Wine Aroma Wheel

Describing the different flavors that are smelled or tasted while enjoying wine can be a daunting process.  I have found that the Wine Aroma Wheel, by Ann Noble, helps break them down into categories that are manageable.  I have found this wheel very helpful during many tastings.

To order a laminated version of this wheel, visit the Wine Aroma Wheel’s website:



Citrus: Grapefruit, Lemon

Berry: Blackberry, Raspberry, Strawberry, Red Currant (Cassis)

(Tree) Fruit: Cherry, Apricot, Peach, Apple

(Tropical) Fruit: Pineapple, Melon, Banana

Dried Fruit: Strawberry Jam, Raisin, Prune, Fig

Other: Artificial Fruit, Methyl Anthranilate


Fresh: Cut Green Grass, Bell Pepper, Eucalyptus, Mint

Canned/Cooked: Green Beans, Asparagus, Green Olive, Black Olive, Artichoke

Dried: Hay/Straw, Tea, Tobacco


Nutty: Walnut, Hazelnut, Almond


Caramel: Honey, Butterscotch, Diacetyl (Butter), Soy Sauce, Chocolate, Molasses


Resinous: Vanilla, Cedar, Oak

Phenolic: Medicinal, Phenolic, Bacon

Burned: Smokey, Burnt Toast, Coffee


Earthy: Mushroom, Dusty

Moldy: Moldy, Moldy Cork


Petroleum: Diesel, Kerosene, Plastic, Tar

Sulfur: Wet Wool, Wet Dog, Sulfur Dioxide, Burnt Match, Cabbage, Skunk, Garlic, Natural Gas, Mercaptan, Hydrogen Sulfide, Rubbery

Pungent: Sulfur Dioxide, Ethanol, Acetic Acid, Ethyl Acetate


Cool: Menthol

Hot:  Alcohol


Oxidized: Sherry


Yeasty: Baker’s Yeast, Leesy

Lactic: Yogurt, Sweaty, Sauerkraut

Other: Mousey, Horsey


Spicy: Licorice Anise, Black Pepper, Cloves

Chateau St. Michelle Merlot

Chateau St. Michelle



(Columbia Valley)


On Bottle:

* Aged 15 months in oak barrels

* Rich aromas & soft flavors

* Black cherry & spice


My notes:

Nose: Vanilla and cherry

After 3 hour decant: Fruity

After 6 hour decant: Vanilla and fruit

Taste: Tannins, vanilla, fruit and oak

This merlot had a fabulous mix of vanilla, fruit and oaky notes.  The tannins were prevalent, but soft. I would definitely drink this wine from Washington state again.  It paired well with the chicken parmesan I was eating for dinner.

Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon

Louis M. Martini

Cabernet Sauvignon


(Sonoma County)


On bottle:

* Website:

* Fresh, ripe flavors of black cherry, currant and spice

* Pairs well with beef, lamb, pasta marinara and rich cheeses

My notes:

Nose: spice, currant, blackberries

After 3 hour decant: spice, mellow

After 6 hour decant: currant, cherry

The nose changed considerable after being decanted. The difference in tannin was perceptible even in the nose.  I enjoyed the nose of the 6 hour decant the most.

Taste: heavy tannins, extremely astringent

After 3 hour decant: smoother, but still bitter mouthfeel

After 6 hour decant: smoothes, still a level of astringence

I was not a fan of this particular cabernet sauvignon.  I always thought that I enjoyed cabernet sauvignon, but I do not drink it often because I can rarely find someone who wants to split a bottle with me.  I did this taste test without food, so even though I wrote down in my notes not to purchase this particular wine again, maybe I will give it a shot with a meal.

I have seen this particular vintage and brand in many lists of solid cabernets, so either my tastes are very different than a lot of reputable sources or maybe I don’t like cabernet sauvignons as much as I thought.  More taste testing is needed to determine my final assessment.

312 Urban Wheat Ale

One of my goals is to try a new wine, beer or spirit each week.  Although I have seen 312 on tap often, I have never tried it.  As I sat in a local pub, reading and studying for my introductory sommelier course, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to give it a try.

This beer is produced by Goose Island and the name 312 comes from the area code of the Loop in Chicago.


Basic Info (via 312 website)

Brewer’s Notes: Inspired by the city of Chicago and densely populated with flavor, 312’s spicy aroma of Cascade hops is followed by a crisp, fruity ale flavor delivered in a smooth, creamy body that’s immensely refreshing.

Style: Urban Wheat

ABV: 4.2%

International Bitterness Units: 18

Color: Hazy Straw

Hops: First Gold, Liberty, Cascade

Malts: 2 Row, Torrified Wheat

Preferred Glass: Tall Glass

Food Pairings: Salads, Fish

Cheese Pairings: Fresh Chevre, Buffalo Mozzarella

Cellaring Notes:  Enjoy within 180 days

My Notes:

I drank a draft pint of 312 at a local pub.  A fresh keg was put in immediately after I ordered, as the tap was running out. The beer was light golden in color, with minimal foam after the pour.  There were small, fast bubbles rising to the top of the pint glass immediately after the pour.

