Following the recent statewide election, I took a quick four-day refresher trip to Charleston, S.C., to visit my daughter Jalyn. Now 30, the UMass Lowell graduate is enjoying Southern living in what is one of America’s most endearing cities. There are more than 1,000 historical homes and buildings in downtown Charleston. It seems you can’t walk 100 yards in any direction without reading a sign saying George Washington dined here, slept here or danced here.
Jalyn works for a global company that installs commercial data and telephone systems. She is a job dispatcher/auditor, tracking workers, equipment and budgeted expenses at each installation site. The best part of her job, though, is that she can work remotely, from home. It means she can live wherever she wants.
Jalyn’s just beginning to develop a taste for wine. For many years she abstained from alcohol. But several years ago, while living in Atlanta, she was introduced to big-time college football, i.e., the Georgia Bulldogs and tail-gate parties. She says it was crucial to learn how to sip bourbon, accept a can of craft beer when offered, and deftly swirl Chardonnay in a wine glass. So she was delighted when I offered to do a blind wine-tasting for her and three friends.
We went to Total Wine, a huge discount store, and purchased four whites and three reds. Next we visited Publix and bought three cheeses — two soft and one hard — crackers, and the ingredients to make a caprese salad.
That night, when her four friends arrived, I clothed the wines in paper bags and numbered them 1 through 7. I asked each person to sip the wine, taste the food, and rate each one from 1 to 5 (with 5 being the best), on color, taste, texture and finish. After each round, I led a brief discussion on the experience. Here’s how it went:
• Belcreme De Lys Chardonnay, $9.49 — This creamy, fragrant California white earned a solid 3.8 points from the group. Good apple and pear aromas and tastes.
• Chateau Tour de l’Ange Bourgogne Chardonnay, $12.65 — I tossed in a curveball — a dry, unoaked French white — with abundant minerality and complex melon flavors. Each sip moved the tasters to think better of it. The goat cheese clinched it. A 4 rating.
• Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc-Viognier, $10.28 — This distinctive Napa Valley blend proved to be the “Wow” white. Great fruit tastes of lemon, pear and grapefruit wrapped in a honey coating. A palate pleaser with a 4.3 rating.
• Genouilly Bourgogne Aligoté, $12.85 — The lean, dry, high acid varietal, used as a blend in French wines, proved too austere on its own. No one liked it except me.
• Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti Superiore Le Orme, $12 — Switching to reds, the group enjoyed the mild berry fruitiness in this Piedmontese varietal. It drew raves with the Caprese salad. A solid 4.2.
• Renieri Invetro, $13.71 — A bargain basement Super Tuscan blend (Sangiovese, Caberet Sauvignon, Merlot) that outperforms its price. The group loved the bold plum flavors and rich texture. It produced the top score of the night, a 4.6, aided by the arrival of pepperoni pizza.
• Michael David Freakshow, $16.24 — The circus motif label won over the crowd long before a drop of it was poured into the glass. The fresh, rambunctious blackberry, spicy flavors ended the evening on a high note and a 4.5 rating.