsley, minced

Salt & Pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 375 F

2. Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray and place the trout filet in the center.  Fold up all four sides of the foil.  Season the trout with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

3. Melt butter in microwave-safe bowl, stir in fresh minced garlic and drizzle over the trout.  Top with fresh minced parsley.

4. Fold the sides of the foil over the trout, covering completely, and seal into a closed packet.  Place directly on oven rack and bake until cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. 

*You'll know it's done with you can flake the fish with a fork and the meat will be opaque.

 

The 'Lure' of the Umpqua

The Umpqua Valley has a special place in Scott's heart.  He grew up fly fishing the North Umpqua River with his father and knew early on that someday he would move to the area to make wine and raise a family.  

Did you know? One of the things that makes the North Umpqua River so unique, is that it is home to both summer and winter Steelhead runs.  This is special because there are very few Summer Steelhead runs left.  Pretty cool, huh? 

The North Umpqua River possesses 31 miles of the most scenic flyfishing-only water in the Northwest.  Right now, winter run steelhead are in the river, coming into the North Fork of the Umpqua River beginning in January, peaking in February and tapering off through the first part of March.  We are huge advocates for catch and release for all wild steelhead, but do enjoy a hatchery fish every now and then.

 

NOTE: You can tell if a fish has come from a hatchery because the adipose fin is clipped, making it legal to keep.

 

Many people may not know how to properly pair wine with Steelhead, so in honor of this wonderful winter bounty that we're so lucky to have, we're sharing our favorite recipes and wine pairings to get the most flavor and enjoyment out of your Winter Steelies.  Enjoy!

 

our 2015 Paul O'Brien Susan's Vineyard Pinot Noir pairs perfectly with SteelheadSteelhead falls into the Meaty Fish categoriy, types of fish that are firm with a meaty and steak-like texture.  For meaty fish,  the best wine pairings are rich white wines with lots of flavor and even a few red and rosé wines.  This this particular recipe, we recommend our 2015 Susan's Vineyard Pinot Noir.  This wine's silky texture with sweet fruit is balanced enough not to overpower the sometimes delicate flavor in Steelhead and quenching enough to pair well with smoked fish recipes.

 

 

 
Time Posted: Feb 21, 2018 at 7:37 AM Permalink to Pairing Wine With Winter Steelhead Permalink
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