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Napa Valley Normal: Sipping Chardonnay with Delta's Sommelier

December 20, 2012 at 6:04 PM | by | ()

These "The One" glasses were designed by Andrea

Napa Valley is a weird place. It's kind of demure, with rolling hills blanketed in low rows of lush vineyards, but also kind of action central, as the chances are high that the person cooking your food or pouring your wine is at the top of the industry. Recently we ventured into kitchens, cellars and wineries (all accessible to you, too) in search of the extraordinarly yummy, which really is the norm in Napa.

In-flight wines get such a bad rap. Unlike airplane coffee, which is still all too frequently little better than "brown water," the reds and whites of the trolley have improved enough to warrant an airline bringing in someone like Andrea Robinson to expertly curate wine lists every season.

Andrea, a certified Master Sommelier/best-selling author/wine glass designer, has been the official Delta sommelier since February 2008 and it's her you have to thank for that smooth, in-flight buzz after your second glass because, to her, it's not just about getting blitzed onboard. In fact, Delta's transcontinental BusinessElite wine program turned completely to California wines from this September. The majority are from the Napa Valley, but there's always a focus on the richer, fuller bodied vintages to combat the effects of altitude on our tastebuds.

We first chatted with Andrea back in 2010, but recently caught up with her again at the Flavor! Napa Valley Festival as she hosted a blind tasting competition, with the very tasty prize of BusinessElite tickets on Delta. We didn't win, but we did manage to gather a few tips from her:

On a good Chardonnay: "If your mouth is like a shower—you're just salivating that much—that's an indication of good acidity."

On blind-tasting a wine and deciding if you like it: "Remember the acronym 'FEW,' meaning 'Fruit,' 'Earth' and 'Wood.' For example, are you tasting purple or red fruits, is there any earthiness to it like soil or mineral, and what about oakiness?

On which wine to order on Delta right now: "The must-try is the Pinot Noir on the transcons; it's not from Napa, but there are those as well."

Andrea specifically speaks of Inception Wines out of Santa Barbara, whose Pinot Noir was developed by a former sommelier at Wolfgang Puck's flagship restaurant Spago Beverly Hills. For Napa wines, have the flight attendant pour you a taste of the Fume Blanc from Robert Mondavi, the Syrah from La Sirena and the Merlot from Charles Krug Winery.

As a lovely little early holiday present, Delta just recently released their 2013 BusinessElite global wine list curated by Robinson. Check it out below, and do note that California still makes quite a good showing in that international line-up.

Swirling after sniffing, before sipping.

We attended Flavor! Napa Valley as a guest of Napa Valley Tourism, but rest assured all photos, opinions, and inebriation is our own.

[Photos: Cynthia Drescher/Jaunted]

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