Friday Morning Tasting Panel

Each Friday morning, on the third story of The Castle, 15 places are set on a long dining table with wine glasses, napkins, crackers, and carafes of water.

When I first started making wine for the family in 1993, my goal was to produce a portfolio of wines from Northern California with the diversity to satisfy every palate and everyone’s pocket book. As you might imagine, it’s no small feat.  

We produce about 80 different wines every year, from more than 20 varietals, sourced from 20 appellations throughout Northern California.

I decided I needed a tasting panel, so I assembled “The Friday Morning Tasting Panel” to help me routinely evaluate and re-evaluate each wine.  Because as we all know in the wine world, every bottle is forever evolving.

My father always said two minds are better than one, so I figured that would apply to palates as well. I assembled 15 of my best palates who have an incredible passion for wine and love their jobs.  It doesn’t get any better than this!

First, I had to set parameters and give the panel tools to work with. I developed a spreadsheet for note-taking and an intricate grading system.  We were ready!

“The Panel” is made up of longtime Ledson employees including assistant winemakers, managers, sommeliers, and tasting room staff. Every Friday, without fail, we taste five or six wines. We rely on our experienced palates, knowledge of the wines, and the vineyards of origin. We each mark scores and make notes on our spreadsheets. Then we go around the table and everyone weighs in on each wine.

Sometimes we share wine stories. It’s a serious business, but it is so much fun and so rewarding to taste how our hard work has paid off in the bottle. It’s such an amazing feeling for me to look up at my staff as they taste a wine and see big smiles on their faces. I love my job.

As a wine matures in the bottle, it should get better and better with time. It’s not a perfect science, that’s for sure. We get together every Friday because we want to know how each wine is developing at all times and be able to suggest the best wine for each customer’s palate.

We receive phone calls daily asking for recommendations. We ship our club monthly and have literally thousands of people walk through our door every year. Our customers depend on us to bring them those impeccable wines every time. We pride ourselves on the fact that we have so many different wines to choose from. There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t hear someone say, “We have tasted an incredible wine at every tasting room we’ve visited today, however, all your wines are incredible.” Music to our ears!


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