On the afternoon of Saturday, November 15, 2008 I attended the 2nd annual Holiday Grand Tasting at The Spirited Gourmet in Belmont, MA along with some members of the Boston-area wine interest group North Shore Winers. Richard of The Passionate Foodie who runs the Winers had indicated that this store has a carefully selected inventory of fine wines and that this tasting would be a treat. And indeed it was! At large tastings I make it a point to dump pours that I don’t enjoy so much so as not to fatigue my palate and liver on mediocre wines – I was having trouble wanting to dump any pours at this tasting. Also on hand were some yummy nibbles and a very conscientous clerk who threw away my tasting notes when I put them down to nibble (they were later retrieved).
There were 5 tables with 11 distributors representing. My favorite tastes are as follows:
Horizon Beverage – Helfrich Gewurztraminer 2007, Small Gully The Formula 2004, Nita Priorat 2006, Pirie Tasmanian Pinot Noir 2005
Classic Wine Imports – Henriot Brut Souverain NV. I LOVED this CHAMPAGNE. It just about knocked me out. Coincidentally Gordon’s in Waltham is having a free wine class on December 5th presenting champagnes of Henriot and I feel it my duty as an amateur wine blogger to attend.
Cafe Europa – Santome Prosecco X-Dry, Jelu Mendoza Torrontes 2008, Anne Amie Willamette Pinot Noir 2005
Boston Wine – Gisselbrecht Pinot Gris 2006, Ramos Loios Alentejano 2007
M.S. Walker – Qupe Chardonnay Bien Nacido 2005, Zantho St. Laurent 2006, Ratti Barbera d’Alba 2007
Vineyard Road – Fairhall Downs Sauvignon Blanc 2007, Richter Riesling Kabinett 2007, Eclipse Carneros Merlot 2006, Scholium Project Gardens of Babylon Tenbrick Vineyard 2006
Charles River Wine Company – Il Cuore Chardonnay 2007, Mills Reef New Zealand Merlot/Malbec 2007
Gilbert Distributers – Clautiere Mourvedre 2004
Spirited Gourmet provided a lovely shiny sheet listing the wines with sufficient space for tasting notes. I’m sure I will be returning to this beautifully arranged store some time soon before the holidays to pick up a few of these and other choice wines.
On Saturday November 15th 2008 I will be participating in another Twitter Taste LIVE event. Twitter Taste LIVE is the brainchild of the folks at Bin Ends Wine of Braintree, MA. Wine bloggers (and their guests) taste wines and post tasting notes, thoughts, and questions on social networking site Twitter at a predetermined date and time. The theme for event #5 is “The Bloggers Take Over.” Each blogger decides which wine or wines to taste and will post to Twitter. Others can purchase the same wine or wines and post along if they would like.
For this event I chose the 2005 Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards Right Bank. I purchased this wine online a few months ago. I can’t say whom I purchased the wine from as I don’t want them to get in trouble from the interstate shipping police, or be subject to a wine.com sting. I purchased the wine for a number of reasons. I only purchased one bottle as it cost $42 plus shipping as I am of modest means. Firstly, I was just curious about any wine produced from the capable hands of Todd Anderson, he of Ghost Horse World cult winery fame. The wines at Ghost Horse World cost from $500 up to $5000 PER BOTTLE so obviously I am not going to ever purchase those. I mean, even if I won the lottery I would never spend that much money on a bottle of wine. I have previously perused the 27-page thread in Marc Squires Bulletin Board on eRobertParker.com (concerning the Ghost Horse World web site) and found it to be *wicked funny*. In his work at non-cult winery Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards in Napa Valley, CA, Todd Anderson produces quite a few very highly regarded wines included this Right Bank.
In Fact the 2005 Right Bank earned a 95-point rave from Robert Parker in Wine Advocate #174 December 2007. I’m an online subscriber so have access to the review but don’t want to get in copyright trouble by reprinting it, but I can say that Parker called it many nice things including a “total hedonistic turn-on”. Yeah, Baby! I’m up for some of that. In fact, I have never tasted anything rated above 92 by anyone, so this should be interesting.
