The 13th annual Nantucket Wine Festival will take place on gorgeous Nantucket island off the coast of southern Massachusetts on May 13-19, 2009. This should be a luxurious and edifying experience for those able to attend this wonderful event. I’ve been fortunate enough to vacation on Nantucket island in the past and it is truly a unique and beautiful atmosphere and ideal for this kind of find wine and culinary festival. As per press release, the highlights this year include:
- Expansion of last year’s tremendously popular luncheon symposium program. The equivalent of a graduate course in advanced wine philosophy, the symposia features an hour-long tasting and discussion, followed by a luncheon of exquisite food paired with the wines of the participating vignerons.
- Sultans of Sonoma Coast: San Francisco Chronicle Winemaker of the Year Ehren Jordan will be joined by two other star winemakers, David Hirsch and Andy Peay, as they explain the attributes of California’s hottest new viticultural region, the Sonoma Coast.
- The Nantucket Historical Association Auction Dinner, held at the White Elephant Hotel and featuring the culinary talents of Daniel Bruce of Meritage at the Boston Harbor Hotel, who is celebrating 20 years of winemaker dinners at the Boston Wine Festival, and the king of all Spanish wine, Jorge Ordóñez of Fine Estates from Spain, the winner of last year’s Luminary of the Year award. The auction is always exciting and this year promises even more excitement as the centerpiece of the auction will be an 1870 Barrister’s bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild, considered by man to be the finest example of pre-phylloxera claret.
- Towle’s Hill, a one-man show by former Nantucketer Mark Kenward, which chronicles over 150 years of history at one of California’s oldest wineries, Gundlach Bundschu in Sonoma.
- The Nantucket Wine Festival has been famous for the number of great winemakers who visit us in May, and this year’s array of winemakers is absolutely stunning, featuring many of the best talents in the world of wine. Ehren Jordan, owner of Failla Vineyards and the San Francisco Chronicle’s Winemaker of the Year; Ray Coursen, owner/winemaker of Elyse Vineyards and the winner of the NWF’s 2009 Luminary of the Year award; Jean-Luc Pépin, Directeur Commercial, Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé; Jean-Charles Thomas, Head Winemaker, Maison Louis Latour; John Kolasa, General Manager, Château Rauzan-Segla and Château Canon; Rob and Maria Sinskey, owners, Robert Sinskey Vineyards; Jorge Ordóñez, president and founder, Fine Estates from Spain and the winner of the NWF’s 2008 Luminary of the Year award; Jim Clendenen, owner/winemaker of Au Bon Climat.
- The Festival’s signature event, The Grand Tasting, will be held for the 3rd year at the historic Nantucket Yacht Club.
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 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.
The 4th Twitter Taste Live event created and hosted by Bin Ends Wine of Braintree, MA takes place this evening, October 23rd 2008, and will feature some of the wines of Steele Wines of Lake County, CA. Jed Steele, the owner and winemaker at Steele Wines, will be at the Bin Ends store in person along with many wine enthusiasts for the live event. People like me will taste along at home and we will all use the social networking tool Twitter to post our thoughts, questions, and tasting notes about the wines using the hash tag #ttl in all our posts.
Since I last wrote about Twitter Taste Live, the folks at Bin Ends have created a wonderful feature-packed web site. There is a central window on the main page which polls Twitter for all posts with the hash tag #ttl. Also there are places for personal pages, photos, videos, email, and a conversation forum. I say, well done, Bin Ends!
I am looking forward to tasting the wines of Steele Wines. Reading the Making Our Wines page on their web site, I’m intrigued with Steele Wines non-interventionalist approach to winemaking and the fact they source fruit from as close to next door to as far away as Washington (paraphrasing) all in the quest to make quality wines at affordable prices. I’m all for that!
If you are into wine tasting and social networking, why not sign up on the Twitter Taste Live web site and join in the fun? And don’t forget to tell them I sent you.
And… HAPPY 18th BIRTHDAY to the grooviest chick around, my beautiful & talented daughter Katie (yes of course I’m biased but she really is of course).
On August 27th 2008 I attended a wine tasting cruise hosted by A Grape Affair around Newburyport, MA harbor at sunset. It was a brief, nifty little tour (around 1.5 hours) around Newburyport harbor which did look beautiful at sunset in late summer.
There were approximately 25 people aboard the small boat. I did manage to break a glass by putting it on the seat next to me. Also the cheese and crackers flew at one point. The wine, view, atmosphere, and our gracious host Rhonda Grady of A Grape Affair made up for lack of creature comforts, however.
