Tea For Two -or What Tea Can Tell You About Wine

I had the pleasure of hosting Paul Draper and two wonderful guests yesterday for what was not only an excellent tasting, but an enlightening conversation.

The topics were, amongst other things, the recent changes rung at the Wine Advocate, the Asian Palate, Singaporean wine collectors, and most importantly, tea.

Is it possible it all comes down to structure in the end?

I experienced a certain oeno-satori over the course of the evening’s conversation; my moment of clarity came as the talk turned on tea.

How do you take it? What sort do you drink? Do you drink tea at all?

Consider black tea. Strong, high in tannin, often wants milk, sugar, maybe lemon.

Consider oolong. Subtle, soft, aromatic; drunk on its own, reverentially.

Are these in fact the bookends of the wine palate?

The idea grew exponentially in my head.

Sweet, flavored teas?

Chai? Twig Tea? Gunpowder?

And what of coffee drinkers?

I’ll posit a theory: tell me your feelings for tea, and I can pick your perfect wine.

The tasting itself was lovely; a few selections I’ve tasted with some degree of regularity of late, and a few gems I was happily re-introduced to …


I was fairly engrossed in the conversations, so rather neglected the bulk of my tasting note duties, but I did manage to jot down a few snapshots …

2011 Ridge Vineyards Geyserville (just bottled, not yet released)

Excellently savory aromatics: notes of pemmican, jerky, and myriad swirls of sweet and savory umami layers, w/ a touch of bacon smokiness playing against a fascinating underlayer of pistachio-esque duskiness and herbaceousness … Very fruit-forward and perfumed palate profile, redolent of raspberry sorbet and crushed flowers … heading into the finish the fruit notes darken slightly, into more of a boysenberry pie vibe … acidty is warm and pleasing on the finish, and the tannins are expertly finessed … overall, a Geyserville driven by a well-integrated reconciliation of bright fruit on top, and savory umami notes downstairs …

1997 Ridge Vineyards Geyserville (from the vaults)

Aromatics that play pleasantly light wood notes (sandalwood/balsawood) against dried fruit/fruit compote/pannetone autumnalities, with a striation of sweet fruit leather in-between … the mouthfeel is full and viscous/full-bodied and fleshy, dominated by mid-tone plum character and hints of boysenberry and blueberry extracts … the finish is marked by settled acidity and still-firm tannins … a cellared Geyserville in excellent condition; will appeal most to those who enjoy a richer, sweeter, full-bodied style, yet also appreciate the secondary hallmarks of age … An excellent bottle …

2010 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello (My “first” Monte Bello! See: http://bit.ly/YzNqnf)

Almost impossibly complext aromatics, running a gamut from more umami-esque notes of bacon, soy, and teriyaki, through dark blue and black berry notes, to rich herbalities evoking tobacco, anise, and clove … Add to this a minty herbality, a complexicating weave of mineral and crushed rock, and a subtle waft of sweet and yeasty bread dough … Mid-palate is driven by three classic tiers: eucalytpal herbaceousness in the attic, black fruit on the main floor, and rooty herbs in the basement … structurally, the wine evidences a sophisticated acidty, with serenely coated tannins … this Monte Bello is, in short, complex, integrated, and amazing …

2008 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello (from the vaults)

On the nose; sweet red fruit, red apple skin, classic notes of chalky minerality and limestone, with a slight and subtle umami layer matched against some pistachio herbality and a trace of grenadine-like tartness … the mouthfeel is soft, round, supple, and velvety to the point of being sexual … the fruit characters are largely of a mid-tone variety; red apple on the high side, pluot flesh in the middle, blueberry down below … the finish is distinguished by soft and smooth structure, gentle acidity, warm and coated tannins, and an overall smoothness the bespeaks excellent craft and sophisticated development … One of my favorite Monte Bellos from the oughts …

the tea smoke
and the willow
together trembling


Categories: Bordeaux varietals, Geyserville, History, Lytton Springs, Monte Bello, Paul Draper, Tasting Flights, Tasting Notes, Varietals & Blends, Wine & Philosophy, Wine & Poetry, Zinfandel

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3 replies

  1. Tea & Wine, a theme for the next blogger tasting?
    The teas I drink the most are English or other breakfast blends, Oolong and Pu-erh unsweetened, no milk. I am also strongly opposed to Earl Grey and almost every fruit tea I have ever tried.

  2. Hmmm…the tea I drink most often is green tea (ocsasionally with a bit of honey, but mostly straight up), but I also very much enjoy match tea latte (unsweetened), soy chai tea latte, oolong, and black tea. What does that suggest Christopher?

    • That you drink too much tea? That you like almost ALL wine?

      Kidding, I’m kidding, I kid …

      Of course, you know you’ve presented a deeply complex conundrum, one that will require MUCH research on my part … but I WILL produce an answer!

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