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Flights of geese, fancy ... and wine

A few weeks ago a friend asked me why is it called a wine flight? And in turn, I’ve asked many people “why is it called a wine flight,” and each has looked surprised and happily curious, but no one seems to know. Even online I could find no definitive answer.

Then in the past couple of weeks I’ve watched geese flying over in formation, and I’ve been reminded it’s the season of flights.

So what is a wine flight? Put simply, it’s a tasting of wines. These wines may be a variety of colors — white, rosé, red — or they may all be the same color but different varietals. A vertical tasting is the same varietal but of laddered vintages. In this one you get to taste the weather of different years.

A horizontal flight presents the same varietal from the same year, but from different vineyards. This one is about the distinct terroir of various vineyards.

The purpose of a wine flight is to educate tasters and their taste buds to recognize the subtle distinctions in flavors between wines. The types of wine flights are almost endless — Provence rosé compared to Oregon rosé, Prosecco contrasted with Cava, or try a flight of all new wines.

Use your imagination to create your own tasting, but do base it on your palate, at least to start. Take off slowly, until you get your wings. In every wine flight there is a journey, and each is unique: Vintage to vintage, varietal to varietal, color by color. Sip slowly, taste deeply and enjoy the glide.

The thing about fine wine is the romance it evokes, and I find a little romance in the migration from year to year, across vintages, from wine to wine. In fall, when we see the flights of geese, something awakens in us a new fancy, a caprice of autumnal change, a sense of time.

Recently, I had a 2014 Marsanne Roussanne Viognier at Weisinger Family Winery. As I was drinking it I overheard people at another table saying it was “old but pretty good.” People often assume that a white wine does not age well, and this can certainly be the case. I also believe people often make an assumption before a sip is even taken.

First, you must trust the winemaker, and with the winemaker being Eric Weisinger, trust is inherent. This MRV is a nectar of honey, pineapple and swirls of fresh apricot and macadamia, with a lush creamy texture. He says he re-released it “to show that a flight of time can be good for well produced white wines.”

I asked Eric about flights. He doesn’t know why they are called wine flights, but from the first bottle produced in 1988 there has been a kestrel on Weisinger’s wine label. Eric has been working with grapes and wine since he was a child, and his father, John Weisinger, who planted the first grapes and opened the first winery in Ashland, is a pilot.

Eric laughingly says he takes his tasting room staff through ‘flight school.” So it appears you can get both your wine, and wings, at Weisinger’s.

Zum Wohl!

Reach Paula Bandy at pbthegrapevine@gmail.com and connect with her on Instagram at @pbthroughthegrapevine.