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Improving one’s skills in the wine world means tasting more wines. On the advice of a wine rep/importer I created a tasting group modeled after his, with a smattering of different professionals from the far reaches of LA who shared the same desire to learn more. Connected through a friend, we were half buyers and half reps, we encamped around a table for a scheduled Tuesday night tasting.

The overarching benefit of a tasting group is exposure—not only an introduction to unfamiliar wines (hopefully), but connections and friendships that seem to transcend the gatherings. It was the entire package that made the idea of orchestrating a tasting group so alluring and I looked forward to hosting my own.

We were an eclectic group, representing some diverse portfolios in Los Angeles; the initial gathering was meant for us to find a way to conduct further tastings.

Off to a good start, two reps, unfamiliar to me, were the first to arrive at my apartment ahead of schedule. Wine in hand, we introduced ourselves and proceeded to open the bottles for our preliminary tasting. On hand we had half old world and half new world wines beginning with a 2009 Brezza Nebbiolo from Langhe, a 2007 Bussola Ca’ del Laito Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore, a 2004 Red Car Syrah “The Fight,” and a 2008 Mauritson RockPile “Buck Pasture” Red Wine as one member brought food to help ease along the Italian wines and satiated palates.

The five of us sat behind our Riedel stemware and got started. The Valpolicella was first on the chopping block. With a combination of primary red and black fruit the wine was still in infancy, but considered off a pop-n-pour, our first wine, coming from probably the most notable producer of the night, was showing well.

We left the Veneto, heading west to Piedmont to sample the 2009 Brezza Nebbiolo. As we swirled the medium deep ruby contents in our stemware vigorously, discussing the format of future tastings, we agreed upon blind tastings in a set category—like Riesling—and observing a price point ($25-$35). We sipped the red with the option of spitting.

Brezza was new to me; the Italian producer had been around since the end of the 19th century, cranking out an interesting assortment of wines. The bottle was youthful, dry on the palate with notes of red cherries atop savory undertones of herbs and fungi. The Nebbiolo exhibited medium-plus tannins (round), taut acidity and was medium-full while possessing a tightrope walker’s balance.

We stayed on the Brezza a little longer, extracting the most from the glass that was possible before auditioning the domestic reds of Sonoma County. We started with the 2004 “The Fight” Syrah. Dark garnet with little sign of aging in our glassware—no bricking detected on the rim of the wine. Developing on the nose with a lot of blueberry and blackberry up front, while dark chocolate, vanilla and some black pepper could be sniffed out on the tail end, the wine was dry on the tongue with an overabundance of rich fruit and spicy notes in the Syrah’s full frame. The Fight left us with a generous finish that would be hard to say was not enjoyable though not sufficiently nerdy as a developing St. Joseph from the Northern Rhône.

The final wine (the 2008 Mauritson Rockpile “Buck Pasture” Red Wine) was chock-full of fruit and wood spice and still in the early stages of maturation. Heavy-set but not without definition (full bodied but not flabby), it was a bold way to end the night.

After we finished tasting the Bordeaux blend from Mauritson we each made our way back to our personal favorites. The old world seemed to rule the roost that evening and we quickly drained the 750ml’s of the Brezza and Bussola.

Successful on multiple accounts, I took away a new appreciation for Brezza while getting to reacquaint myself with Bussola during our meeting. The domestic wines, especially the 2004 Red Car Syrah still had its legs about it (in terms of aging further) giving me an accurate snapshot for developing it more in the cellar. On a personal note, the tasting also introduced me to some new friends in the area. We ironed out the scheduling for our next meeting and found a rendezvous time one month away to resume. More to follow.

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