My wife and I celebrated the 19th anniversary of our wedding this past week and while we normally do not become overly sentimental over the “event” it does usually cause me to reflect at least a bit about the year. This time around I came to two solid conclusions, the first of which is fairly obvious to anyone who knows both my wife and me.
I have no idea why she married me nor has remained that way for nineteen years now.
The second is perhaps a bit more prosaic: it is fairly difficult to buy me gifts. It is not that I do not appreciate receiving them, I do, but there are two underlying factors that tend to frustrate my wife when she tries to find the “perfect” gift (other than the fact that I eschew the idea of “perfect” as an unattainable ideal).
One, I am a fairly large person (roughly two standard deviations above the norm) which often renders “fit” a disqualifying factor–as was evidenced by the Air Pod Pros that my wife bought me that simply will not stay in my ears no matter what I do.
The second factor is that I am fairly picky and that I would usually prefer just to shop for myself. Thus, when wanting to “surprise” me with a bottle of champagne, my wife called me from the wine shop to ask me which wine she should buy.
This is why, I imagine, several years ago, we decided that we would no longer purchase gifts for one another at Christmas.
Well, that may have just changed as I might have found the perfect gift for oenophiles such as myself for whom finding gifts is inherently impossible (feel free to read that last sentence as “the perfect gift for pain-in-the-butt know-it-all-types who drink wine” which may be redundant on several levels).
The concept is both fairly simple but also rather extraordinary. The folks at Master the World™ curate six wines every month and send them to you in numbered 187ml bottles for you to taste on your own, blind (meaning you have no idea what the wines are, other than, of course, the color).
For wine geeks like me or someone who is just trying to discover more about wine, this is a fabulous concept. Sure, it is a bit pricey (the cost ranges from $70-$90 per shipment, depending on your level of commitment), but beyond the wine, the price includes access to the app and online seminars (with Master Sommeliers) both of which will help you evaluate and appreciate the wines.
A few weeks ago, I received a kit and joined the online seminar. Here are the notes that I took during the process.
The live tasting was led by the founders of Master the World, Limeng Stroh (CEO) and Evan Goldstein (Master Sommelier) along with two additional Master Somms, Madeline Triffon and Tim Gaiser. The tree MS walked us through the wines and the tasting process.
White One: I am not sure if they add more sulfur when they re-bottle these wines, but there is certainly a lot here. After several swirls, there is a bit of fruit, and some minerality. I thought it would be a Sauvignon Blanc (where most tastings start), but it’s lacking the grassy/cat pee thing. While it is a “nice” wine, upon tasting it seems to be more of a Pinot Grigio from Italy (since it is a bit on the boring side). The wine? 2018 Marco Felluga Montgris Collio Pinot Grigio.
White Two: More sulfur on the nose and quite sparse on the fruit (thus it screams “Old World” to me). More fruit on the palate than the nose and I initially thought it was a Chenin Blanc, but the relatively high acidity and drying out aspect on the finish caused me to think Albariño. But since I could not get past the sulfur, I couldn’t get a good read. I guessed Albariño from Spain, but it was a 2018 Anselmo Mendes Alvarinho Contacto from Portugal, so I consider that a win.
White 3: Once again, I started with Chenin, since it is fairly austere on the nose (thus again screaming “Old World”) but I started to move away from Chenin given it’s acidity and minerality on the palate (Chenin tends to be rounder and softer). I eventually landed on Pinot Blanc, from France. Well, I was pretty wrong here, it seems as it was a Grüner Veltliner from Austria. 2018 Laurenz V. Singing Grüner Veltliner.
I feared the reds were going to be harder to discern, and I was right.
Red 1: Quite fruity on the nose, with just a faint hint of greenness, which sings California to me. Due to the green elements. I have to go with Cab Franc from CA. I really like this wine. Well, it ended up being from Washington, which surprised me since I didn’t know that much Cab Franc was grown there. 2016 Walla Walla Vintners Columbia Valley Cab Franc. I think I can justify half-credit here.
Red 2: A touch of fruit here on the nose, but a much earthier wine, which screams “Old World” again. Austere for sure on the palate (particularly when compared with the first wine). This is a tough one. But given the color—not incredibly dark, I might have to go with a Rhone wine. I guessed Southern Rhône, but it was not Grenache but Syrah and thus from the Northern Rhône. 2016 E. Guigal Crozes-Hermitage. I’m going to give myself half credit again.
Red 3: Tons of blackberry here. Dark fruit. Dark pepper. Opaque. This has to be a cab and a New World one. I am pretty confident here. Tons of fruit on the palate but also plenty of tannin on the backend. Could be a Petite Sirah, though, given the color and jamminess, but those do not usually throw this much tannin. Always go with your gut: Cab Sauv. 2017 Trig Point Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
My conclusion? It is a pretty cool product and certainly “worth” the cost. I will be dropping hints this year that maybe my wife and I should revisit our decision about Christmas gift-giving!