BIG SKY MONT. – It’s time to take sipping to new heights.
The 4th Annual Vine & Dine Festival, Aug. 17th – 20th, is an intriguingly delightful and adventurous artisanal-food and wine festival at beautiful Big Sky Resort, located south of Bozeman, Mont., and a short distance from Yellowstone National Park. Taste hundreds of obscure wines from boutique wineries in a dozen different countries and listen to Master Sommeliers with some of the most sophisticated palates in the world discuss Portuguese, orange and mineral wines. Plus, Google’s culinary team will be on hand preparing exquisite tasty delights to personalize your food experience.
Not only is Vine & Dine Montana’s most prestigious wine festival, but it is truly unlike any other.
Back again for the fourth year is Vine & Dine’s signature event: Pinot on the Peak. Big Sky Resort combines delicious pinot tastings with the resort’s popular Lone Peak Expedition. It’s the ‘Biggest Tasting in America,’ and includes a ride on the Swift Current chairlift, an alpine picnic, a covered safari ride and an aerial tram ride to the top of Lone Peak. Toast to good wine, new friends and new adventures at 11,166 feet.
New to the festival is an opportunity for hospitality professionals to take an intensive introductory Sommeliers class from a team of Master Sommeliers. Nearby Bozeman’s metropolitan-influence is drawing a growing number of consumers with sophisticated palates and an affinity for fine wine and cuisine. This intro course is an opportunity for local and regional wine and hospitality professionals to keep pace with their knowledge of proper wine service and deductive tasting.
The Vine & Dine Festival also offers creative and sophisticated seminars with some of the foremost experts on Portuguese wines. Master Sommeliers Fred Dame and Jay Fletcher, both at the top of their class, will teach deductive tasting techniques. American chef and TV personality John Besh will dazzle attendees with exquisite Southern delights, and Google Global Program Chef Scott Giambastiani will prepare plant-based dishes made from Montana-grown produce. All of this plus music, a thriving local arts scene and beautiful landscapes for as far as the eye can see. Come, kick back and enjoy the mountains with superb wine and dining.
Visit bigskyresort.com/vine to purchase tickets and for a list of scheduled seminars.
Pop Up Goes the Winemaker!
Sooooo, there’s a cool little thing we’ve dubbed the “SIP Pop Up Bar” that will be springing up at this year’s Earth Day Food & Wine. No, it’s not an environmentally friendly version of Whack-a-Mole … though that gives us some ideas.
This kind of pop up involves some very special winemakers popping corks on some of their extremely limited production wines, but you’ve got to PAY ATTENTION, PEOPLE. Every hour, only one winemaker at a time will be featured at the SIP Pop Up Bar, and when their wine is gone, it’s gone!
Gone. Period. No do-overs. No finding their event booths because they don’t have one. These winemakers are only going to be pouring at the SIP Pop Up Bar.
In addition to sipping wines made from SIP® Certified vineyards, you’ll also get the chance to talk with the winemakers themselves. You can geek out all you want and ask about their cover cropping, use of owls in the vineyard, barrel programs, punch down schedules, cool climate Pinot versus warm climate Pinot – you name it.
So, who are the winemakers who will be popping up at Earth Day Food & Wine? Well, get ready for some selfies with none other than Matt Brain of Baker & Brain, Colby Parker-Garcia of El Lugar Wines, and Luciana Souza Alves of J. Wilkes.
Yup. Brain, Parker-Garcia, and Alves in da Earth Day Food & Wine House!
So whatya waiting for? BUY TICKETS NOW!
About Earth Day Food & Wine
Nestled under the oaks at Castoro Cellars in Paso Robles, California on April 23, premiere entry begins at 1pm, with general admission at 2pm. Wear your boots, wear your flip-flops. Relax at VIP tables, or enjoy yourself picnic style. Event proceeds benefit educational scholarships for relatives of farmworkers and Spanish education programs of the Vineyard Team.
It’s a great day job, that some would kill for, but take a contract on someone else, the wine has made me bulletproof.
