Last week I was invited by the Tasting Panel to test drive the winners from the San Francisco International Wine Competition for myself. The event, held at Waterloo and City near Venice in Los Angeles, was self paced and self pour and organized in a recommended order. Friend Kathy Talley joined me; we didn’t always agree so it was fun to compare notes. Here are some observations:
2005 sparkling Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blanc from Carneros–a bit on the yeasty side and it brought out an unpleasant fishiness in the crab/shrimp cakes. Retail $24. I generally enjoy their sparklers and find them a great value but this one didn’t work for me that day.
2008 Brancott Estate Sauv Blanc, Marlborough NZ–received best sauv blanc. I really liked it–it was complex for a sauv blanc, with lots of body. Retail $26. There are so many excellent NZ sauv blancs out there it’s hard to choose! This one is a solid one. We also tasted a Jules Taylor sauv blanc which at $15 I thought was a great wine at a great price with bright acidity and citrus.
2009 Kavaklidere Egeo Roze, Aegean, Turkey–received best rose. It’s really hip to be into high end rose these days, but I’m not always a fan. I’d never had this varietal and didn’t know what to expect. On the nose, it was super floral with lots of rose and fruit too, especially strawberry. Very pretty in the glass, but a bit harsh on the palate. I’d probably spend my $19 elsewhere; however, a number of people raved about it.
The pinot noirs were all super earthy and full of fresh fruit, and I enjoyed them all. They reminded me more of NZ pinots than many from the US. The wine that won best of show was a 2008 pinot noir by Sequana from the Sarmento Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands. At $32, it won’t last long. It was the most complex of the wines that day, with a chocolate/mocha richness and a bit closed in still which made me wonder how it would be in a few years. That afternoon, for drinking, Kathy and I actually both preferred the $40 Dutton Ranch from the Russian River Valley, but I bet I’d like the other one better with a meal (pork loin?)
I think I had my first Charbono which is not surprising because there are so few acres of it. I found the Summer Estate 2008 from Villa Andriana Vineyards to be a bit lightweight, but the wine is fun, interesting, different, light and fruity, a cool color and $28.
I’m a fan of well-made AUS wines, and I like the minty-sagey-menthol elements of the wines from Langhorne Creek. Zonte’s Footstep was a 2008 Sangiovese/Barbera blend that, if chilled a bit, would pair well with pizza, and at $14, a great value. At the room’s warm temperature, the wine was too hot even thought the alcohol percentage was unremarkable.
Next was a Portuguese wine, and after having so many wonderful Portugeuse wines when I was there, and I was excited to taste it and share it. Unfortunately, I found this Quinta de Roriz 2007 Prazo de Roriz DOC Douro River Valley did not live up to my memories. It was a bit flat and a disappointment, even at $16. Given a chance, I would give it another try. I’m not sure it that was the best place in the line-up to taste it.
A Bota Box offered a Malbec that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to serve at a large party at $20 for 3 liters or $5 a bottle, but the 2006 Malbec from Paradise Vineyards Sonoma Coast outshone it by a mile with a lot going on, lots of spice, body and color for $32.
Turkey’s Kavaklidere turned me on to another new varietal for me, Kalecik Karasi which was blended with a favorite, Syrah, but other than the novelty factor, I don’t see myself seeking it out and paying $20 for it, there just wasn’t that much to it.
At $61, Cakebread Cellars 2007 Napa Cabernet was one of the most expensive wines in the tasting. It was nicely perfumey and it made my lips tingle like a kiss. Some cabs are very masculine; this one was feminine.
For half the price, the Valley of the Moon Winery’s 2007 Cab blend, Cuvee de la Luna, had nice body and mouthfeel and tasted “good”–a very nice solid no nonsense cabernet–a cabernet’s cabernet even.
I’m not thrilled with screwtops, but did enjoy the St Helena Road Winery Maier Family 2007 Meritage from Sonoma. It reminded me of memory and nostalgia; for what I don’t know: rose petals in a sandlewood cigar box. $34.
If you like brett, you’d like the Baehner Fournier Vineyards 2007 Estate V3 from Santa Ynez. It was just a little too horsey for me though.
The biggest buzz at the tasting was for a 2007 Petit Sirah Reserve Estate from Guglielmo Winery; I thought it was fine nothing too exciting except the price: you don’t find many decent petits for $20. In particular, it was recommended to go with the appetizers. While I loved the appetizers, I didn’t think they paired with the wines that well. This was an exception: the wine did cut through the richness of the small bites.
When I last tasted the Gonzalez Byass NV Oloroso Sherry, I bought a bottle, put it in the fridge and enjoyed it; I even wrote about it. I still liked it. The best sherry, however, went to a NV Nectar which had no finish, no complexity–it was like molasses, and very sweet and simple. This seems like a confection developed for Americans to drink with a sweet dessert.
My favorite wine of the day was the Quinta de Vesuvio 2007 vintage port from the Douro. That was absolutely fantastic. Kathy descibed as being like jam on the stove. What I liked was the complexity, the depth, the length of the finish. It was far from being “just” sweet.