There were 4 wines to taste, 2 of which I enjoyed quite a lot. The Quinta da Murta Branco Bucelas DOC Portugal 2007 is a delicate white wine made primarly from the Arinto grape. It smelled precisely like peach chiffon cake to me (with vanilla) and had sprightly acidity to balance the peachy, sweet impression. The Martin Ray Angeline Pinot Noir 2006 was surprisingly agreeable for an inexpensive pinot from California (retailing for around $14). According to the web site, the crushed fruit undergoes ‘cold soak’ which mitigates some of the tannic influence. Relatively lighter in body than some, say, Oregon pinots, it really is such a delicious summer quaffer. In fact, I have quaffed it this fall as well already. I have already expressed my enthusiasm for the Martin Ray Angeline Gewurztraminer in a previous post: evidently, I’m a fan of this producer and line.
So I would say this was a nice experience, especially for beginning wine tasters, and I will look for other wine event offerings from A Grape Affair.
Last night I participated in local wine store Bin Ends 1st Twitter Tasting LIVE event. Twitter is, as all Web 2.0 cognoscenti know well, a very popular micro-blogging tool. (Note – I’ve changed my handle from s_r_m to bloviatrix on Twitter to help establish my ‘brand’). This was a virtual group tasting amongst several well-known wine bloggers (and people like me) to taste 6 wines on offer from Bin Ends and micro-blog their tasting notes/thoughts at a prearranged time, in an established order. All wines, Spanish in origin, are from importer Eric Solomon‘s portfolio, and he was also online to answer questions, which was very appreciated.
To test the waters as it were I bought a bottle of one of the 6 on offer not from Bin Ends which I haven’t visited yet but my most local of local wine stores, the awesome Groton Market. I have read wonderful things about Bin Ends and will visit there sometime soon. I was able to taste and post in Twitter my tasting notes for the 2006 Bodegas Rafael Palacios Valdeorras Louro do Bolo. My tasting notes are in CellarTracker, and if you are interested, please look at my CellarTracker notes on the right side of my blog.
I applaud Bin Ends for this effort to integrate a traditional wine tasting event with Web 2.0 technology, and look forward to participating in future tastings. However, I would suggest that Twitter as such is not the best sort of platform for this kind of event. I have recently seen 2 kinds of communication technology platforms that are perhaps better suited: 1) Seesmic video blogging conversations, 2) Friendfeed rooms, and example of which is here. Or really just any dedicated chat forum where regular traffic is weeded out.
Cheers to Ryan and Gabriella Opaz of Spanish and Portugese wine blog Catavino for staying up til past 1AM their time in Spain to participate. Finding one good time for a world-wide, virtual event is always a challenge.
Last night with Richard A.’s (A Passionate Foodie) wine interest group The North Shore Winers I attended a wine tasting at a neat little boutique wine store called Wine-Sense in Andover, MA. It’s really a tiny store but each wine for sale is carefully chosen by ebullient and personable owner Samanta Turner, shown below.
On Thursday evening June 19th 2008 I attended the Boston stop of Gary Vaynerchuk’s book tour. He is promoting his new book 101 Wines Guaranteed to Inspire, Delight, and Bring Thunder to Your World. I’ve been a Vayniac (fan) since early November ’07 when I discovered Wine Library TV after reading this article in Slate. I blogged earlier about meeting Gary at the Boston Wine Expo. I also saw him at a Vayniac party at Wine Library (his brick and mortar store) in New Jersey at the end of March, but my memory of that event is fuzzy (just kidding).
This event attracted nearly 200 people and was well organized by Dmitri Gunn. Bravo to him and the other people/groups/organizations who supported the event. It’s possible that the people attending numbered more in the Web 2.0 social networking circles than Vayniacs like me, but I don’t think that stopped their enjoyment.
The event started with a taping of a Wine Library TV (“Thunder”) show in a ballroom of the beautiful Hotel Commonwealth in Kenmore Square in front of the audience. Gary has a lot of charisma and a good sense of humor so was very entertaining, as always. Also he has true wine reviewing chops, of course, which the more flamboyant aspects of his performance are layered upon. He reviewed 4 wines. After the show, there was a ½ hour question and answer session with the audience. After that, he signed everyone’s book and was his usual tirelessly personable self, giving each person attention and appreciation. Then we tasted the 4 wines, 2 of which Gary positively reviewed.