Another thing that intrigues me about this wine is that it is a Château Cheval Blanc homage. Of course this is a Bordeaux Grand Cru that I would certainly like to taste some day but… in the mean time, I will be happy to try this American homage. Like the original, it is a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc with smaller percentages of other grapes. Miles in Sideways was obviously confused about the fact that his prize bottle of Cheval Blanc has a sizeable percentage of $%#@ Merlot in it.
This month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday theme is hosted by 1 Wine Dude blogger Joe Roberts. This fun theme is “baked goods”, literally wines that have been maderized (or heated) such as Madeira. The theme has been extended to include wines that have been fortified as well. I have chosen this month the Campbells Rutherglen Muscat, which is a dessert wine made from the Muscat grape (fortified with grape spirits). Rutherglen is an area in Northeast Victoria, southeast Australia that is famous for distinctive fortified Muscat and Tokay dessert wines. Campbells has been in the winemaking business since 1870, which is impressive.
I purchased this 375ml bottle a few months ago at a New Hampshire State Liquor Store in Nashua for about $15. Was I attracted to the fine old Scottish name on the bottle? Perhaps. Was I lured in by the big Decanter Gold Medal label on the front? Sure. Do I appreciate a delicious fortified sticky? Absolutely.
According to the Campbells web site, the wine is made using the Solera system, that is, from a blend of wines from several vintages, hence there is no vintage on the label. The alcohol by volume (ABV) is a relatively modest 17%. This wine recently received a 91of 100 from tough wine critic Stephen Tanzer of International Wine Cellar, which says to me it must have some special qualities.
I have to be honest- I only had a small glass of this before a guest quaffed the whole thing. It just really tastes good, especially if you have any kind of sweet tooth. I’m always happy to be a good host :-). But I did take down some tasting notes. The nose reminded me right off the bat of plum pudding and hard sauce that I used to have sometimes on holidays as a child. It’s so funny that on Campbells web page describing the wine they state that it pairs well with plum pudding and hard sauce. That made me chuckle. Also prominent on the nose are candied raisin and burnt caramel. I sensed also on the nose something that reminded me of cognac, but more unctuous. The finish is good and very pleasant. I’ll probably try to round up another bottle of this at some point!
On October 29th, 2008 I attended a tasting of several of the wines from La Casa de las Vides winery from Valencia, Spain. This tasting occurred at Melissa’s Bistro in the town of Stoneham, MA. That is actually my hometown, that is, the town where I grew up. It’s funny how some things in the square have changed, while other landmarks are still hanging in there.
This tasting was a special event for local bloggers and was also broadcast via web-cam on the Twitter Taste Live site by Craig Drollett, who was in attendance as well. On hand from La Casa de las Vides was Export Director Emilio Saez van Eerd, who generously provided us with some appetizers from Melissa’s. The winery currently sells only in the Valencia DO in Spain; they are looking for importers/distributors for their wines in the U.S. Though only in their 4th vintage of independent wine production, they have been a vine nursery and supplier for 50 years. Winemaker Ana Martin Orzain, who is a well-known wine consultant in Spain, is involved with the production of the wines.
4 wines were tasted at the event. The first was a white wine called Vallblanca made with Verdil, a grape indigenous to eastern Spain, and Viura, known elsewhere in Spain as Macebeo, with Gewurztraminer added for exotic interest. I found this a really fine and refreshing white wine which should do very well here in the U.S. at its modest price point. The next was a rosé wine called Rosa Rosae which was an unusual blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Garnacha (Grenache). It had a nose of strawberries, was dry, and was a fine, if somewhat standard, rosé. The 3rd wine tasted was a red called CUP and was a blend of Tempranillo and Syrah. It was quite good with a heady nose of spices and pepper. The 4th wine was a red called ACULIUS and was a blend of Tempranillo, Syrah, and Monastrell (Mourvedre). This was my favorite as harmoniously blended elements of oak used in aging with fruit and aromatic elements of the fruit for a balanced and intense result. Bravo.
There was some discussion about wine bottles and labels that could possibly appeal the most to U.S. tastes. The following are some photos. I seem to have not gotten any pics of Jenny Meacham from Baystate Wine Co., but all others included (and except me, the photographer). I wish Emilio Saez van Eerd much success in his efforts to distribute these fine wines in the U.S.