What would you pair with a fried Twinkie?
It’s a scorching hot day at the LA County Fair. We’re surrounded by chocolate covered bacon, the smallest and biggest horse exhibitions and rides to make your stomach…lurch. Would you wine taste there?
My group of 4 signed up for a “Zin Madness” tasting and then a class called “Box vs. Bottle”. We were all looking forward to getting out of the heat and sitting down. The Zins came first.
I liked the look of the LA International Wine & Spirits Marketplace flanked on three walls with wine, beer and full bar as well as olive oil tastings. The fourth wall was curtained off for the wine tastings. We waited in a brief line and then were told where to sit. Like Disneyland, we were to fill all available space, in what we assumed to be their hopes of maximizing the tasting.
I was already thinking that tasting the award-winning wines might be better at the walk up bars where you could choose what you wanted to drink by the glass.
The wines were already poured – except for the barrel sample seen above – when we sat down and waited 15 minutes for the tasting to start. The room, which did not feel air-conditioned, paired well with the wines that hadn’t been properly chilled to anything resembling a recent cellar visit.
We politely waited for the speakers to begin. Two of the judges were local men that seemed to direct most of their private, albeit microphoned, banter to their friends in the first 2 rows. But, being a good sport I was still open to learning and taking notes from them:
Chuck Keagle: Founder and owner of several Corona restaurants.
Donald Galleano: Third generation winegrower in the Cucamonga Valley.
Sally Mohr, MS (Master Sommelier): Owner of Boulder Wine Merchant.
We got a lesson on Zin from Donald, starting with its early production during prohibition by the local groups of Europeans making wine. Sally told us it was okay to put ice in our wine when it’s this hot (we didn’t, nor was it available) and that the term “old vines” on a label wasn’t regulated so could mean anything from 10 to 100 year old vines. Chuck said the market was subject to annual fads and trends.
We tried 2 ounce pours of 6 wines (How is 6 a Zin “Madness”?)
Carol Shelton Wines, Zinami, Old Vine Zindandel, North Coast, Silver Medal $15, no vintage year given. (**out of *****EB)
Bogle Vineyards, Old Vine Zinfandel, California, 2007, Best of Class, $11 (*EB)
Rosenblum Cellars, Zinfandel, Harris Kratka Vineyard, Alexander Valley, 2006 Silver Medal, $35 (no stars, EB. I wouldn’t pay for it but I know the Rosenblum Zins can be good so I am blaming it on the heat, as I might attribute to all of these poor showings.)
Cline Cellars, ancient vine Zinfandel, California, 2007, Bronze Medal, $15.99. (no stars)
Guglielmo Family Winery, Zinfandel, Private Reserve Estate, Santa Clara Valley, 2006, Best of Class, $18 (no stars)
Galleano Winery, Zinfandel, Barrel Sample. (It was brown, no stars)
We were done. 45 minutes of my life I’ll never get back. Thinking this was the high-end of the two classes we had signed up for we quickly took a vote and decided to skip the second class. And, because we were so turned off, we decided not to stay in the hot pavilion any longer.
“Remember when it was free?” I overheard one passerby say to a friend and I had to wonder, when, and why, did they charge? There wasn’t enough value in paying for a class when you could order a glass of your choice at their bar.
Would we fair/fare better at a fair in Northern California, or in any coastal region, where our grapes are getting a wee bit more water?
The pairing, served with a very sparse plate of cheeses and Goldfish crackers may have gone better had they just paired it with battered deep-fried…cork.
So, in my frustration I think we should buy wine based on what we know we like, a scoring system we trust…but a medal alone? Maybe not. Only if you have it in the right place, with the right temperature and, the right fare…or Fair.
In closing, I feel that I’d have fair-ed better had I researched what to expect from a Fair’s tasting. If you’ve been to one please let me know what you liked, or didn’t, in your own experience. Wine 101ers need to know!