One of my wine-related vocations as “the desert’s sommelier-about-town” is that I am contracted by individuals, groups or companies to facilitate and entertain at various wine tastings and events. Because of wines festive nature, “tasting parties” are really fun and people really enjoy learning about the wines they’re tasting.
I get involved early to ensure the party is properly prepared so that the wines the group have purchased will received the optimum ambiance to be tasted, compared, and talked about and that the participants are comfortably positioned to best be able appreciate them.
While basking in the warm weather last week, I received a call from a lady—a tourist vacationing here—who wanted to enjoy a wine tasting party with a few other couples and she wanted to know if I could organize it at the hotel they’re staying at—especially around the outside patio area.
“Cool—have wine, will travel.” So I zeroed in on the type of wines that would be best for the group. “What are your favorite types of wines?—and do you wish to try different ones?”
In a peppy voice, she exclaimed, “Oh! we like all types of wine—I think?”
Well–that response spoke volumes: they want a festive outside tasting—nothing serious, no heavy duty wine comparisons. So we talk up some ideas & plans and set a time.
“Oh—by the way! she interjected, “Do you mind if we do this in the nude?”
Now this isn’t a question I usually handle; even during the Dinah Shore Weekend festivities, all the girls wore at least a bikini at the tastings.
She explains further, “We’re all staying at the Terra Cotta Inn in Palm Springs and with this great weather no one’s wearing anything.” As I came to find out, this place was rather famous for their clothing-optional policy. Palm Spring Life voted this Day Spa as the “Best of the Best” and L.A. Magazine said that this was “One of our Top Four Places to Stay in Palm Springs for couples.”
With a serious voice I warn, “You know—the Alcohol Beverage Control board puts a lot of restrictions on serving wine naked.”
“Oh”, she sounded concerned.
“No problem!” I lighten up, “It’s a private party and you’ll have purchased your own wines—so let’s have fun!
Now—as one would expect, I always strive to put on the best wine event for the particular crowd. Another wine vocation of mine is that of a wine reviewer: I receive sample bottles of wine to comment on. And having just reviewed wines from the Naked Winery—how fortuitous was that!—it became evident of the line-up of wines to enjoy.
There couldn’t have been a prettier day here at the Terra Cotta Inn that was originally designed by architect Albert Frey and includes wonderful room interior art-painting by artist Max West. After a quick set-up, I adjusted my apron and welcomed four lovely couples attired in their birthday suits.
The Naked Winery is located within the Columbia River Gorge. Their motto is “We aim to Tease!” “We are on a mission to produce premium class Washington and Oregon wines, with exotic brands and provocative back labels that are just a bit risqué. We strive to change the conversation, encourage you to set the mood of fun and romance.” Their tasting room is located in downtown Hood River, Oregon about 60 miles east of Portland.
We first began with a Tease. This is a Riesling from Oregon. Our group found the wine tantalizing to the eye and playfully seductive: notes of sweet perfumes of candied melons and Brazilian spices. The winery writes, “An innocent sip of the glass, with a skilled tongue, sparks a burning desire for the long sweet finish.” The group fell in love with the Tease saying it was a sure thing.
The next wine selected was the 2011 Chardonnay with the suggestive name of Foreplay: I knew to chill up this up big time and it paid off with great minerality and a bouquet of luscious ripe fruit. “Who doesn’t like Foreplay, ladies?” the winery asks and goes on to state, “This toasty little number leaves a finish of juicy green apple in your mouth. Light and easy, just like all good foreplay is.”
We then moved on to some reds. Naked Winery’s 2009 Merlot—simply termed Naked, is produced in the Columbia Valley and is their best-selling wine. “Seems everybody likes to drink Naked.”
Bordeauxesque with gripping aromas of tobacco, grass and graphite. This really delicious full bodied red has firm tannins and gripping flavors of earth, plum, black currant and licorice. The group persisted in drinking this one—they kept getting Naked.
When the Vixen from Rogue Valley came out, the gathering couldn’t resist. This 2010 Syrah is characterized by her very dark beautiful color with smoky, rich blackberry and hints of ripe black cherry on the nose. The winery writes, “this Vixen is coy at first then comes on strong with elements of blackberry and some cherry—with a finish of roasted espresso. This is a wine with attitude and aromas that ignite the senses with silky tannins that bite and hold on.”
The final act was the 2008 Penetration Cabernet Sauvignon. “Intense concentration of cherries, plums, and dark fruit. The winemaker says this is a” big, forward, full throttle wine.” The group agreed it was very satisfying.
A fun and lively tasting was had by all. And it really puts a different slant on the advice I give my clients when I tell them “there’s no need to dress up for these tastings.”
Terra Cotta Inn, Resort & Spa 2388 E. Racquet Club Road, Palm Springs, Ca 92262 (800) SUNNY-FUN Naked Winery, Tasting Room, 102 2nd Street Hood River, OR 97031 (541) 386-3700