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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Wine aficionados in Lake Geneva this weekend

The second Lake Geneva Wine Festival takes place this weekend, and among the events are a series of seminars Friday at the Grand Geneva.

Contributing writer Margaret Plevak tracked down Jamie Stewart, a sommelier who lives in Chicago and serves as a director with Fosters Wine Estates.

Stewart will present a seminar on tasting and cellaring wines Friday (Sept. 5), at the Lake Geneva Wine Festival, which runs from Sept. 4-7.

Plevak asked Stewart for five tips to remember at a wine-tasking.

Here's here story from Thursday's Weekender:

Patience is a virtue: 5 things to remember when tasting wine

By Margaret Plevak/For Weekender

"I think the most intimidating thing about tasting wine is there's a myth out there that it's an overtly complicated thing, and it's not," says Jamie Stewart, who has been educating people about wine for nearly two decades.

A sommelier, or wine steward, in his native Australia at the age of 17, Stewart's career has taken him through Europe, Asia, and the United States. He currently lives in Chicago and serves as a director with Fosters Wine Estates.

Stewart will present a seminar on tasting and cellaring wines Friday (Sept. 5), at the Lake Geneva Wine Festival, which runs from Sept. 4-7.

The festival, which benefits Holiday Home Camp, the Geneva YMCA and George Williams College of Aurora University, features fare from local chefs and vintners worldwide.

When tasting those wines, Stewart has a few tips:

1) Remember tasting is subjective.

Too often, he says, mainstream-media wine critics are dictatorial. "There's no such thing as a true expert in this industry. The real basis of successful wine tasting is trying to find what resonates in a particular wine that you enjoy."

2) Be willing to learn.

"You have to understand the nature of wine to enjoy it. Obviously, everything in moderation, but taste as much as you can and experience different grapes, different varietals, different regions and build a muscle tone, almost, to your palate, the way you would repetitions in a gymnasium."

Stewart recommends educating yourself through local tasting groups, wine stores that offer tastings and answer your questions, and winery Web sites that provide information on their products.

3) Be patient.

The aromatics of a wine slowly come to fruition as they react with the enzymes in your mouth and the heat from your palate.

"It's telling a story, and you just don't get that from a synopsis. I guarantee that when (you) taste a wine, it may taste astringent or bitter or too acidic at first, but when it has a chance to mingle around in your mouth and ceases to mince words and actually becomes more beguiling, that changes.

"And given a moment of more reflection, suddenly things blossom and bloom that you would have never anticipated were there - orchard peach, apricots and mandarin blossoms and narcissus - things are going to emerge."

4) Be open.

"We look for faults in things and have a tendency to jump toward the negative. One thing I'm going to urge tasters in this panel to do is to look for the grace, the beauty in a wine first."

Don't automatically assume when you don't like something that it's bad, Stewart says. Wine that's corked can taste flat, but if you don't try another bottle, you won't know it.

5) Enjoy the experience.

"True winemakers make wine in the sense that it's poetry in a liquid form. Wine tasting can be intimidating until you realize, hey, it's fun and it's about passion and poetry and romance.

"People have a tendency to drink what they're told they're going to enjoy rather than exploring the enormous community of winemakers and regions and wines that are there from every price point. And that's the key. Ultimately, it's a matter of drilling down and understanding 'What is it about this thing that I love?'"

Stewart points to the scene in the movie "Ratatoullie," where a jaded food critic tastes a dish and instantly is transported to the sights and aromas of his mother's kitchen.

"That's what wine needs to do," Stewart says. "It need to take you somewhere to a place, a moment in time."


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