Rising to the Challenge
Someecards.com said it best:
I'm having fruit salad for dinner. Well, it's mostly grapes actually. Ok, all grapes. Fermented grapes. I'm having wine for dinner.
We’ve all had those evenings. (Ummm, right?) Sometimes a bottle of your favorite Pinot Noir split amongst friends is the perfect end to the day. Or, if you’re like my friends and me, it’s more like a few bottles. I totally get it! And on those nights you’re not savoring La Crema or Director’s Cut; you’re buying off the lower shelves. The $15-and-less-shelves. I’m BFF with those shelves.
But which to buy? The best label? The one that’s almost sold out so it must be good?
We’ve got you covered! Well, technically, Wine Enthusiast Magazine has you covered. Hot off the presses, allow us to introduce you to Wine Enthusiasts’ Top 100 Wines Under $15. Thousands of wines were reviewed, with Château Mayne Guyon 2011 Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux claiming the No. 1 spot. Yeah, I’ve never heard of it either.
With a long history as an editor and fact-checker, I of course questioned the validity of this list. And therefore, I challenged the TodaysOrlando.com team (myself included) to sample all 100 wines and give them our own scores. Thus was born the TodaysOrlando.com 2013 Wine Challenge! #TO100wines
To kick off the challenge, Jessica and I visited our local winery to get a refresher course on tasting and reviewing wine. We stopped by Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards in Clermont, about 20 minutes from Southwest Orlando. Lakeridge is the largest winery in the state, and its sister property, San Sebastian Winery, is the second largest. These people know their Florida wine.
Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards is the largest winery in Florida.
After watching a video about the winery, we took a tour, where we saw some of the 44 fermentation tanks, which can hold more than 413,000 gallons of wine (more than 2 million bottles!); the vineyard; and bottling and storage areas. Then we headed downstairs for the main event — the tasting.
We sampled nine wines, from dry to sweet. Most of Lakeridge’s wine is made from Muscadine grapes, so they’re all pretty sweet. My favorite was the Reserve Cuveé Noir, a red wine that’s the driest produced and made from a blend of grapes, some of which are from California. I just … as much as I’m obsessed with Jason Aldean’s hit My Kinda Party, I can’t fall in love with Muscadine wine. I just can’t.
But the tasting accomplished exactly what we needed — a quick refresher on the correct way to sample wine. And since we’d love for you to participate at home, allow me to give you a quick recap:
The 5 S’s
See — Pick up your glass by the stem, not the area holding the wine, as this could alter the temperature. Take a look for any pesky floaties, and make note of the color and transparency, as this gives you an idea of the age and type of grape used.
Swirl — Tilt that glass and give it a good swirl to aerate the wine and release its full flavor and aroma potential.
Smell — Immediately following a good swirl, take a first-impression sniff, followed by a deep inhale. You should smell the berries, flowers, vanilla, etc. that wineries claim are in there. If it smells funky or like bad balsamic vinaigrette, send it back.
Sip — Take a little sip to cleanse the palate, and then a big slurp to get all the flavor. Yes, slurp. Just don’t make any weird slurping noises.
Savor —Love your wine. Enjoy your wine. The longer the taste stays in your mouth after each slurp, the better the wine.
Now, go! Go and start sampling, my friends! Here’s your list of 100 wines — Top 100 Wines Under $15. Let us know which ones you’ve tried with the hashtag #TO100wines on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and don’t forget to check TodaysOrlando.com to see how our challenge is going. Can we drink all 100 wines by the time the ball drops on Dec. 31, 2013? You bet your $%& we can. We will get it done. No matter what it takes.
* Cover image courtesy of Carlos Porto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net