The Sta. Rita Hills is best known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay but there are over 20 wine grape varieties planted and produced in our AVA. We invite you to join us at palate for this Sta. Rita Hills AVA focused tasting, meet with our producers, taste the wines and learn more about our distinctive growing region. Come Meet with Our Wineries, Old and New . Cargasacchi ~ Clos Pepe ~ Cold Heaven ~ D’Alfonso Curran ~ Demetria ~ Dragonette Cellars ~ Fiddlehead Cellars ~ Flying Goat Cellars ~ Gypsy Canyon Winery ~ Hitching Post Wines ~ Ken Brown Wines ~ Kessler-Haak ~ Longoria Wines ~ Pali Wine Company ~ Prodigal ~ Seagrape Wine Company ~ Sweeney Canyon ~ Weber Wine Company ~ Zotovich Cellars
I’ve had a few of these wines before at the Family Winemakers and Pinot Days events. But a media tasting in Glendale, at Palate Food and Wine, was a new venue for me – and much closer than the events I go to in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. The parking was ample, and the two rooms were not filled to capacity and plenty of ice water and cheese and friends and friendly winemakers and the weather was good and there wasn’t any traffic between the 12-3 event, and and and and…
Once again, I barreled through the tasting, one sip per Pinot gal that I am, but also because I was due at Valencia Wine Company’s new CLASSY HOUR at 5 p.m. and back again at 7 p.m. for our monthly Grape of the Night “study group”. And, in true wine 101 fashion, I really wanted a nap in between each one…
Of the wines listed above I made a special note, though not enough room for full tasting notes (unless the area is otherwise noted, majority are from the Santa Rita Hills) of: Caragasacchi 07 and 08 Pinot Noirs (And winemaker Peter Caragasacchi’s wicked sense of humor paired very well.), D’Alfonso-Curran 06 Rancho Las Hermanas and Rancho La Vina, Badge 09 “Blue Steel” Chardonnay Sierra Madre, Di Bruno 09 Pinot Grigio Sanford and Benedict, Demetria Estate 07 Pinot Noir, Dragonette Cellars 09 Pinot Noir, Fiddlehead Cellars 07 Pinot Noir Cuvée “Seven Twenty Eight” Fiddlestix Vineyard, Pali Wine 08 Pinot Noir Fiddlestix Vineyard, Seagrape 07 Pinot Noir Huber Vineyard and Sweeney Canyon 2000 Chardonnay and 08 Pinot Noir.
Three from Longoria: 08 Pinot Noir “Lovely Rita”, 07 Pinot Noir, Fe Ciega Vineyard, and 07 Tempranillo Santa Ynez Valley.
Another three from Prodigal Wines: 09 Pinot Gris Sierra Madre Santa Maria Valley, 08 Pinot Noir Fiddlestix and 07 Pinot Noir Appellation Cuvée.
Okay, so is it too late for a nap now?
Registration open for TEXSOM 2015 Conference
Dallas, TX – Presently celebrating its eleventh year, TEXSOM, the most prominent and influential sommelier education conference in the world, announces that registration is now open for TEXSOM 2015. The TEXSOM 2015 conference will take place August 8 -10, 2015 at the Four Seasons Resort & Club Dallas at Las Colinas, Texas.
TEXSOM 2015 will include presentations by Master Sommeliers, Masters of Wine, Certified Wine Educators and other industry experts. In fact, roughly 25% of the all the professionals who have earned the title of Master Sommelier in the nation will be in attendance this year. Seminars will include regional spotlights, variety intensives, two iconic winery retrospectives, and industry/sommelier roundtable discussions. The sessions will concentrate on wine, but also include spirits, beer, coffee, tea and other beverages. Some of this year’s seminars include:
- “The Lineage of the Pinot Family”
- “White Grape Varieties of Greece”
- “Wines of Process: Sparkling, Oxidized, Fortified, and Beyond”
- Iconic Winery Retrospectives on Maison Trimbach & Kumeu River Wines
- Sake’s Secondary Styles
- “Wild Beers: Old and New World”
- “Guildsomm Presents: Wines of the Rhone Valley, Australia and New Zealand: Commonalities of New Wave Producers”
- “Calvados: From Cidre to Apple Brandy”
TEXSOM is the only conference with presenting sponsors from four of the major wine education and certification organizations in the world: Court of Master Sommeliers – Americas; Guild of Sommeliers Education Foundation; Society of Wine Educators; and Wine and Spirit Education Trust. The conference is expected to draw a total of 1,000 attendees, of which 700 will be sommeliers, retailers and wine buyers.
TEXSOM 2015 will offer participants a chance to attend 24 different seminars, each featuring up to eight beverages. Attendees will also have the opportunity to evaluate more than 400 wines at the Grand Tasting and Awards Reception, which is sponsored by the Wine and Food Foundation of Texas.
