Find a fest
Revive your love of wines at tastings and festivals
By Tim Protzman firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s funny how my idea of a great wine tasting has changed over the years.
I used to think Quantity. Lots of wines. This was when I was trying everything by varietal. Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Gruner Veltliner. Then it became quality. A flight of premium cabs from Washington State. A vertical tasting of the 2005 vintage of Shiraz from Two Hands Wines in the Barossa Valley in Australia.
Now it’s all nuance. A small flight of three Cabernet Francs. A gaggle of Pinots from Chile, Oregon and Italy. And my favorite, “Five Definitively Sicilian Wines” presented by Vin Marottoli. Could a professor of wine have a better first name?
I’m into the little things that make my Oregonian Pinot distinctive from my Beaune Pinot. The jammy fruit versus a dry, aged backbone. Licorice’s juxtaposition with the soft, violet bouquet.
The slightly ammonia-ish whiff playing against the almost sour, creamy fruit aroma from the Willamette. These excite me. These are what I live for.
I would like to attend more blind tastings, but since I usually buy the wine, it’s kind of hard to really do it blind.
A few weeks ago I went not to a tasting, or a blind tasting, or a vertical tasting. It wasn’t even a horizontal tasting. It was a Wine Fest!!!
There was a huge crowd with lots of industry folks. Robert Irvine, the celebrity chef was onstage doing something that looks simple but is unbelievable complex when you do it at home.
Each table was hosted by a different vineyard or distributor. The bottles were arrayed in front, tempting you. Drawing you in. There were special food pairing booths with oysters, ale and a nice Semillon. The white from Graves, France, was a perfect accompaniment to the briny oysters — which were a little dry and landlocked even though we were on the seacoast.
I approached this Fest with a jaundiced eye. I had a tongue-in-cheek attitude. I felt sorry for the pourers whose tables held mass-market wines. They were tucked out of the way. I did get a kick out of the lady representing Avia, the Slovakian wine cooperative. Her wine was ordinary, but her story of visiting Romania when the dollar was strong was hilarious. An entire night’s stay in a four-room suite at a luxury hotel in the Dealu Mare wine region for just $189, and that included champagne and room service.
And speaking of champagne, I had the good fortune of finding the Long Island Wine Council’s table at the wine fest. They let us taste 10 wines from five vineyards. I loved that I could sample 10 wines from Long Island. I never see enough United States wine in the wine shops, so the Long Island table was manna from heaven (although I would have loved to see a Virginia and a Texas and an Idaho and a Pennsylvania and New Jersey table)
My favorite sampling from the potato-growing turned duck-farming turned ultra-chic vacation spot that’s now a huge destination vineyard area was a methode champenoise from Sherwood House Vineyards in Mattituck. It was chardonnay, early pick and Sahara dry. It had no malt or yeast flavor notes. My closest estimation put it in the realm of homemade ginger ale. The wine had absolutely no sugar and was the single most unusual drink of the whole day. More like sparkling water with faint chardonnay hints, and thank goodness, it was the real chardonnay, not the buttery, oaky sweet stuff coming out of California these days.
We looked all over for the one table with Barolo, but we never found it. This is one of the reasons I’m lukewarm about fests; they take on this Disneyland atmosphere where it’s not just about wine, but about fried turkey drumsticks and T-shirts and singing chefs and olive oil.
Another good wine from the fest:
• Beaulieu Vineyards Riesling $17.99. Round and supple. Sweet with a nicely balance acidic counterpart.