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Looking glass: we send three wine professionals an unmarked bottle, they tell us what it is.

DAVID KECK, MS,

Goodnight Charlie's, Houston, TX

"Don't go down the rabbit hole." That's David Keek's advice to approach deductive tasting. Keck says, "I used to latch onto one element in a wine and not let go of it. There are lots of other things going on that say the wine is most likely something else. Often smells lead a taster to the conclusion, and then they disregard structure. But it's structure that leads you to proper identification." Keck, who passed the MS exam on his second attempt in May 2016, also has a diploma in voice from Julliard and a Master's degree from Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. "The biggest challenge for a successful career in singing is you are an itinerant, on the road nine to ten months a year. I took a sabbatical from voice, and due to my restaurant experience during college, found myself in wine distribution." Keck ran the beverage program at Tyson Cole's

Uchi Group before stepping into sommelier and co-owner roles at Camerata at Paulie's. That's when he got involved with James Tidwell, MS and Drew Hendricks, MS, in producing events under the TEXSOM umbrella. Keck is a member of the management company Goodnight Hospitality, currently planning the launch of Goodnight Charlie's, a Houston honkey-tonk with live music, on-tap Texas wine, and authentic Mexican fare.

SIGHT: Highly concentrated deep purple-black color. Can't see through it at all, actually. The rim looks slightly lighter purple, but only due to depth. No rim variation. High level of staining of the thick tears.

AROMA: Full of dark brambly black fruit. For the most part blackberry, black plum, some liqueur, cassis, and a touch of sour cherry. Definitely some oak. There's vanilla-cinnamon clove, but I think the large format used oak. Touch of carbonic high-toned floral notes. There's a light inorganic minerality to the wine. A "sans soufre" aromatic quality.

PALATE: Deceptively bright with a little underripe fruit. Minerality much more present and still in that inorganic granitic camp. Some fine front-of-mouth coating. Tannins feel more dry than characteristic of the variety, but definitely present. Acid is moderate +. Alcohol is moderate. Nice complexity and quite refreshing and youthful.

INITIAL CONCLUSION: I think the wine is from a cool Old World location. On the nose there is bright fruit, but the palate has a nice mineral character and the floral non-fruit elements come through much more. The extraction has to do with the variety, I think, more than a winemaking choice. I'm in the Gamay, Pinot Noir, Barbera, Cabernet Franc camp. A youthful vintage.

FINAL CONCLUSION: This is Gamay from France. From a Cru in Beaujolais, probably a more structured place. Morgon in a recent vintage, 2015.

RACHEL DRIVER SPECKAN

National Wine Director; City Winery, Chicago, IL

"I have so many vivid scent and flavor memories from growing up in a rural Arkansas town. I use them a lot when tasting blind," reveals Rachel Speckan, National Wine Director for City Winery, entertainment, dining, and winemaking venues currently operating in four cities around the USA. Speckan graduated from University of Arkansas with a degree in Anthropology at the Fullbright Honors College, then earned a Masters in Social Sciences at University of Chicago. Post-degree, she managed three locations of Lush Wine and Spirits in the Chicago area before she started at City Winery. She quickly grew into a greater role at City Winery, managing cost of goods, maintaining company-wide systems engineering, initiating educational platforms for each location, and working on national programming of City Winery's wine tours.

"My job keeps me on my toes," Speckan says. Fully committed to pursuing her Master Sommelier diploma, she promises, "I'll wait to put another candle in a cake for my youngest child before I apply to take the theory exam."

SIGHT: While the lighting in here is not great, I can make out light bodies of ruby red with a touch of pink, which may indicate youth. There is a touch of trapped C02.

AROMA: Toasty cinnamon cloves indicating a touch of new French oak. Well integrated, but definitely sitting on top of the wine. A touch of mineral stoniness. A bit of peppercorn. Smells of mushroom. Bit of volcano reductiveness. Sometimes I get this with Pinot Noir from Oregon. Fruit: Dark cherries, tart raspberry.

PALATE: Dry, sleek mid-tannins. Ripe 13.5% to 14% alcohol. Beautiful bing cherry tart raspberry. Polished sleek Pinot with medium tannins, showy mineral earth framed with a bit of new wood that gives this wound-up wine a bit of polish. Palate confirms dark fruit, long and super polished. Really enjoy the composition.

INITIAL CONCLUSION: High-quality Pinot Noir. First time I thought Burgundy, but I would be remiss to not mention Oregon with that volcanic graphite note. I keep going back to Oregon or Burgundy. Best part is that I totally enjoyed this as my first glass of wine today.

FINAL CONCLUSION: Cool climate, high-quality Pinot Noir from Burgundy, Vosne-Romanee 1er. Cru 2012.

AARON PATRICK

Advanced Sommelier, Wingtip Club, San Francisco, CA

"I've worked in restaurants since I was 16," says Aaron Patrick. "At 19, I knew I wanted to become a Master Sommelier." Patrick earned his degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management from Northern Arizona University, and shortly after graduation landed his first wine director position with Luke Palladino Hospitality Group inside Atlantic City's Borgata. There he met Raj Parr who was opening Michael Mina's Bourbon Steak. Parr offered Patrick the chance to return to Arizona as head sommelier at the soon-to-open Bourbon Steak. Patrick accepted, but did not find like-minded individuals in Arizona aspiring to pass the MS exam. So Parr transferred Patrick to Michael Mina's Bourbon Steak in San Francisco where Patrick could train with mentors including Ian Cauble, MS, and Sur Lucero, MS. "I've since passed theory and tasting, and I take service this coming fall--hopefully the last step to realizing my dream." After five years of exam prep and tastings, twice per week in group settings, with his wife, or in roundtable comparative tastings, Patrick has learned to follow the tasting process and to not form a conclusion too early. "The process is there for a reason. Trust it."

SIGHT: The wine is purple with an opaque core and staining of the tears; very dark in color.

AROMA: Ripe lush black and blue fruits such as blackberries, blueberries, and boysenberries. Seems to be linear green-stemmy violets, black to meaty. Ripe fruit drives this wine with herbal and coffee notes. It smells young and new.

PALATE: It leads with dark fruit coupled with a green herbal meat character. Alcohol is high. Tannins are moderate + and acid is moderate +. It seems black peppery and meaty. Again, black and blue fruits: blackberry, blueberry, and boysenberry. Roasted violets and herbs with charcuterie. New wood seems to be low to moderate with the fruit leading the conversation.

INITIAL CONCLUSION: This is a tough wine. There is high alcohol with an opulence of fruit that pushes me to the New World. Yet, it seems to be an Old World style of winemaking with the possibility of stems. Could be Malbec or Syrah. From a warm vintage.

FINAL CONCLUSION: With the opulence of fruit and high alcohol, I'm in the New World, USA. Probably Washington or California. Walla Walla Syrah from an "Old World" producer, 2014 vintage.

Illustrations by Alexandra Tatu
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Author:Tatu, Alexandra
Publication:Art Culinaire
Geographic Code:1U7TX
Date:Jun 22, 2017
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