Next stop on the tour was Sbragia Winery, north of Healdsburg on Dry Creek Road. We visited this place last October and had an exceptional wine tasting experience then. The view is beautiful, too, so we decided to add this to our list of wineries to visit on this trip in search of unique wine experiences. Sbragia offers a variety of different options including tasting on the terrace with a charcuterie and cheese plate for $30, a chocolate and wine pairing for $30 per person or $15 for wine club members, or a sensory tasting for $50 per person or $20 for wine club members. The winery will also conduct customized tastings such as a compare and contrast of one varietal (a chardonnay to chardonnay or vintage to vintage), with advanced notice.
We called ahead and signed up for the sensory tasting. Wow! What an experience! Arriving early, we got a lot of good photos from the spacious deck overlooking Dry Creek Valley while we waited for our tasting to begin. Our host was Andrew McPherson. A wine collector for 20 years now working in the wine industry, this man was a wealth of knowledge. Andrew reserved the library for this special tasting, and supplied us with a generous and sumptuous charcuterie board. The sensory tasting is almost a sommelier like experience where visitors get to learn what aromatics are using the La Nez Du Vin wine aroma kit, along with tasting five different Sbragia wines. The kit contains 54 little jars of different aromas. We used ten, two per tasting, for this exercise.
We started with a sauvignon blanc, then a chardonnay, before working our way into the reds. The way the sensory tasting works is you start smelling and tasting the wine to try and detect the different characteristics. Then Andrew would hand us two different vials and ask us to guess what the smells were from. He also supplied us with a wine aroma wheel that separates the fruits in white wine to fruits in red wine, floral scents and flavors, vegetal, oak aging characterics and even off odors that sometimes show up in a bad wine or a wine with a bad cork.
Each time we tasted, sniffed, and wrote down our guesses. Then Andrew would tell us what the actual scent was and let us smell the vial again. It was pretty laughable how many times we got it wrong but the experience was an important step for us in helping develop our palates. After two and a half hours and a sampling of some of Sbragia’s other reserve wines, we were done! Thankfully, this was the only appointment we scheduled for the day. Because there were only the two of us with Andrew, we really got a crash course on wine tasting. But, I would definitely go back again with friends and do it all over again.
For those of you looking to teach yourself at home, you can actually buy the kit for $399 at winearomas.com. This is often a required kit for enology students at UC Davis. You know how students sell their text books back at the end of the semester to get some money back? I think I’ll head over to the UC Davis book store and see if I can’t pick up a used aroma kit sold back by a recent, broke graduate. Who knows? Maybe next time I’ll get more than two out of ten right!