Leaving San Francisco was magical – the lights of the city and the highway 580 bridge as we sailed out under the Golden Gate, and then them dropping away as we turned south. Very nice.
I wasn’t going to do any walking at all, because of the major walking yesterday, but ended up getting in about 2 or 3 km anyway, just to stretch the legs and be moving. Some of that was out on the promenade deck, some was just wandering around the ship, checking out the various places and sights.
Today was the premium wine tasting, and we got a number of treats but let’s do the wines first – these were available on the ship, but weren’t in the packages offered – they were a step over the quality that we had in the last tasting. We had, again, two reds and two whites: a 2011 Laroche Chablis, Premium Cru, from France; a 2012 Errazuriz Late Harvest Savuignon Blanc from Chile, a 2012 Decoy Merlot from California and a 2009 Col Solare from Washington State.
The Chablis, in case you forgot, is a region in France, south east of Paris. The grape is a chardonnay grape and the area is cool, so it doesn’t taste like a typical chardonnay. It’s a light straw colour, greeny on the edges and is usually unoaked (which was true of this one). It had a medium high acidity, which meant that the sides of your tongue and your salivary glands noticed it; a minerally taste typical of European wines, and a delicate, granny smith apple scent and taste to it. Crisp and a lovely long finish. It was dry but very nice. It paired well with the strawberry, and didn’t work so well with the blue cheese or the Gouda we had. A very long finish – minutes long. The wine labeling in France is really complicated, and I don’t completely understand it (okay – I don’t get it at all!) But while the term Premium Cru seems to indicate wine of the top drawer, the best of the best – it’s not, quite. That’s the Grand Cru. Premier Cru is a step below that. Regardless, it was a lovely wine, and I hope we can get a bottle or two at some point.
The Sauvignon Blanc, in contrast, was from a hot area with intense sun, and was a late harvest, so the sugars were full, and the flavours well developed. The colour was a medium intense yellow and it was a very sweet, syrupy taste, but I liked it – it also had some minty odours and flavours to offset the sweetness a bit. It worked beautifully with the blue cheese they had (sorry, they didn’t say what the blue was – it wasn’t as strong as a Roquefort, that was for sure, but that’s all I could tell) but apparently, late harvest grapes do that – they tend to balance the fattier types of cheese nicely (this is one of the reasons I’m so impressed with Cecilia – she gives good general tips like this). The acid was well balanced, so that the sweetness wasn’t cloying, but the tongue didn’t die of acidity, either.
The Decoy Merlot was young – we know this not just because of the fact the year is on the label, but also because the edges of the wine are the same colour as the centre (I remember this from the wine course we took, now that I come to think of it); it was a medium intense ruby colour – I could just barely see my fingers through the wine when I held it up to the white table cloth. The scents were of leather and black/dark berries, but it was the texture that really got me – smooth, silky, rounded on the tongue. It’s a medium body, and it felt like liquid silk in the mouth, or soft, soft water on the skin. Everything balanced beautifully, with a moderate finish.
The Col Solare wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and a Malbec. If you’re familiar with wine blends, you’ll recognize the first three as the components of a right bank Bordeaux. However, that’s beside the point (unless, like me, you love right bank Bordeaux.) The wine is from the Col Solare winery, which is a collaboration between the wine legend Piero Antinori and the Washington State Ste. Michelle wine estates. (I’m quoting here – I wouldn’t know any of the wine legends if I tripped over them). Also quoting: the Antinori family is one of the first to have created and marketed the Super Tuscan wines (about which we are apparently going to learn more, later in the cruise – stay tuned). This wine was amazing. A dark ruby colour, very intense, with red meat and peppery odours. Full, full body, velvety in texture and high tannins, but not overpowering. The tongue noticed it but it didn’t dominate in the mouth. It works with date-type fruits and I don’t have any notes about the cheeses it worked with.
Golly, guess we’ll have to get some bottles and check it out with some cheeses when we get home. It’s aged for 22 months in oak, and according to Cecelia, that means it has a “monster” flavour – most wines wouldn’t survive that long in oaken aging barrels, the oak flavours would wipe out the natural wine flavours. Definitely one to try when we get home. And since it ages well, maybe, if the budget will allow it, put some by for a few years!
We sat with two other couples who happened to be from Vancouver, and tomorrow we’ll talk a bit about them, and the weather. Turns out the weather is beginning to be a problem – who knew? Stay tuned. This could get exciting. Or scary.