In addition, the conference will again host the TEXSOM Best Sommelier Competition, sponsored by Texas Monthly, which is a challenge to young sommeliers to pit their knowledge and expertise against their peers’. For the first time, the competition will be open to qualified candidates who not only live in Texas, but also those residing in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. The winners of the contest will be announced at the Grand Tasting and Awards Reception on the closing night.
Attendees will have the opportunity to read about a selection of TEXSOM International Wine Awards medal-winning wines in the conference program, which will include articles and descriptions about the competition and the wines. In addition, two hospitality suites, open to sommelier and trade attendees, will highlight a selection of these sommelier-selected, medal-winning wines in a unique setting.
The registration fee for TEXSOM 2015 is $425 and includes lunches, access to hospitality suites, and admittance to the Grand Tasting and Awards Reception. Rooms are available (while supply lasts) at the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas. To register, interested parties should visit http://www.texsom.com.
Founded in 2005, TEXSOM was started by Master Sommeliers James Tidwell and Drew Hendricks to help promote professional wine service standards, outline paths for further wine education and certification, and raise public awareness about the professional standards and certifications for sommeliers. Today, the conference draws a total of 1,000 attendees, of whom 700 are sommeliers, retailers and wine buyers.
“This will probably be 2015’s most exciting wine event featuring the world’s most popular wine. TCS was started about six years ago by the Santa Maria AVA folks, featuring local notables like Jim Clendenen, Adam Tolmach, Jonathan Nagy… It was basically a couple simultaneous panels with a Grand Tasting afterward. Over the years it attracted panel leaders like Steve Heimoff and Karen MacNeil and then last year moved to Pismo in a slightly smaller format, with Matt Kettman as panel leader. This year it seems to have exploded into an international event with the edginess of In Pursuit of Balance and the comprehensiveness of WOPN. There are Grand Tastings both Friday and Saturday; intriguing dinners both nights and seminars that will appeal to everyone from the Interested Consumer to the Over-Achieving Professional…” Santa Barbara Photographer, Bob Dickey.
Thanks to Bob Dickey I had this great precursor to The Chardonnay Symposium (TCS). I was looking forward to my full-throttle education of all things Chardonnay, already knowing that the best way to learn about a varietal is to taste from different AVAs and winemakers. After experiencing TCS for the first time, I hope that more wine event planners move away from the “drunk fest” and into this arena as we, as attendees, not only learn more that way, but our winemakers are met with the truly interested and not just those out for a buzz.
I attended both the Friday and Saturday grand tastings. (See the story in photos: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10205711364290787.1073741919.1455706632&type=1&l=e289a928f1) as well as a killer tasting of older Chardonnays in a seminar lead by Master Sommelier Fred Dame. (More on that below.)
All of my notes are from the class (as that’s where I could sit and type on my mini) but I thoroughly enjoyed the two tastings too. If you scroll down to the bottom of this post I have highlighted my favorites in bold.
Hanzell Mount Eden Retrospective Tasting
Just check out the years of these wines – a “historic tasting” from 2011 back to 1994! If you haven’t had an older vintage chardonnay, or even if you have, there is something to learn from what a little age can do to a wine varietal not commonly aged.
Fred Dame, MS, led our seminar. He started with a story of when he drank a 1929 Montrachet – a Chardonnay – that stayed perfect throughout a dinner. Dame said that we don’t cellar our wines, homes aren’t built with cellars and the average aging time for a wine is 8 hours. This may have been a jest but we all understood that the average consumer does not hold onto their wines for very long. They are usually purchased to drink now.
Fred Dame, MS, in one-liners
Dame said, seeing us salivate, that this experience “is too dry” so let’s get started with the tasting.
Original Chardonnay was called Pinot Chardonnay in the states.
Martini planted Chards in the 50s and 60s.
Most back then were fortified wines, and the vines were in mostly Riverside.
The wines we have today are really newcomers.
There are ongoing experiments using high elevation, and the older ones are doing really well.
These two, Hanzell and Mount Eden, sell most if not all wine to members.
First read on a plaque at a golf course, Dame shared, “Gentleman stand back a moment, you are one of the privileged few to have this experience” which we all found truly apropos for today as well.
