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Category Archives: Las Positas College Viticultural Program

World Champagne Day 2016

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I was completely taken by surprise to learn today was #WorldChampagneDay this morning. I’ve been so busy with a new job in the city that wine events have fallen off my radar.

On a whim tonight on the way home, I stopped into Diablo Foods in Lafayette for dinner. The store has historically had a great wine selection, and the chilled wines, sparkling and still, was no exception. I grabbed a 375 ml. of the Piper-Heidsieck Brut to explore after my meal.

Piper Heidsieck.png

According to Tom Stevenson’s Christie’s World Encyclopedia Of Champagne & Sparkling Wine, the champagne house of Piper-Heidsieck is located in the Champagne region of France. Established in Reims by Florens-Louis Heidsieck in the summer of 1785, the house combined the name with Piper in 1839. Piper-Heidsieck was enfolded into the Remy Cointreau group in the late 1980’s.

The Brut is made in the traditional way with pinot noir and chardonnay and, interestingly, none of the fruit is grown on site, and sourced throughout the Champagne region.

I’ve gotten almost completely over a recent cold, and while the aroma wasn’t strong for me, the flavors were exquisite.  I perceived a light floral nose, perhaps honeysuckle? The taste was light, and citrus, with an abundance of enjoyable acidity.

I love champagne, and actually became a huge fan both from drinking and living vicariously through many of my wine blogger friends’ posts. What has also caught my attention is David Glancy’s Champagne course over at the San Francisco Wine School that is part of the French Wine Scholar program. Now that I’ve returned to my previous profession and am working in the city, I actually have more opportunities to continue my education in wine studies, albeit away from Las Positas. Let’s see what 2017 brings!




The Sensory Analysis of Wine

After a two-year hiatus, I’m going to begin blogging again – hooray! Despite the fact that I’m no longer taking courses at Las Positas College in Livermore due to freelance work schedules and the ilk, I find I’m still drawn to the school for enology or viticulture coursework.

One course that I have yet to take is the sensory analysis course. I remember fellow students who were taking the course simultaneously coming in with home made kits — boxes full of tiny containers, each with a different food item, such as fresh and dried fruit or dried herbs.  I remember being overwhelmed, and yet intrigued, by these kits designed specifically for wine aroma analysis.


Photo: Wine

There are kits that are available for sale for wine aroma analysis that greatly range in price — Beginning with a few dollars that can be made in your own kitchen and on to full kits with dozens of vials that are over $100 and can exceed $500.


But any kind of kit is important for wine drinkers who wish capture tasting notes. When we smell certain things, we’re relying on memory, an imprint of what the characteristic aroma “should” be, but we  can’t always distinguish the aromas unless we have an exemplar on hand for comparison. I always think of peppermint and spearmint. While they are extremely similar, spearmint is more subtle due to the lack of menthol that exists within peppermint. Years ago while visiting a chiropractic doctor for an examination, he gave me a blind smell test to test my senses. I thought I was smelling peppermint or something “minty” when the aroma turned out to be cinnamon sticks.

Whether a wine writer is starting out or is an experienced taster, I feel having a sensory kit on hand on occasion would be beneficial so as to be able to zero in more closely on the aromas, and to reduce any bias or prior scent imprints on the tasting.

What do you think? Do you think a person should be able to learn to distinguish tastes and aromas without a sensory kit? Is it cheating to use one? Or are sensory kits a tool that anyone can utilize to realize the full scope of a wine’s fragrant aromas and tastes?



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