After that, the event moved downstairs to the Foundation Lounge, which is a chic bar. There was complimentary lychee-flavored bubbly which was interesting. There were a few hors d’oeuvres, but you had to tackle the waitress coming out the kitchen to get a sample or 2. We did, but also ordered the California rolls. Also, we just had to try a Mojito which was good.
I managed to ask Gary a few questions at the signing and down there in the lounge which he graciously answered. I had written them down ahead of time:
Q: If your family had never moved from Belarus, what do you think you would be doing right now?
A: I would be dead, probably.
Q: No, I think you would be a Master of the Underground Economy!
A: Yes, but that’s why I would be dead. I’m also kind of a softie.
Q: Are you excited about headlining the Open Wine Consortium Wine Bloggers Conference in October with Alice Feiring?
A: I don’t know who she is… but I get along with just about every one.
Q: Did you link up the Thunder Show (WLTV) recently with Internet Television site Revision3 (based in San Francisco) as practice perhaps for a future TV show gig?
A: No… REV3 will just be another distribution avenue for WLTV. We’re not changing the show at all.
Q: What is your favorite sport… to play? (Everyone who has watched at least 1 WLTV knows Gary is a huge Jets fan, and purportedly is saving up to BUY the franchise).
Q: What is your degree in?
A: Business Administration
Q: Are you a closet Red Sox fan?
A: No, except once when they were behind the Yankees 3-0 in the playoffs, I rooted for them as the underdogs.
Q: Would you consider adding a Drink Responsibly section to Wine Library dot com?
A: I’ve been thinking about it – I may.
Q: You shouldn’t sell Foie Gras at Wine Library – it’s evil. (OK, I know that’s not a question). Site – http://www.nofoiegras.org/
Q: Reading your book, I get the feeling you have really eclectic tastes in food, and wine. Is that true?
A: Lately I’ve been so busy I hardly eat or drink anything at all!
Here is a photo of Gary and myself at the lounge. Also I posted some other pics on flickr here. It was a fun time! Although my head didn’t feel so great the next morning after a mojito, rose, and bubbly. Hangovers – subject for a different blog post.
On May 15th I had the pleasure of tasting through some wines of different vintages presented by maker Ferdinando Zanusso of i Clivi of Friuli, Italy. The tasting was held at Lower Falls Wine Co. of Newton, MA (located on Rt. 16 on the Newton-Wellesley line). This is an elegant light-infused wine shop with beautiful blond wood fixtures and a well-heeled clientèle.
I had previously enjoyed the i Clivi 2000 Galea Rosso (100% Merlot), but know that i Clivi is more generally known for elegant white wines made from local grape varietals Tocai Friulano, Verduzzo Friulano, Malvasia Istriana, and others. Friuli is at the upper right tip of Italy, and the 2 i Clivi vineyards (Brazan, Galea) are very nearly in Slovenia near the Adriatic Sea in Collio and Colli Orientali del Fruili D.O.C.s, respectively. i Clivi will be certified with the next vintage as 100% Organic.
I tasted the 1999 Galea Bianco and found it to be aromatically very exciting and quite complex with a beautiful lingering finish. The 2002 Galea and Brazan Bianco cuvees are subtly different but both quite pleasing. The 2003 Galea (the latest vintage) is from a very hot growing year and not quite as refined as either 2002, to my palate.
Mr. Zanusso answered many questions about his Organic winemaking techniques. I avoided asking him about Friuli cult winemaker Josko Gravner, about whom I know he has strong opinions, even though I was somewhat curious.
Yesterday I stopped in at Ourglass Wine Co. in Saugus, MA on Route 1 to taste 3 wines of Clos Triguedina of Cahors, France and also 2 other wines from French wine importer Cynthia Hurley. Clos Triguedina specializes in wines made from Malbec, which most people associate with wines from Argentina. As she explains on her website in this article, the grape was originally vinified in France and exported to Argentina, where it has been very successful. I super enjoyed the tasting, especially the exquisite Clos Triguedina Prince Probus Cahors 2005, a 100% Malbec cuvee which reminded me of liquid red silk. Too pricey for me at this point though – I walked away with the Clos Triguedina Le Petit Clos Cahors 2005, which is an easy-drinking 80% Malbec/20% Merlot blend which still showcases its terroir.
Next Saturday, Ourglass Wine Co. will have its huge grand Spring tasting of 70 wines from 3-7PM which I’m attending with the North Shore Winers. Should be a fun time!