Winemaker Michael McNeill said that their wines are made based on their ability to age in the cellar. Hanzell built the first stainless steel fermentation tanks in the world. “A quantum leap as to what was done before” McNeill said. They “pioneered the use of inert gas” and wanted to use French oak to follow what was being done in France. (The new winery is now all from scratch, Dame added. The original Heritage winery is now abandoned.) McNeill’s first vintage would be the 2008 we were going to taste today.
Mount Eden Vineyards
Along with Stoney Hill, these three (Hanzell and Mount Eden) were early big wineries, according to winemaker Jeffrey Patterson. Martin Ray, while recovering from a nervous breakdown in his 30s, bought Masson from Paul Masson – though Masson was sure he’d be successful if Ray bought and planted his own vineyard. Ray owned Masson for six years before he sold it to Seagram in 1943. Then Ray, heeding Masson’s original idea, bought the property right next door and planted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Patterson believes that his white burgundy (chardonnay) is comparable to a grand cru classic burgundy. First vintage was 1972 and Patterson has been there since 1981.
Tasting – aromas and flavors separated by ;
2011 Mount Eden
There was a winter storm in the middle of bloom, following a cold winter, which made the crop small and the wine more ripe and concentrated.
Pineapple, honey, lemonade; lemon, grass, low acid, medium finish.
Light and clean, apricot, steely; tart apple, lime, nice mouthfeel, medium acid and finish.
A warm vintage, especially during harvest, which was done in about 10 days.
Toast, sweet citrus fruit, warm ceramic tile – if you can imagine that; really good fruit, balanced acid, lingering viscosity.
2006 Mount Eden (from magnum)
One of three years where harvest was relaxed with moderate weather. Patterson picked it for us to have today because he liked it.
White pepper, cigarette, pears in light syrup; very balanced, and a nice rich finish.
2001 Mount Eden (from magnum)
Patterson said this was his worst vintage, and the wine got remarkably better with age.
Cheddar cheese, some bark, peach; huge in the mouth, both the fruit and a backbone of smoke, could be described as both fine and intense. My favorite so far…
2001 Hanzell (from magnum)
Anise, Brie, ripe pineapple; tastes like the same profile of a younger wine, very crisp, acidic, extremely long finish.
1996 Mount Eden
Patterson used cross cultivation, no weeds, square grid and a 10 by 10 spacing, and that was the last year to use old vine fruit.
Honey, jasmine, cling peaches; not that sweet on the palate as it was on the nose, creamy, beautiful fruit, clinging to my tongue but still craving more. Remarkable. My second favorite of the tasting.
1994 Hanzell (from magnum)
McNeill said that fine wine is incredibly inspiring, and these older wines show what Chardonnay can be.
The most honey-colored of the older wines. Smells like a dessert wine, honeysuckle, very fresh, honey, hard candy; creamy, again not as sweet on the palate, but a perfect balance of fruit and acidity with a staggeringly long finish. Another learning experience, I agreed with McNeill, this is what Chardonnay could be.
Between the seated and walk-around tastings I kept thinking, these are all very fine, whether the winemaker chose to use no or some oak contact; and 100% of the cellared older vintages were really interesting. I generally felt that the fruit and mouthfeel lingered quite pleasantly on the older wines, which was a new discovery for me. So I’ll be holding some in cellar from now on. And I gotta buy some magnums to do it! Maybe a 1995, our daughter’s birth year, would be a good one to seek out.
Au Bon Climat
Bodega Catena Zapata
Calera Wine Company
Center of Effort Wines
Clos de Chacras
Cuvaison Estate Wines
Edna Valley Vineyard
Falcone Family Wines
Fog Crest Vineyard
Grgich Hills Winery
J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines
Jack Creek Cellars
Laetitia Vineyards & Winery
Mattina Fiore Wines
Mooney Family Wines
Mount Eden Vineyards
Niner Wine Estates
Niven Family Wines
Patz & Hall
Paul Lato Wines
St Francis Winery
Stephen Ross Wine Cellars
Thomas Fogarty Winery
Toad Hollow Winery
Tooth & Nail Winery
Eve Bushman has been reading, writing, taking coursework and tasting wine for over 20 years. She has obtained a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, has been the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and recently served as a guest judge for the L.A. International Wine Competition. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits that may be answered in a future column. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com
The Calcareous winery is way up on Peachy Canyon Road, one of those areas in Paso Robles that is far enough off the beaten path that you don’t just pass by on a day of casual tasting. You have to make the effort, and it is well worth it.
