Wine Tasting Events: I Reach My Threshold at 58 Wines

Posted on: May 1st, 2013 by

wine tasting eventsThough I’ve attended numerous (hundreds of) wine tasting events, I still find they can be punishing to you palate. And normally requires a recovery beer afterward, which, incidentally, will be one of the most delicious beers you will ever drink. But why is 58 my limit? Does the 59th wine send me over the edge? To the dentist? Gum surgeon?

This is no arbitrary number. I arrived at it after tasting 58 Washington Syrahs in my capacity as a judge for a wine event in Seattle, called “Sexy Syrah“. (Looking at my stained teeth after my judging duties were completed, I will confess to feeling low levels of sexiness.) So how do you survive sampling so many wines? What is a good strategy for tasting wines at an event you paid good money to attend? Do you follow the all-you-can-eat buffet strategy? (“Damnit, I paid for all these wines and I’m getting my money’s worth and then some, even if they have to drag me out of here.”)

Fortunately, I have a friend who tastes wine in a most thoughtful and methodical manner; someone who can offer advice to wine lovers and provide a window into how a wine critic evaluates his or her subject. He’s Sean Sullivan, creator of the invaluable Washington Wine Report as well as a Contributing Editor to Wine Enthusiast Magazine. He’s also the latest guest on my Wine Without Worry podcast.

After chatting about wine tasting, we move on to (naturally) talk a bit about Washington wine. I ask Sean if Washington has a signature grape. The candidates?

  • Merlot
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Syrah
  • Riesling
  • Picpoul (joking…or am I?)

You’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out Sean’s answer. And since this episode focuses heavily on wine tasting, I thought it would be fun to bring a wine for Sean to try blind. My intent was not to bring some crazy, esoteric wine that no one in their right mind would ever be able to identify. I take no shameful pride in such parlor tricks! Instead, since we were taping this episode on my birthday (I really know how to celebrate, huh?), I picked out a wine from my stash that I really wanted to drink: the 2002 Mount Eden Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon.

mount eden vineyards cabernet

Love. This. Wine.

I’ve long been a fan of Mount Eden Vineyards, located in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains. Not only do they make great Cabernet, but also fantastic Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. All three are some of the best examples of each grape you’ll find in California. The 2002 Mount Eden Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon met and exceeded my lofty expectations. A very smooth and elegant red, it was gorgeous joy to drink. And quite youthful; I would never have guessed it was 10+ years old based on both the color and the flavor. It has a long life ahead of it. Thank God I have another bottle. Hear all about it:

Wine Without Worry Episode 9 on iTunes: How to Survive Tasting 58 Wines in One Evening

“58” photo courtesy roland.


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10 Responses

  1. JJ Williams says:

    Yes! Although I am bummed that I only now just found out about your podcast, I am now subscribed and super pumped to catch up.

    • Jameson says:


      Great to hear from you and can’t wait for you to get caught up on the podcast. Appreciate your support!



  2. Lesley says:

    Glad I’m not the only one who’s self-conscious about the stained teeth syndrome! 😉

  3. I did a blind tasting of Australian shiraz once, and I have to say, I did not even come close to 58. Phew!

    • Jameson says:


      58 is a big workload, for sure. Thanks for the comment; just checked out Yolk and Cobblestones. Look forward to that whiskey book!



  4. I wish I’d been able to listen to your podcast before I tried to sample rather a lot of wines at a trade event recently. All those sips add up!

    • Jameson says:


      They do add up! One thing I will do is sip and spit dozens of wines and make a note of my, say, top three favorites. I’ll go back and drink those. Usually (hopefully!) you only get a one-ounce pour and with a standard wine glass being about 5oz, your consumption is moderate.

      Thank you for your comment.


  5. Jameson – Perhaps 58 of one variety or style is the limit? We know WA Syrah is/can be often big, extracted, tannic, oaked, and alcoholic. That’s why we devise a matrix for our evaluation and yes, one-heck-of-a palate cleansing station buffet. Sometime you just have to go Brush them Pearls. Who were your “winner(s)?”

    • Jameson says:


      It was from April of last year. An informal, walk-around tasting/judging. I can’t even remember! I think a wine from Bunnell was up there. I will attest that drinking some water, taking a break, and eating these bratwurts did help.

      Thanks for your comment.


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