Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring Means Events

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

The weather is starting to become warmer, with hopes that the storms of winter are behind us. I know the people of Connecticut, New Jersey, and Upstate New York are all hopefully that we will not have another tree uprooting storm like the one that happened this past weekend.

With the hint of spring comes events, and New York is thick with wine events. I recently went to a few of them and I thought I would talk about them briefly here.

Provence in the City: A Day of Rosé

"Vins de Provence," the regional campaign for the wines from Provence held a tasting on March 1st at the Brasserie Cognac in New York. The day was sunny and there was the hint that the winter snows were done as the piles of slush began to melt on the sidewalks and in the streets. The event was somewhat misnamed, because there were certainly plenty of other styles of wine besides Rosé. Unfortunately I did not have a lot of time to stay and taste through the hundred or so wines that were available at tables throughout the restaurant, but I did taste some spectacular Rosé. Some of my favorites were:

2009 Mas de Cadenet Arbaude Rosé - Light salmon color, very fruity with nice crisp acid

2009 Domaine Sainte Lucie "Made in Provence" (MIP) Premium Rosé - Very smooth and easy to drink. Perfect for the eventual sunny picnic day. However, the bottle is somewhat off-putting as it is shaped more like a bottle of VOS water with a thin spout.

2009 Domaine Saint André de Figuière Confidentielle - When I think of Rosé I rarely think of expensive wine. This wine is a bit more pricey, but the difference was palpable. This wine had a much more refined nose, the length of the palate stretched from here to France, and the complexity was the wine geek's romantic dream. The fresh berry flavors, slight spicy white pepper notes, and comforting floral aromas make this my favorite wine of the tasting.

Texas Two-Sip Tasting

I did a tasting with Texas wine almost a year ago and I was reasonably impressed, and after this tasting I continue to think that Texas wine might be something more than a joke that we Northeastern dwellers make at a party. As before, this was a blind tasting where a Texas wine was put up against a similarly priced wine of the same type from what most people would consider a more typical region for the varietal. The wines were chosen by Ross Outon, a Certified Specialist of Wine, award-winning cocktail designer and winner of the inaugural season of “The Winemakers,” currently airing on PBS. Ross also hosted the tasting, although only the PR representatives who executed the tasting knew in which order the wines were. While this did not make the tasting one hundred percent blind, I feel the stickers on the subject might be placated.

Here are my notes on the pairings and which I preferred, with the wine that was tasted first in the pairing listed first:

1. Vermentino: 2008 Mandola Estate Winery (Texas Hills) vs. 2008 Gagliardo Favorita "Fallegro" (Piedmont, Italy) - In this one I preferred the Mandola Estate Vermentino. I found the acidity more controlled and balanced.

2. Gewürztraminer: 2008 Messina Hof (Texas) vs. 2007 Chateau Ste. Michelle - I found the Chat. Ste. Michelle wine to be the better of the two, with more fruit, more acidity, and just a more enjoyable mouth-feel.

3. Chenin Blanc: 2008 Beringer (California) vs. 2008 Fall Creek Vineyards (Texas Hills) - I almost found this tasting unfair, but Ross made the point that it is rather difficult to find another Chenin Blanc less than $7. The Fall Creek wine blew the Beringer away.

4. Viognier: 2007 Zaca Mesa (Santa Ynez Valley, California) vs. 2009 Brennan Vineyards (Texas Hills) - I found the Brennan to be the better wine here, but is it because it is younger? It was definitely lighter, although neither of these wines had the classic Viognier perfume.

5. Rosé: 2009 McPherson Rosé of Syrah (Texas) vs. Marques de Caceres Rosé (Rioja, Spain) - This was another hard pairing because of the difference in the grapes used in the Rosés. The color of the McPherson was a beautiful bright strawberry red. Between the two I liked the McPherson above the Marques de Caceres. The McPherson was more vibrant, had more going on in the glass. Since this was just after my tasting of the Provence Rosés, I found them both paling in comparison.

6. Sangiovese: 2008 McPherson (Texas) vs. 2006 Ruffino "Aziano" Chianti Classico - This was a simple matter of the Texas wine being fruitier than the Chianti Classico. I thought both had their good points, but the Ruffino was rougher on the palate. Maybe food would have changed my thoughts on the matter.

7. Indigenous Red: 2007 Crasto Douro Red (Portugal) vs. 2006 Stone House "Claros" (Texas Hills) - This was a cool pairing, not because you can really compare the two wines, but that they had such different tastes. The Casto was a blend of Douro grapes, including Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional. It was a little off-color purple, and the taste was a muddle of dark fruits. The Stone House Claros is an interesting grape, also known as Cynthiana. This wine was early, very spicy and rustic.

8. Montepulciano: 2006 Cataldi Madonna vs. 2008 Mandola Estate Winery - This was almost too close to call. Both were well made wines, smoky, floral with an interesting hint of campfire marshmallow. Yup, first time I've used that as a tasting note. I would say the Cataldi was just slightly more earth driven while the Mandola was slightly more fruity, but the difference was only pronounced because I had them next to each other. I found both to be quite enjoyable.

9. Bordeaux Blend: 2006 Chateau Calon Ségur (Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux)vs. 2006 Inwood "Magellan" (Texas) - Here is the difference between an effortless wine and one where the winemaker had to work for it. There is no question that both are very good wines, but the Chateau Calon Ségur won out for me, with just beautiful transitions in flavors and balanced structure.

10. Cabernet Sauvignon: 2007 Llano Estacado Cellar Reserve (Texas) vs. 2006 Clos du Bois (Alexander Valley, California) - Here another pairing where I had an eyebrow raise after I found out the wines. I found the Llano Estacado wine more pleasant than the Clos du Bois.

11. Desert: 2008 Flat Creek Estate Muscato D'Arancia and 2006 Haak Madiera Jacquez - Both of these desert wines were from Texas. I was not over the moon about either one.

The verdict: Texas is definitely making some quality wine. I would want to get a larger tasting together to say for sure that a majority, or even a good portion of the wines from Texas are tasty, but if these twelve wines are any indication, there is potential.

Today's Bordeaux

The Conseil Interprofessionnel de Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB) hosted a tasting at the Tribeca Rooftop for trade and media of the 100 top affordable wines from Bordeaux, selected by a panel of experts. I tasted as many as I could before I had to leave, but I left with a simple thought: These are all excellent examples of Bordeaux wine. For the full list check here.

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