I’ve tasted the Calcareous wines at any number of events, usually being poured by affable Sales Manager John Teeling. But my wife Karen and I had never visited the winery and tasting room. We rectified this omission recently and I highly recommend you do the same.
High above the Salinas Valley, the visit is worth it for the views alone. [You can take a virtual tour here: http://www.calcareous.com/Our-Story/Photo-Tours.] But, there is so much more than that, as the wines are as spectacular as the setting. Now that Paso Robles has been divided into 11 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), I am trying to learn to appreciate the differences in all of them. I must say that the wines made from grapes grown in the newly designated Adelaida District, which includes Calcareous, are well worth seeking out.
Lloyd Messer and his daughter Dana Brown planted Calcareous Vineyard in 2000, naming it, with no ego whatsoever, after the solid calcareous [limestone] rock on which it was planted. Sadly, Lloyd passed away in 2006, but Dana, with the help of her sister Erika and the rest of the team at Calcareous, have carried on the vision of creating great site-driven wines, crafted by winemaker Jason Joyce and his assistant Tyler Russell. They also use fruit from the Carver Vineyard in the far west York Mountain AVA as well as Zinfandel from Kate’s Vineyard which is just half a mile from the Calcareous tasting room.
We tasted several wines while we chatted with John in the tasting room. Starting with the 2013 Lily Blanc [a delicious white Rhone blend], we found our palates to be now sufficiently refreshed to dive into the rest of the wines to be tasted. In addition to the Lily Blanc, we tried:
2012 Pinot Noir York Mountain
2011 Tres Violet [red Rhone blend]
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon [York Mountain]
2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
2011 Syrah Devil’s Canyon
2012 Zinfandel Kate’s Vineyard
All really solid wines. Standouts for me were the Lily Blanc, Tres Violet red blend, the Syrah and the Zinfandel. Not available for tasting was the Moose, which is always my favorite from Calcareous, because it was sold out – I guess it is the favorite of a lot of people! A unique blend of mainly Syrah with a small portion of Petit Verdot, this wine consistently pumps out great flavors. Although not yet released, I was able to purchase a couple of bottles of the 2011 Moose, which I am greatly looking forward to trying. Lovingly named after founder Lloyd, the Wine Advocate recently described this wine as “Hands down the greatest wine I’ve tasted from this estate” and awarded it 94 points. Also not on the tasting list was the club-only first release of a Malbec, this also from the 2011 vintage. John also graciously allowed us to purchase this, which we had with our dinner later that evening. For you Malbec fans out there – join the Calcareous wine club if you want this wine, it was excellent!
Michael Perlis has been pursuing his passion for wine for more than 25 years. He has had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show him the way, as well as a wonderful wife who encourages him and shares his interest. After a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as he possibly could, he had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Now, as Contributing Editor for Eve’s Wine 101, he does his best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers. Michael is also Vice President of Eve Bushman Consulting (fka Eve’s Wine 101 Consulting) http://evebushmanconsulting.com/ and President of MCP Financial. Michael can be contacted at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Free run juice” is the initial juice that drains from the grapes when they are crushed but before they are pressed. My limited understanding is that this juice can theoretically produce wines of higher quality than from grapes that have been pressed, due to reduced exposure to the skins and the chemicals released by the skins when pressed.
Free Run Juice LLC [www.freerunjuice.com] is a wine consulting company dedicated to offering wines of high quality and small production to select restaurants and wine bars. With a line-up that includes wineries such as Robert Foley and Pride, they distribute wines that are of great interest to me, as I am also very focused on small artisan producers.
And when I heard that Mike Fraschilla, friend of (and occasional contributor to) Eve’s Wine 101 had become associated with Free Run Juice, I jumped at the chance to taste through some of his portfolio with the owners of one of our local wine bars.
We tasted though several wines that day and these were my favorites. The tasting notes are provided by Mike F. unless otherwise indicated.
2011 Ca Del Sarto Friuli (Pinot Grigio) — Wonderful aromatics and great body for value Pinot Grigio.
2011 Mariposa “Paso Robles” Albarino — Super aromatics, lime and gooseberry, clean minerality, good acid and great finish.
2011 Robert Foley “Napa Valley” Pinot Blanc – [see my comment below]
2010 Cur Montage “Monterey County” Chardonnay — Well liked by all, great balance, good finish.
2009 Frostwatch “Bennett Valley Sonoma Co” Chardonnay — Loved by all – best Chard of night!
2010 Sextant Zinfandel Central Coast — Really well liked Zin. Super big red berry fruit without being a “dessert or port-like” wine!
