The Stephanie Scale

Posted 2006.08.05 0.00 in Wine by Stephanie

Just a quick word about the scale I use when I taste and rate wine.

I am using a scale which is more or less the same as that used by and published by a number of professional wine critics. The scale is from 50 to 100. Points are awarded based on Appearance, Nose (smell), Body (mouthfeel), Finish (aftertaste), and Overall (or potential, for cellaring).

I very rarely rate anything above 95, and even a 93 is hard to reach. I have yet to find a wine that I would give a perfect ‘100’, but I have given a 99. About the lowest rating you will see here is an 80. I have rated wines as low as 60 but I wouldn’t waste time doing a write up of something so bad.

Here’s a simple scale that provides a fun reference for my ratings:
100 – I’ve died and gone to Heaven.
99 – If I could drink only one wine for the rest of my life, this is it.
95 – I want this served at my wedding, and maybe my funeral.
90 – I’d serve this with pride to my parents, my fiance, my boss, and my boss’s boss.
85 – I’d keep this onhand for all occasions, special or ordinary.
80 – I’d keep a few bottles around, for everyday drinking, and won’t worry if I open it then don’t want it after all.
70 – If I got it as a gift, I’d pass it on next X-mas to someone I didn’t particularly like.
60 – Yuck! Get it out! Get it out! Ptooey!
50 – Why is there a dead mouse floating in the bottle?

A final word about the Stephanie Scale: I am an amateur wine critic, but I am a serious amateur. I take my tasting seriously, and I have almost 300 wines recorded in my log so far. However, I don’t claim to know anything beyond what I’ve read and what I’ve been told. My tasting notes are my own opinion, and what I like and don’t like is entirely based on my own preferences. If you find my tasting notes to be helpful, then that’s great. If you find you like what I hate, and you hate what I like, well that’s what makes the world interesting. If you don’t like my tasting notes, or you disagree with anything I say… feel free to go start your own blog and make your opinions known there.

What’s the big deal about the Spitoon?

Why do I make a fuss about whether or not they have a spitoon? Think about this: I consider a good wine tasting day, to cover 12 to 18 tastings. A proper pour for a proper tasting is about 1 oz. If I swallowed every wine I tasted, that amounts to between 4 and 6 glasses of wine!

This is neither practical or acceptable, for two reasons. First, if my senses are dulled and blurred, then I cannot accurately taste and rate the wines I experience later in the day, after getting ripped on the wines tasted earlier in the day. Second, I’m driving!

Ontario law limits wineries from pouring more than four tastings per customer, because four (1 ounce) tastings amounts to one glass of wine. But they don’t limit you to how many wineries you can cram into your day. Plus, if you lunch at a winery you may well have a glass or two with your meal.

The point is, if you’re serious about tasting, and responsible about not driving while intoxicated, you have to spit. And I feel very strongly that any winery that is offering tastings, must have spitoons available.

If they don’t, then frankly that just tells me that they are ignorant or inexperienced, and if they haven’t had serious tasters visiting them, it suggests that what they have on offer isn’t worth serious consideration.

Carmela Estates Winery

Posted 2006.08.05 0.00 in Wine by Stephanie

The second winery we visited on Thursday, was a nice little winery situated near the Sandbanks area. They have just under 30 acres under vine. Situated in the middle of the estate is their store / tasting room / restaurant, all one building. A separate building served as a banquet hall, and a third building was a guest house, available for vacationers.

The building was very new and clean, with a nice open feel about it. The only thing that seemed a little peculiar was the restaurant was incorporated right into the store / tasting room, such that there were four or five tables in the same area as the displayed merchandise. The tables were to one side of the room and merchandise to the other, but it did seem like it would feel a bit odd, having a meal while people were shopping right next to you. Fortunately they also had tables outside on a patio, and in an upstairs loft that looked down over the store, and out through windows over the vinyard. The view from the loft was very pleasant.

We had lunch in the loft area, the food (a cheese tray and a salad) was simple but with a touch of class. It was quite good, and there was more than we could finish.

Now, the tastings! The staff here did not seem to have time to really talk with us about their wines, so I can’t comment on how knowledgable they may have been. This is the only winery we visited that was able to provide a proper spitoon when requested, and did not panic or make a fuss about it. A small dish of (salted) crackers was available, to cleanse the palate between tastings.

The first wine I tried was their 2002 Riesling (VQA Ontario). It was a light pale straw yellow in appearance. On the nose I found florals, some mineral tones, and finally some tropical citrus sensations – all typical for Rieslings. The 2002 was vinted to be a semi-dry, and I did find it quite juicy on the palate. Unfortunately it lacked the acidity which to me is critical, to balance the sweetness. The finish was short, a bit fruity, and refreshing. At $12.95 a bottle, I think it is priced about right. On the Stephanie Scale, I give it an 87.

Wine number two was their 2005 Terroir Twist (VQA Ontario), a blend of Estate-grown Chardonnay, Riesling, and Pinot Gris. The appearance was a pale straw yellow. On the nose I found faint corn, some citrus and lychee, and a bit of apple. It came across somewhat bitter on the palate, rather light, with a texture leaning towards watery. The finish was better, with some acidity, and a return of the fruitiness that had been present in the nose. $17.95 a bottle it is a bit above what I would pay for it, but it was an interestesting blend to taste. This wine rated an 89 on the Stephanie Scale.

The third wine I tasted was their 2005 Cabernet Franc (VQA Ontario). The Cab-Franc is one of my favorite red varietals and we have quite a few great examples here in Ontario. This one looked a light, bright red in the glass, which was a little surprising to me, for such a young Cab Franc. The nose was full of dark green peppers and spicey vegetals, very typical of the Cab Franc grape. On the mouth, it was warm, full-bodied, somewhat creamy and a bit tannic. The finish was moderate and fruity, with some lingering tannins. Despite the light appearance this one might do better with another year behind it; it has the tannins and fruit to last a wee bit, I think. $24.95 a bottle, in my opinion it was a tad high. On the Stephanie Scale, I also give this one an 89.

The last wine I tried at Carmela Estates also proved to be my favorite there. This is the wine I had with lunch. The 2003 Gamay (VQA Ontario) was a very nice, deep dark purple in appearance. The nose was very fruity and evoked sensations of berries and juice. Medium-bodied, it had a nice blend of creaminess and acidity which felt good on the palate. The medium finish was nice, with a little bit of tannins and a welcome return of the berry fruitiness. A real deal, at only $14.95 a bottle. The Gamay earned a 91, on the Stephanie Scale.

Summary: This was tied I think for my favorite winery of the day. Carmela Estates’ wines were acceptable, the area was nice and picturesque, and the staff weren’t rude or ignorant.

Stay tuned, there’ll be more tasting notes to come!

Carmela Estates Winery

Riesling 2002
Carmela Estates Riesling 2002