A cool, rainy Sunday can feel a little like Christmas here in Central Texas, especially at the Summer’s end.  Settling in at home with a cup of tea is about as good as it gets.  Unless you can be at Barley Swine enjoying a Blind Tasting with Gusto Tastings.  That is even better.

Each month, Gusto Tastings holds a blind tasting which allows you to test your palate and chat with other wine lovers in a warm, casual atmosphere.  Gusto Tastings says they,”strive to provide a different kind of service; one that not only is unique and fun but one that can inform and leave an impression.”  They do just that.  The two events I have attended thus far have been outstanding.  It can be difficult to make wine education approachable for the novice and still stretch the seasoned professional.  They have found that sweet spot.

Daniel Kelada founded Gusto Tastings in 2008.  He is a Senior Wine Instructor and an Executive Sommelier.  Daniel is extremely knowledgable in all things wine.  That is undeniable.  However, what I most appreciate about him is his warm demeanor and his ability to bring that expertise to others so effortlessly.  Every question was answered, his explanations were thorough, and yet he made you feel as if you were just chatting with a friend.  As a former teacher, I recognize and appreciate his gift.

On each table, there was a list of possible grapes from a variety of countries.  There were tasting forms, glasses for the flights, and some ridiculously tasty munchies, courtesy of Barley Swine.  On each form, there was a series of questions to help you narrow down your guess.  The goal being to determine:

  • Country
  • Region
  • Varietal
  • Vintage +/- 2yrs.
  • Production Technique

Intimidated?  Don’t be.  Daniel then went through each wine and helped you recognize the clues in each wine that would lead to the correct answer.  I learned so much.  For example, where the acid hits on your tongue indicates the type of acid.  I learned about production techniques and the history of Gamay.  Yes, as luck would have it, we focused on French wines, about which I have much to learn.  The order of the wines in and of itself helped narrow down the possible regions.  The nose?  Another clue.  Old World or New world?  Cool climate or warm?  Seated with many professionals, it would have been easy to feel intimidated, but the group was so warm and so willing to help.  Instead, I felt encouraged and inspired.

Another special treat was a presentation by Madame Cocoa.  She teaches informal classes at UT Austin and at Chautauqua Institution in NY on the glorious bean.  She also gives dessert and chocolate tours here in Austin.  She shared four artisanal chocolates from various origins.  Amazing.  My favorites were Patric Chocolates from Madagascar.  A treat, for sure, but so worth it.

So, now I have a new addiction.  If it is the third Sunday of the month, and you need to find me, try Barley Swine.  Don’t want to wait that long?  Gusto Tastings is hosting another fun event this Wednesday at III Forks: Texas vs. The World where they will be featuring Viogniers.  And you know how I feel about Viognier.

Disclosure: I was provided a Media pass to attend this event