2009 Dancing Lady “Old Vine Alexander Valley” Zinfandel — Big surprise winner. An Old Vine Zin with fruit depth & power!
2010 Robert Foley Griffin Napa Valley — The blend everyone liked.
2010 Andrew Lane “Napa Valley” Cabernet — Well liked as great value Cab from Napa.
My own comments:
I thought the Frostwatch was one of the best Chardonnays that I’d had in a while. Very classic style, but not overpowering with oak.
The Sextant Zin was a surprise to me. Definitely in the everyday wine category but with lots and lots of tasty fruit.
The Dancing Lady Zinfandel was excellent, from a winery I was not previously familiar with.
Saving the best for last…
Robert Foley Vineyards makes outstanding wines. Many know him as the original winemaker at Pride Mountain, as well as Paloma and Switchback Ridge. I’ve been a fan of their Petite Sirahs for some time, and the Griffin is a more approachable and affordable red blend, but definitely in that rich Foley style. And the Pinot Blanc really surprised me, being one of the more interesting and complex PB’s that I’ve had to date.
Keep an eye open for these wines, or anything in the Free Run portfolio. But remember, you won’t find them on retail shelves. Check with your favorite restaurants and wine bars, and if they don’t have them, tell them to call or text our friend Mike at (805) 217-4518.
Michael Perlis has been pursuing his passion for wine for more than 25 years. He has had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show him the way, as well as a wonderful wife who puts up with him. After a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting tasting rooms and tasting as much wine as he possibly could, Michael had the amazing good fortune to meet Eve Bushman. Now, as Contributing Editor for Eve’s Wine 101, he does his best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers. At the same time, in his day job he provides outsourced controller services to companies that do not need a full-time controller. One day, he hopes to be able to combine these two pursuits. Feel free to contact him about either at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. (2013 Update: Eve and Michael announced Eve Wine 101 Consulting. Info is here: http://evewine101.com/press-releases/)
ROLL YOUR LEG OVER – CHEF MIKE IS “BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN!”
by Michael Fraschilla (A Postscript from Barbara Ringuette can be read in Part 2 on 12/1/11)
As October 1 drew close I felt my nerves getting the best of me…. It had been years since I did the role of “Chef Mike”…. I had served as wine & food gourmand for the Wailers and now, thanks to the urging of Barbara & Lee Ringuette and Erik & Annie, I was stepping into the void… What have I missed being away from the Wailers? Will I know anyone?? Will this event live up to previous successful tastings???
As the tasting would be in the garden of long time Wailers Barbara & Lee, that certainly put me at ease… The 1st smashing Wailer Wine Tasting I did for the club was at their same lovely home; and since they’ve done renovations making their abode even lovelier!
We got the fun rolling by 2 pm with 50 some attendees … many familiar faces and quite a number of fresh ones as well!
We had plenty of great food to nosh throughout the day starting with:
· Cheese & Fruit Platters with Crackers and Chips
· A Schmear of Smoked Salmon/Mascarpone/Capers/ Red Onions/ & Black Pepper
· Mandarin Orange/Pineapple Mixed Green Salad
· Italian Bowtie Pasta & Arugula Salad with Seared Ahi Poke
· Diced Hot House Cucumber & Shrimp Salad
Between the whites and the reds we sampled:
· Smoked Salmon & Mushroom Bisque
· Italian White Beans Sage & Chicken
· 14 Bean Shred Beef & Pork Stew
· Butternut Squash, Mussel, Pasta Stew
· Grilled Smoked Sausages with 3 Mustard Dipping Sauces
The wines I chose all are from the Pacific Northwest (PN), a region still new to many when thinking about world class wine… 1st class micro-brew beers & ale’s – yes, but knowing PN wines is still a work in progress! Erin Dodgen told me she needed no help with Pacific Northwest wines as she spent her formative years in Washington plastered on them!
We opened with a fresh and vibrant sparkler called Luxe – A premium release made by the folks of Domaine St Michelle (They produce bubblies for Chateau St Michelle Wines). Crisp and clean with tight bubbles, it showed off the fresh apple notes and flavors of the Chardonnay grapes from which it is made.
