During January this year, I went on an amazing once in a lifetime experience to learn about wine in the famous Napa Valley. We learned about wine, food and wine pairing, blind tastings, smelling aromas, and even how to make mozzarella cheese! I would like to share more about what I have learned.

Annie Ooi

American Viticultural Area

In the United States, the name for wine regions is called American Viticultural Area (AVA). It is defined as delimited grape growing area, and refers to geographic location where grapes are grown. The first AVA’s in the country were Augusta in 1980 and Napa Valley in 1981.

Top grapes varieties in Napa Valley include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc. Most may know the term “California style”. A Chardonnay in California for example, is fruitier, less acidic, and fuller bodied compared to the Chardonnay in France, due to the warmer climate in California. Trinchero Family Estates produces the best oaked and un-oaked Chardonnay’s I have ever tasted.

Annie Ooi

What made Napa Valley/California a famous wine growing region?

In 1976, Steven Spurrier, a wine merchant from London went to California to search for wines to bring to Europe for a blind tasting competition to be held in Paris. He came across Chateau Montelena, a Napa Valley winery, and brought back 2 bottles of their Chardonnay. At that time, the owner refused to give them their Chardonnay as they perceived they were trying to make fun of the New World Wines. As to everyone’s surprise, the Chateau Montelena’s Chardonnay won top score, and since then, this event drew attention to Napa Valley/California wines. 

Annie Ooi

As for food and wine pairing, sweetness in foods, for example, a sweet apple, increases the perception of acidity, alcohol, and bitterness in your wine. However, it decreases the perception of fruitiness, body, and sweetness to the wine. Umami works the same way. Acid, for example, a lemon, increases the perception of fruitiness, body, and sweetness in your wine. It decreases the perception of acidity. As for dessert wines, it has a high amount of residual sugar so that you can still taste the sweetness of the wine even after eating a rich chocolate cake. 

Annie Ooi

We learned about the Tongue Fu Challenge, which describes taste-balance in wine. The winemaker’s goal is to achieve balance with sugar, acid, tannin, and alcohol to create that perfect balanced wine.

Fun facts –

1. Napa Valley produces 4% of California’s wine.

2. Bob Trinchero invented White Zinfandel.

3. Another word for Sauvignon Blanc is Fume Blanc.

4. Charles Krug founded the first Napa Valley winery in 1861 

To all UNLV hospitality students thinking about pursuing a career in the food and beverage industry, you MUST NOT miss out on this amazing learning experience. Thank you to Trinchero Family Estates who sponsored us for this scholastic tour, Ms. Alexandra Liebman for organizing the trip, and Barry, Susan, and Margo for their amazing hospitality, and educating us about wine. They are truly supportive of hospitality students who want to pursue a career in the food and beverage industry.