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On Friday night I hosted an impromptu group tasting that was spearheaded by the desire to realize a dream of mine… one of sourdoughy-goodness (pure guilty pleasure), leading a group of friends to a burger at Hole in the Wall off Santa Monica Boulevard, where I would deign to have a Sourdough Jack in place of the gourmet burger.

Sometimes I just give into weird cravings. A few days ago I was hankering a Sourdough Jack with visions of Johanna (oh wait, sorry, that was Bob Dylan), instead, I thought of the wonderfully warm, soft and round sourdough bun covering a thin patty with tomato and bacon, it might just be the finest thing on Jack in the Box’s menu (that isn’t saying too much?). I couldn’t really sell the others on the delicious factor of that signature burger, so we went to two different spots and reconvened at the apartment to begin a fun night of pairing wine ‘n burgers.

To begin the night I had opened a bottle of 05 Cantina Santadi Shardana (#469 if you are keeping track at home)—an Italian Carignan[o]—giving plenty of time to open up and allow for an oxygen interchange before we started drinking it—I wanted to enhance the experience. The renowned critic Robert Parker gave it a 95 point score when he reviewed the wine. The Shardana was structured and tannic with ripe black cherry, anise and cedar. It paired beautifully with all the burgers at the table: a veggie burger, 3 beef burgers, a turkey burger and a Sourdough Jack, not that I tasted all my friends meals but they did say it was great. The first bottle was consumed quickly and it was on to the next bottle that one of the attendees had brought.

An 08 Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon (#468) was popped, sniffed and slurped. We (as a group) decided that the wine had nice notes of Chocolate, Bacon and Cherry… kind of like a Vosges chocolate concoction. The wine was interesting but did not wow the crowd.

As the night went on, a third bottle was retrieved from the wine rack. I fetched a bottle of 09 Monte la Sarda Garnacha Viñas Viejas (#467) a Peter Weygand selection—another acclaimed importer. After it was uncorked, we began a group sniff and found aromas of “Sourpatch Kids” and the more conventional cranberry juice. Of the set, it did the least for the group’s favor, showing a lighter body that may have had more to do with tasting out of order than actual failings. Like I said it was an impromptu evening: Quixotic for pairings; to find the perfect pair.

I think one of the most fascinating things about tasting wines is participating in a sampler with a bunch of people and seeing how the different components are interpreted amongst the gathered. For instance when someone smells jalapeño, that could be a green quality in the wine or, it might be that nose-hair singeing experience of smelling high alcohol disguised/perceived as a spicy green pepper. And what of the one soul who declares to perceive a smell that none of the rest had clarified till she mentioned it. As I continue this trek-to-500, I hope that I taste more wines with friends because it makes the experience a greater achievement. As for that Sourdough Jack it was okay, but it reinforced my qualms with fast food chains.

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