Next we moved to a crisp fresh Pinot Gris from Oregon made by Elk Cove. This white is extremely versatile for pairing with food or to enjoy on its own on a hot day.
Then we tried two Chardonnays from Washington – (1) a crisp, fresh, lightly oaked release produced by Columbia Crest. This “Horse Heaven Hills” Chard is not at all like their common $6 wines. It was a real pleaser for folks not wanting big oak, vanilla, or butterscotch in their Chards! (2) The Chard from Hogue is a bit more traditional, rich buttery oaked chard but still nicely balanced and not over the top.
Our white wines concluded with two Rieslings… Neither were dessert-like sweet, but more like a Kabinett Riesling with a touch of sweetness and big acidity. The Columbia Crest “Grand Estates” was a touch sweeter, while the Hogue showed a bit of minerality much like Rieslings from the Alsace region of France.
We began the reds with two Pinots from Oregon. Oregon is both famed for & argued on as the best Pinot Noir outside of the region of Burgundy, France (Some insisting that in most years Oregon Pinot Noir “out Burgundy’s Burgundy”. The first Pinot, an 09 from King Ridge was made from grapes sourced from throughout the state – a very nice easy, every day drinking Pinot Noir. The follow up was an 08 North Valley Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. A second label for famed wine-maker Tony Soter, it is loaded with fruit and chocked full of complexity! Ed “Nancy” Wolfe LOVED this Pinot Noir even while he says he loathes Oregon Pinot!
Next up was the 08 Waterbrook “Reserve” Merlot and boy did this one hit the mark for most everyone… Lush & rich, people took a liking to this Bordeaux red from Washington. I find Washington Merlot consistently better than those from California, regardless of price, and this under $20 gem proves the point!
The Bordeaux reds are well represented by the 09 Chateau St Michelle “Indian Wells” Cabernet. A big rich Cab at an amazing under $16 price… again people were loving that great Cab can be found outside of California!
Syrah and Rhone reds are the new “hot” wines coming from Washington State and one sip of the 09 Owen Roe “Ex Umbris” Syrah tells you why… Big massive burnt chocolate blackberry and pepper with a long, lingering finish – Very possibly this wine will make Wine Spectator’s Year End Top 100 List!
We concluded the red tasting with two red blends (1) an 09 Hedges “CMS” (Cab Merlot Syrah) Blend., big, robust and fruit filled for an everyday under $10 red blend; AND (2) an 09 Owen Roe Abbot’s Table Red Blend. For those familiar with Orin Swift Wines: think of Abbot’s Table as a Washington State version of The Prisoner!
Dessert was an assortment of Pacific Northwest dessert wines along with a Coffee/Vanilla Rum/Amaretto Ice Cream Sundae, a recipe from the late, great Julia Child. Ice wines and late harvest selections were produced by Columbia Crest, Hogue, Covey Run, & St. Chappelle (Idaho).
We had lots of great food and wonderful, fine wines. I awarded prizes:
· The “Humpty Dumpty Award”, multiple tubes of Crazy-glue, for 1st breakage of glassware to Jackie Pfenning Vanzant… Nice job, girl, winning this prize at your first Wailer Wine Tasting!
· Also to Jackie the “Hangover Award”, aspirin and Maalox. She was the ONLY person to break a glass, so she HAD to be the drunkest!
· The “Lead Palate Prize”, a 6 pack of O’Douls, to Cindy Phillips for a complete lack of understandable reviews of the wines she tasted…. The prize was meant to be a Beck’s Non-Alcohol, however, some one was so eager for more booze, they drank the Beck’s thinking it was real beer… Now that person coulda/shoulda been our Hangover Award winner BUT the culprit never came clean to his/her crime!
· We awarded the “Odd Iketani Literary Prize” for best written reviews of the wines to Sara Swindle and Jordan Wiens, Lee and Barbara’s invitees, attending their first Wailer Wine Tasting. They both became applicants to boot!
I need to give a big shout out to all who helped to make this a great day… Barbara & Lee, Erik & Annie, & Eva, and my little helper Jackie! Of course also a big THANK YOU to everyone who attended! Seeing both old and new friends having a fantastic time reminded me how awesome the Wailers are… I’m honored to have had another opportunity to provide moments of fun & frivolity to some fantastic folks. One More Time – “Roll Your Leg Over the Wailers Are Here”… INDEED!
(Tune in next Thursday to read Part two’s postscript from Barbara Ringuette.)