A Guide to Wine Tasting


“Wine is bottled poetry,” as Robert Louis Stevenson said and it’s hard not to agree with him when you understand the time and tradition that goes into a single bottle of wine. One skill that can help you in business and social settings is a basic knowledge of wine tasting. While there is so much you can learn about the tasting process, here are four simple steps from expert sommeliers that will help you up your tasting game, refine you palate, and sharpen your ability to recall the wines you try. While these are pro moves, they are actually simple to understand and can help to improve your wine knowledge. 

1. Look at the wine under neutral lighting. The color of a wine will clue you in to what you can expect it to taste like. Light and bright white wines are usually crisp and refreshing while a wine that’s a deeper shade of yellow has typically been aged in a barrel and will have a smoother, richer taste.
   If a red wine is light red, even approaching pink, it should taste light and bright, maybe even be a little tart or “fresh”. As the hue of the red wine gets darker the wine will become bolder and richer. 

2. Second, smell the wine using orthonasal olfaction (fancy for breathing through your nose) to identify aromas. 

3. Next (and the best step!) taste the wine to figure out its structure (sour, bitter, sweet) and flavors (fruit, oak, etc.) 

4. Lastly decide if you like the wine. While this might seem obvious, people can feel pressure to like wines that seem sophisticated or popular. Develop your own profile that you can store in your memory just like a pro.

Now that you have some tasting tools, here are three wines from the Hess Collection Winery. These delicious wines are a great addition to an established collection or they can help you expand your personal wine selection.

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Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon

The Hess Collection signature Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon comes from their estate Veeder Hills Vineyard. The elevation of this vineyard ranges from 600 to 1,120 feet, and its steep slopes and sedimentary clay and shale soils restrict root growth, resulting in Mount Veeder’s hallmark small berries with intense fruit flavors. A touch more Malbec, this vintage sets the stage for a classic mountain Cabernet led by aromas of wild mountain raspberry and Bing cherry. $65


Estate Grown Chardonnay

This Chardonnay pairs well with poached or grilled seafood, shrimp or crab, and triple crème cheeses. From the Su’skol vineyard, the grapes are carefully farmed to emphasize fruit with wonderful acidity and balance, and demonstrates the impact of the moderate temperatures influenced by nearby San Pablo Bay. Aged for 9 months in barrels and stirred weekly for 4 months, this complex wine shows aromas and flavors of apple, white pear and a slight touch of tropical fruits, accented by honeysuckle. $22


Mendocino Zinfandel

Ruby red in color this wine also has indigo blue and violet hues. There is a concentration of juicy bright cherry, pomegranate and boysenberry aromas followed by darker notes of cassis and pepper. Flavors are abundant, led by raspberry and currants, surrounded by baking spices of clove, cinnamon and allspice. On the palate, one will experience a plush well-rounded mouthfeel to a lingering finish of fine grained tannins up lifting the fruit with hints of toasty French oak. $18

To order online or for more information, visit hesscollection.com