I'm sitting here with the aroma wheel I acquired from one of my wine classes awhile back. I can't for the life of me find a category for what I smelled in my glass last night. And no, Steven (my brother), it wasn't from backwash!
During the bread and calamari course I enjoyed a perfectly decent glass of Chandon Brut, NV (I know some of you are thinking "what the hell does NV mean", don't worry, I was there….anyway, it is not Nevada, but "nonvintage"— NV sparklers are made from grapes harvested and pressed in different years). For me, when it's cocktail and appetizer time in a restaurant, a sparkling wine is usually a safe bet; it doesn't compete with many of the prelude offerings.
I wanted to pair my spicy, asian fish entree with a semi-dry white to keep things in balance. I was going to default to a 2010 Chateau St. Michelle, Columbia Valley, Reisling, but I was intrigued by a white blend from the Clear Lake region, a 2006, Brassfield Estates, Serenity. All the waitress could tell me was that it was new to the wine list and so I asked for a taste and she was happy to oblige.
When the glass arrived, I did what any self-respecting wine blogger would do, I swirled vigorously (spilling just a tad out of the rim) and stuck my nose down deep in the glass and took a big long sniff. EEEGADS, simply horrifying! Was that the smell of fish? Was it shellfish, scampi, a seafood brochette I was experiencing in my nasal passages? Maybe it was dirt. Whatever it was, it was NASTY.
I've smelled A LOT, and I mean A LOT of wine, and never experienced these odors before. I considered the fact that I was (hint, hint) in a seafoood restaurant– on the river– adjacent to a hotel with claw-foot tubs (you Sacramentans know where I'm talking about), but no, the smell was not on the glass itself, the outside contained no lingering odors…it was all within the glass, and specifically wine related, as it became more pronounced as the wine approached the top of the glass. When I tasted the wine, it was very dry and dull and tasted like a cheap, I mean really cheap, like $4 bottle of sauvignon blanc. Needless to say, I opted for a glass of the Reisling, which was, in fact, a fizzy and overly-sweet disappointment, BUT it did smell terrific in the glass!
So I sit here tonight with this aroma wheel in hand, and I am still a bit mystified. I do pretty well discerning many of the standards, but that wine was tough. The closest matches to what I smelled last night were probably "garlic", "sweaty", "yogurt" "dusty" and possibly "bell pepper" — surely not the most appetizing ways to describe scampi and seafood brochette. What I can say with certainty , is that I did not smell what the Serenity label says you'll smell— distinctive fragrances of gooseberry, green apple, pineapple and juniper berry.
I guess I better go blow my nose!
P.S. FYI, I found out that Serenity is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Gewurztraminer and Semillon—well, that explains a lot, doesn't it.
P.S.S. What is the strangest wine smell you've ever experienced? Let us all know.