The first drink was light, effervescent and refreshing, with mild citrus and pine flavors. The aroma was also filled with citrus and pine notes. I loved this beer while it was ice cold! As it becomes room temperature, the mouthfeel became bitter and astringent.

I will definitely be enjoying this brew in the summer.  Because of the lemon/citrus flavor, I think that it would be best consumed sitting on the deck on a summer evening after work, watching the sunset or grilling out.  Perfect for light drinking.

Red Wine Sangria

In an effort to will summer to appear quicker, I am organizing all of my summer recipes.  Last year I brought this to our family’s Father’s Day celebration, which included my parents, brother, both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and significant others.  All in all, there were well over fifty people that showed up at my parents house for a lovely afternoon playing games, eating and drinking.  This cocktail was a hit! I can’t wait to make it again this summer. (And I have plenty of peach schnapps left since this recipe is the only thing I use it in!)


Red Wine Sangria

1 bottle of red, fruity wine (I find that the inexpensive varieties work well for sangria)

2 cups of vodka (more/less to taste or for potency)

1 cup of peach schnapps

2 cups of orange juice

2 oranges, sliced

2 limes, sliced

2 lemons, sliced

3 cups of grapes

Any other fruit you would like to include (peaches & apples work well)

Combine all of the ingredients in a large pitcher, mashing some of the fruit to release juices. Feel free to adjust the amounts of ingredients to suit your tastes. The key is to have a cocktail you enjoy! If you love raspberries, throw them in.  If you don’t want a drink that is as strong, cut out the vodka. Experiment to find your perfect combination/recipe.

Let sit for 8 to 36 hours.  The longer it sits, the fruitier the sangria will be and the more alcoholic the fruit pieces will become. Serve over ice.

White Grape Varietals

Below is a list of white grape varietals and many of the regions they can be found:

Albarino: Spain

Assyrtiko: Greece

Chardonnay: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Burgandy, Canada, Chile, Hungary, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, United States

Chenin Blanc: California, Loire Valley (France), South Africa

Furmint: Hungary

Gewurztraminer: Alsace (France), Germany

Gruner Veltliner: Austria

Harsleveli: Hungary

Macabea: Spain

Moschofilero: Greece

Olaszrizling: Hungary

Pinot Blanc: Alsace (France)

Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris: Italy/Canada, France, Hungary, United States)

Riesling: Alsace (France), Austria, Canada, United States

Roditis: Greece

Sauvignon Blanc: California, Chile, Graves (France), Loire Valley (France), New Zealand, Sauternes, South Africa

Semillon: Australia, Graves, Sauternes

Szurkebarat: Hungary

Torrontes Riojano: Argentina

Trebbiano: Italy

Verdejo: Spain

Vidal: Canada

Viognier: California, Rhone Valley (France)

Red Grape Varietals

Below is a list of red grape varietals and many of the regions they can be found:

Agiorgitiko: Greece

Barbera: Italy, California

Blaufrankisch: Austria

Cabernet Franc: Bordeaux, Canada, Loire Valley (France)

Cabernet Sauvignon: Argentina, Australia, Bordeaux (France), California, Canada, Chile, Hungary, South Africa, Spain, Washington

Carinena: Spain

Carmenere: Chile

Cinsault: Rhone Valley (France)

Concord: United States

Gamay: Burgandy (France)

Garnacha/Grenache: Spain/France

Kadarka: Hungary

Kekfrankos: Hungary

Malbec: Argentina

Merlot: Argentina, Bordeaux (France), California, Canada, Chile, Hungary, Spain, Washington

Monastrell: Spain

Nebbiolo: Piedmont (Italy)

Petite Syrah: California

Pinot Meunier: Champagne (France)

Pinot Noir: Austria, Burgundy (France), California, Canada, Hungary, New Zealand, Oregon

Portugieser: Hungary

Sangiovese: Tuscany (Italy)

St. Laurent: Austria

Syrah/Shiraz: Argentina, California, Canada, Chile, Rhone Valley (France), South Africa, Spain, Washington/Australia

Tempranillo: Spain, Argentina

Xinomavro: Greece

Zinfandel: California


Wine Vocabulary

There are many words associated with the wine industry that I would like to keep burned in my memory, for many reasons.  I think that they will be fun to use in conversation while working at the winery and provide a good conversation piece. I simply love adding to my vocabulary and challenging myself to find interesting ways to use the words.  Also, there is a good chance many of these will be present on the Level I Sommelier Exam I am taking next week and writing this post will be a good refresher.

