A Bottle of Wine for SCYA (Southern California Yachting Association)

Last year I was asked to speak about a ‘Good Bottle of Wine’ to the Southern California Yachting Association monthly meeting. Here is that presentation.

“Let me start with the question, how many of you like a good bottle of wine? That’s great! So let’s grab your glass and have a toast to the Golden Era of Wine.

And now, a second question, do you all like the same wine? Well, of course the answer to that is, no!

Inevitably, people always come up and say ‘I love this bottle of wine, I want you to taste it, and tell me what you think.’ Often times the wine is good, maybe not good or you really can’t taste it. And you politely tell your host why yes, it’s a very nice wine. Because you should never speak poorly of somebody’s beloved wine. It’s a little let bit like telling them their boat is ugly.wpid-IMAG0962.jpg

So why is this? Why does one wine sing and as they say on American Idol,  “It’s a little pitchy for me.”  Well, it all has to do with our taste palates. I’ll give  you an example.

But first, let’s open this up for the first question of the night, the first gift. I’m sure all of you have seen, heard of, tasted or purchased a bottle of Charles Shaw wine. You’ve often heard it referred to as Two Buck Chuck. So, my question is, who is Charles Shaw? Is he a real person or is he the janitor at the winery? Well, he is a real person. In fact he was a Stanford Business School graduate who worked as a banker in France and then retired to make wine in the Napa Valley.  It was 1974, and he was selling Gamay bottle of wine for $8 a bottle. That’s quite a hefty sum for the times. Now you’ve heard the joke about how to make a small fortune in the wine business? Start with a large fortune! Well this is exactly what he did, and he went bankrupt. The winery was eventually sold for $1.6 million but the brand was not included in the sale. So a bankruptcy trustee offered the brand to California’s Bronco Wine Co. (Franzia Family) for $18,000.

So let’s get back to our discussion about taste palates and why we all like different wines. How many of you love lima beans? Raise your hands. How many of you dislike lima beans or despise them?

There’s a pretty big spread here between the likes and dislikes. So tell me, why would those who like lima beans enjoy the same wine as those people who dislike lima beans?

This is a great example of the difference in our taste, our palates. We all have different taste and we all like different things, a bottle of wine is no exception.

A fellow by the name of Tim Hanni has been exploring this issue for years. Tim is one of the first two Americans be recognized as a Master of Wine. For two decades he has been exploring how human beings actually perceive and experience wine.

He’s created a test that quantifies your  what your  palate desires, what satiate’s your taste. Is it hypersensitive, sensitive or tolerant? If you dislike drinking coffee (or you put lots of sugar and cream in your coffee) you are probably hypersensitive. If you put a little bit of cream and sugar in your coffee you’re probably a sensitive palate. If you drink your coffee black you’re probably a tolerant palette.

This is a very simple and abbreviated example of the test. Other questions involve diet, soda versus regular soda, salty snacks and whether or not you are male or female. It gives you an idea of how he segments palates.

If you are a hyper sensitive palate you probably like white wines, champagnes and maybe Pinot Noir. My wife Erin falls into this category and sometimes tests out as sensitive.

If you are a sensitive palate you probably like a lot of red wines, but they won’t be very tannic.   Chardonnay wine, Cabernet along with Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc are probably the wines you prefer. This is where I test out.

If you’re a tolerant palate (meaning you like that black coffee) you like the bigger bolder bottle of wine with more tannic acid. Wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, old Vine Zinfandel, petite syrah. Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate can be your guide to good wine. Don’t follow Parker’s recommendations if you are a hypersensitive or sensitive palate.

For this short presentation I won’t go deeply into the test but will tell you may take the test at the web address listed on my handout. I encourage you to take the test and understand a little bit more about what you like, and why.

Why can you imagine this! I have another bottle of wine to give away. So here’s the question, who can tell me how many bottles of Charles Shaw wine have been sold since was introduced? Over 600 Million Bottles Of Charles Shaw Wine Have Been Sold!

I’ll finish by giving you some background on the wine you enjoyed this evening. Erin I recently had the opportunity to be judges at the Consumer Wine Awards in Lodi. The local Rotary there runs this program in conjunction with Tim Hanni.  Erin and I both tasted more than 30 wines that matched our palette and or preferences. Erin chose zinfandels. I chose blended wines along with some out-of-state wines. They taught us how to gracefully spit so we can savor 30+ wine tastings in two and half hours and still be completely sober.

It was a wonderful experience as we met so many of the people who are part of the Golden Age of Wine I mentioned earlier. It was a blind tasting so we knew nothing about what we tasted until that night at dinner. We also had the chance to meet some of the other judges, 118 people tasting wines. We also had a chance to explore some of the 100+ wineries surrounding Lodi.

The wine you have tonight was awarded a gold or platinum medal in the competition. Both the red and the white were chosen for this reason.

I hope you have enjoyed them and perhaps found another bottle of wine you may share on your boat.

Thank you for listening, and here’s another toast to a great boating season here in Southern California? I’ll see you on the water!”

Bill Hodge & Erin O’Neill-Hodge enjoy a good bottle of wine, visiting and enjoying California wineries from Lake County to Orange County, from the Paso Robles Gold Coast to Gold Country and from Lodi to Bakersfield.

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