October 12, 2009
Michael Chandler's tasting tips


Let's check in with a guy who's got one of the most perceptive palates in town. That would be Michael Chandler, a certified sommelier and wine director at The Market at Pavilions. (The above pic shows Chandler during his previous stint as sommelier and manager at Enotria Restaurant and Wine Bar).

Plenty of wine events are coming up - surf over to and also check this space for the latest info. - so heed these quick tasting tips from Chandler. Take it away, mister sommelier:

What are some key varietals to look for when tasting wine from our region?
Lodi for me is all about the zins and the occasional viognier, (especially from) Ripken Vineyards. Amador is all about the great zinfandels, Rhone varietal reds and whites, as well as a few Italian varietal reds and whites. I love the chenin blanc, when done dry, and petite sirah that is grown in Clarksburg. Some varietals made by producers are just not worth trying, in my opinion, as they are just forcefully grown in the wrong area.

Let's say I'm feeling palate fatigue after tasting through a flight of reds. Have any tips/tricks for perking up your palate?
Get a taste of a high acid white and swish it around your mouth. Gruner veltliner and vermentino usually work to revive my palate. Currently I use the Simone Giusto 2008 Vermentino from Amador. For my nose, I usually sniff fresh coffee grounds.

What wineries do you recommend people try in Amador or El Dorado county?
My favorite is Cedarville Vineyard in Fair Play. Jonathan (Lachs) and Susan (Marks) are great people and the wines are all great. I truly love the viognier, grenache and syrah. The wines are very balanced and made with passion, and that all comes across on the palate.

How about Lodi?
Lodi is a bit more tricky. I really shy away from high alcohol table wines, but I do have a fondness for Vino Con Brio. I like the style of zinfandel and pinotage they produce. Both are at 14.5 (percent alcohol) or less, with good acid to support the alcohol.

Can you pass along some tips on etiquette in tasting rooms?
PLEASE shy away from wearing scented lotions, colognes/perfumes, or hair products. The scent can detract from the nuances you are trying to detect in the wines. Don't be afraid to ask questions, (but) be respectful of the staff. Going back to the same four wines is bad. In tasting rooms you are there to taste (a variety of wines). Oh, and leave your cell phone in the car.

Now that it's fall, what kind of wines do you favor during this time of year?
Pinot Noir. Oops, that is year around. But seriously: pinot noir, nebbiolo and older Bordeaux and domestic Cabernet Sauvignon from the cellar. This is also the time of year that I crack open a few century-plus old Madeiras to have around for a fire and a great book.

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