Friday, August 6, 2010

The Night I Lost My Palette

I recently heard of a newly produced film, El Camino del Vino, that chronicles the tale of a famous sommelier who loses his palette. It is of course a fictious premise around which an artistic story of human fraility can be woven, but an interesting story none the less. Thing is, it happened to me once. It lasted for about two hours and it kind of freaked me out. It was a beautiful night in Walla Walla, and I was headed out into the town with some great new friends from the Wine Blogger's Conference. Sure we had tasted dozens of wines that day, and certainly I had been spitting.

Talking on and on about things that would make non-wine enthusiasts yawn or mutter phrases under their breath with the word 'geeks' littered throughout, we entered the first tasting room. I walked up to the young lady pouring the Amavi Cellars Les Collines Syrah 2007. We tasted, we spat, and my friends gushed over the red fruit and sagey goodness. I though, hmmm, I must not have swirled it hard enough because it tasted like metallic dust. Taste number two was the same. I wasn't sure what was up, but thought I might have some brownie residue on my tongue or something. What is wrong with me? I hoped that it wasn't something the beautiful wines of Sleight of Hands Cellars couldn't cure, but it was the same.

I was starting to get pissed. A whole world of awesome wine open to us for the next several hours and I literally can't taste anything. Psychosomatic? Who knows, but a real experience? Certainly.

I walked back to the Marcus Whitman hotel, frutstrated, and slightly concerned. Spread out on the table in the lobby where all of the remaining wines from the earlier white wine speed tasting rounds offered at the conference. I had an idea. I would nurse my palette back from the brink with an expressive, fruity, soft couple of swishes from the Mollydooker Violinist Verdelho. Uh oh, lemon water. Now if you know this wine you know that it has amazing fruit characteristics. I went upstairs to my room thinking that possibly I'm just weak. Maybe I suck at tasting multiple wines. Maybe I'm catching a horrible cold that has no other side effects. I don't know.

Thank God the room was too depressing to sit in. I sat for about a half an hour organizing the hundreds of business cards I'd collected, and realized I just couldn't do it. If I couldn't enjoy the wines, I ought to at least enjoy the winos. I needed to be out there. I got up with determination, grabbed my The One red glass from Andrea Robinson, and walked briskly back out into the night. I ended up stopping in the first room I came to, Skylite Cellars, and spent the next hour tasting through their lineup, finding joy in the lushness of the fruit, the spiciness of the malbec, and meatiness of their syrah. It was the 2006 Skylite Reserve that truly pulled me back from the brink.

So it was back. I can't explain where it went, it hasn't happened before, or since. Have you ever temporarily lost your palette? Any known explanations about what may have happened?


  1. So sad to hear you couldn't properly taste the Amavi Cellars 2007 Les Collines Syrah. One of my favorites from the valley. Alas, sometimes the palate takes a vacation.

  2. Yeah, it sucks. I'll just maybe have to order one up. Thanks Sean, and I'm glad it came back from vacation so quickly.

  3. I am experiencing that now for the last two weeks everything I taste tastes the same. I'm pulling my hair out (if I had hair). I don't know what to do, I'm thinking a visit to the doctor is in order.