Sock It to Me

Tastings keep me on my toes

By Hilary Berg

OWP has been evaluating wines through our Cellar Selects program for many years now. People often assume it’s a “glamorous” part of my job, but the truth is, the monthly tastings are a ton of work — and just as heavy.

As submissions come in, the front office — thank you, Connie! — graciously lugs the boxes and bags to a secure room.

The morning of the tasting, I unpack and organize the wines, entering each into a database, recording the winery, wine, vintage, price and case production.

Next, I sock ’em, i.e. slip the bottles into numbered, wine-stained tube socks. It might seem odd, but trust me: You’ll never use brown bags for your blind tastings at home after trying on the well-fitting Hanes.

Before transferring the wine to my car, I break down the cardboard, placing the flattened pieces and wine inserts into the recycling bin, outside and around the building.

By the time I’ve loaded the wines into the backseat, my aching back reminds me of my physical unfitness, and the sight of the cases reminds me of the work still ahead.

Onward and homeward.

After arriving at my house near Yamhill, I unload the wines into the tasting room and catch my breath before packing the fridge if we’re tasting whites or rosés. Reds stay put, until it’s time to set up.

I drag a folding table from the garage, popping it open and propping it up in the middle of the tasting room. Back inside the house, I grab chairs.

Before the crew arrives, I print placemats numbered to correspond with the socks. I also gather glassware, spit cups, water cups, dump buckets, and I set the tables. I plate some crackers and cut the cheese — literally — so everyone can cleanse their palates as needed.

Next, I remove foils and corks — often requiring a Band-Aid for my clumsy fingers — and finally prepare the first flight of six wines. My colleagues arrive, often helping with the pours — thanks, guys!

Flight after flight, we taste and spit, taking notes, grading the wines accordingly. We immediately dump the ones that make our eyes cross and discuss the ones we enjoy. We share our notes — crisp apple, silky texture, grapefruit finish — and move on to the next six until we’ve tasted the final wine.

All done? Not quite.

I unrobe — the wines — setting aside the winners and dumping the rest. I wash and dry the glasses, and wipe down the tables. 

The following morning — exhausted from the previous day — I break down the tables, replace the chairs and load the bottles — empty this time — into my car. I drive to Mac to deposit the glass in the recycling bins at work.

Inside, I seek out the winners’ second bottles for studio shots, but first, with a razor blade, rubbing alcohol and cotton puffs, I remove the back labels so the light shines through.

A day later, the writer sends the tasting notes; I edit the copy, verify the information, lay it out in the document and, finally, check the box: Cellar Selects. Complete.

A few weeks later, the “glamorous” process repeats.

Web Design and Web Development by Buildable