Vertical Tasting at Kacaba

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you know that I love wine.

But something you might not know, is that I actually considered becoming a Sommelier. About ten years ago, with stars in my eyes, I began the program through the International Sommelier Guild. What I soon realized is that I did not possess the skills and talents of my fellow classmates. I did not do well in blind tastings, and my wine descriptions certainly didn’t pass muster.

To illustrate:

Instructor : “What do you get from the nose of this wine, Joanne?”

Joanne: “Um….well……uh….grapes????”

(Blank stares and silence from the group at large. I would cringe with embarassment.)

Joanne: “Large grapes?…..Large RED grapes???”

My classmates would come up with poetic descriptions like “A hint of raspberry with a kiss of labrador retriever after a rainy day in October with the haunting scent of woodsmoke, juniper and sunlight”. I would come up with “large red grapes”.

Good thing I decided another line of work might be more appropriate.

With a heavy heart, I realized I did not have much of a nose. And with wine descriptions like that, my wine career choices would be severely limited. So I quit the program.

Now I love wine, I love the lifestyle, I love living in wine country. But if you want knowledgeable wine descriptions, obviously I am not your girl. Due to my past experiences, something like a “serious” winetasting takes me right back to those awkward moments in my Sommelier program days. So it was with a bit of hesitation that I chose to attend my first vertical winetasting.

However, it was at Kacaba.

I have written about Kacaba before. They make fantastic, delicious wines (there goes my wine description talent again!) and are particularly known for their award winning reds. In spite of this impressive background, they are one of the most welcoming, down-to-earth, friendly wineries I have been to. So I decided to put my winetasting ghosts to rest and attend their event –  a vertical tasting of their Cabernet Sauvignon.

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We were to be sampling seven vintages of their Cabernet Sauvignon – 2004, 2006, 2009, 20011, 2007, 2010, 2012. Before each vintage was sampled, there was discussion of the climate conditions of that year, and how they affected the grapes.

Now, the old ghost resurfaced a bit. Apparently, these differences would become quite apparent in the smell and taste of the wine. I was skeptical if I would be able to really sense this however, with my non-sommelier-defective nose and tastebuds.

But guess what? I could.

I probably couldn’t describe them as well as some of the other attendees or the knowledgeable gents leading the discussion. But I could definitely taste the differences.

Another lovely surprise was that we were having three food pairings, deliciously provided by Zooma Catering. I wasn’t expecting this.

We started with the 2004 and 2006 vintages, paired with a beautiful barley mushroom risotto.

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Then we compared the 2009 and 2011 vintages, matched with a ground chuck slider with Balderson aged cheddar and tandoori mayonnaise.

Boy was this good.

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The 2009 and 2011 vintages were interesting to me. Our hosts mentioned in the discussion that they were two “off” years, weather-wise. When sipping them on their own, they were not my personal favourites of the tasting. But pairing them with the food, they were much more enjoyable.

When I think of Cabernet Sauvignon, I typically think of big, rich, bold flavours. This tends to be the style I prefer, and seems to come from the hotter years. The 2009 and 2011 definitely were not big and bold, so I never would have thought to pair them with that luscious tandoori-mayo-slider. It worked so well. It was a wonderful pairing.

I am definitely learning not to automatically discount wines that are not my usual preference. When matched with the right food, even wines you think you might not like are good.

Then we got to my usual favourites, from the hot, glorious summers of 2007, 2010 and 2012. These were matched with a flourless chocolate cake. Oh my.

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The cake and the wines were rich and decadent. Probably my favourite overall.

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But there was more still to come. We had a visit from Mike Kacaba, the owner of the winery.

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Then, right from the barrel, we were given a sample of the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon.


I had a great time, I learned a lot, and finally put some old ghosts to rest. At Kacaba, even a “serious” winetasting can be fun.

Kacaba really does have a special vibe. If you haven’t been, you really must – wonderful wine and wonderful people.  I am told that another vertical tasting is in the works, this time for their Syrah.

Maybe I’ll see you there?