Aroma: the smell of the grapes in a wine

Botrytis Cinerea: (noble rot) is special mold that punctures the skin of a grape and allows the water to dissipate, leaving a higher than normal concentrat of sugar and acid

Bouquet: the smell of the wine, influenced by winemaking processes and barrel aging

Brix: the sugar level of the unfermented grape juice

Chaptalization: the addition of sugar to the must before fermentation to increase the alcohol level of the finished wine

Cru: designation in French wines indicating the level of quality

Maceration: the chemical process by which tannin, color and flavor are extracted from the grape skins into the wine. Temperature and alcohol content influence the speed at which maceration occurs.

Must: unfermented grape juice extracted during the crushing process

Nose: term used to describe the bouquet and aroma of wine

Oenology: the science and scientific study of winemaking

Phylloxera: a root louse that kills grapevines

Sulfur Dioxide: a substance used in winemaking and grape growing as a preservative, an antioxidant and also a sterilizing agent

Tannin: a natural compound and preservative that comes from the skins, stems and pits of the grapes and also from the wood barrel in which wine is aged

Terroir: all of the elements that contribute to the distinctive characteristics of a particular vineyard site that include its soil, subsoil, slope, drainage, elevation and climate including exposure to the sun, temperature and precipitation

Vinification: winemaking

Vitis labrusca: a native grape species in America

Vitis vinifera: the grape species that is used in most countries in the world for winemaking

History of Wine: Prohibition


The American wine industry faced a major setback in 1920 when the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibited the manufacturing, sales, transportation, importation, exportation, delivery or possession of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes.  Commonly referred to as Prohibition, continued for thirteen years.  Prohibition nearly destroyed what had become a thriving, national industry.

A few types of liquor were exempt.  Medicinal wines were allowed for sale by pharmacists, if accompanied by a prescription by a doctor. Medicinal wine tonics, otherwise known as fortified wines, were allowed without a prescription. Sacramental wine was also a loophole of Prohibition.

The general public was also allowed to make up to two hundred gallons of fruit juice or cider annually.  This could be made into a concentrate that was perfect for making wine.  Grape concentrate from California was shipped to the East Coast, along with strong recommendations NOT to add sugar or yeast because fermentation would take place.  Of course, this found its way into the hands of bootleggers who did just that, until the government stepped in and stopped the sale of grape juice, preventing illegal wine production.

Although Prohibition came to an end in 1933, the impact would be prevalent for decades.   Wine was no longer drank for its taste, but for the effect.  Americans had lost their interest in quality wine. In 1900, forty different American wineries had won medals at the Paris Exposition.  In 1920, California had more than 700 wineries.  When Prohibition ended, there were only 160 left.  Thousands of acres of grapes were plowed under. Prohibition was devastating to the majority of American wine producers.

Riedel Wine Glasses

Financially, I am in no position to own a complete set of Riedel wine glasses.  But if I were given the opportunity to win the lottery and prove all of the doubts about money not buying happiness wrong, I would be enjoying fabulous wine every evening out of a proper Riedel wine glass.


Riedel wine glasses are shaped according to the characteristic of the wine.  Each glass is hand-crafted and made from crystal.  According to, the luxury Riedel Sommeliers collection is the benchmark against which all other wine glasses are measured.  “The upper bowls are blown into a mold customized to concentrate the wine’s aromas and direct the flow of the wine to the optimal areas of the mouth.”

I still remember the first time I tasted wine out of a Riedel wine glass.  I was hesitant to believe that a simple wine glass could make a significant difference in the taste of the wine, but I was proven wrong.

Within the next year, I would like to start a basic set and collect The Key to Wine Tasting Set.  It seems like the best investment for me, mostly because it is the most economical.


This set includes one chardonnay glass, one riesling/sauvignon blanc glass, one pinot noir glass, one cabernet sauvignon/merlot glass and one shiraz/syrah glass.  Clearly I would be buying this set simply for myself, so it feels a bit selfish because I would never pull any of these out with guests because I would only have one glass for each type of wine.  So I’m not really sold yet.  Also, I like having a stem on my wine glasses, but the Riedel stemless glasses are much less expensive so I would have to compromise.

I love reading the descriptions online about how the shape of the glass aids the tasting process.  For example, the Riedel website states that the cabernet sauvignon/merlot glass is “perfect for young, full-bodied, complex red wines that are high in tannin.  This glass smoothes out the rough edges, emphasizing the fruit, allowing wines to achieve a balance that would normally take years of aging to acquire.  The generous size of the glass allows the bouquet to develop fully.  The shape directs the flow of wine onto the zone of the tongue which perceives sweetness, thus accentuating the fruit and de-emphasizing the bitter qualities of the tannin.”  Doesn’t that make you just want to go out and buy the glasses immediately to test it out?