On January 27th, 2011 the 8th Annual Winter Wine Spectacular was held in the convention center at the Radisson in downtown Manchester, NH. The event is both a fundraiser for Easter Seals New Hampshire and a great opportunity for wine enthusiasts to taste wines available throughout the state. The tickets were $80 per person, and with part of it being a donation to a local charity we were only so happy to pay full price for our tickets.
With over 200 hundred wines available in the Grand Tasting and only 3 hours to explore and taste, you can be sure that tasting them all would have to be some kind of sporting event. Short of that my strategy was to find styles and sources of wine that I had not experienced yet. I didn’t have the floor layout or a listing of the wines ahead of time (I will need to see if I can do that next time) and as busy as it was when we arrived there wasn’t time to develop a strategy to find wines that would fit my needs. So we just started in the center and went table to table looking first and sampling those that were new to us.
We each received a beautiful full sized wine glass made by Riedel. The thin rim and large bowl made for a great glass to taste with and to have at home for everyday drinking.
I used the voice notes feature on Blackberry to take my notes. In the past I have wielded a notebook and a wineglass, but it just wasn’t going to work. This time I also had a spit cup in tow. I knew I needed to spit most of the wines I would be tasting so that I could go the distance. And I got some distance in for sure. I tasted over 55 wines and while I had a buzz when I was done, I was nowhere near drunk and much happier to have the memories of the wines.
There were definitely some highlights amongst the 55 wines, both individual wines and engagement of the folks pouring their wines.
Adelsheim Vineyards – Willamette Valley, OR
Margeaux McLain, the regional sales manager for New England/Mid Atlantic, was pouring when we stepped up to the table. Immediately welcoming and ready to answer questions, she was especially engaging after she heard that we would be making a trip to the Willamette Valley later in 2011. She hosted us through tastings of their 2009 Pinot Gris, 2008 Chardonnay and 2008 Pinot Noir. The Pinot Gris was very interesting. It starts out very understated and then explodes on your palate with fresh fruit and a long clean finish. This sensation in a wine is rare and was hugely exciting. The Chardonnay had fresh pear flavors and felt like it was expressing just a little bit of residual sugar. The Pinot Noir is a great example of a cool climate style being light in body, low in tannins with a balance of fruit and spices. With our admission of the upcoming trip we were of course welcomed to call in advance and set up a tour. I look forward to taste these wines again, this time where they are made.
Fess Parker Pinot Noir
The Fess Parker winery is another 2011 visit destination and we took the opportunity to try the wine here for the first time. This wine is bold with moderate tannins and flavors of dark red fruits. It is dry and has a medium finish. I definitely am looking forward to trying more from the Fess Parker collection in May
Domaine Long Depaquit Chablis 2009
Very clean aromas and flavors, slightly minerally wine. Smooth with short to moderate finish. I could see this being a great pairing with light dishes like baked chicken, steamed fish or scallops.
Trapiche Broquel Mendoza Malbec 2008
Surprisingly mellow for a 2008. A classic representation of Argentinean Malbec.
Josef Weinberg Sweet Red 2008 - Rheinhessen, Germany
This was a surprising sweet red wine selection. Light in aroma with just enough sweetness to make the red fruits extremely tasty. It would very refreshing slightly chilled.
Duckhorn Three Palms Merlot
I have had a couple Duckhorn wines before but found this one to be very hot and not well balanced. I have to believe this is a fluke based on my past experiences.
Yellow & Blue (Y+B) Torrentes 2009
This is one wine I had had before but needed to go back for another taste. It is also organic, comes in an eco-friendly container and hails from Argentina where I find so many wines I enjoy! Aromas of flowers, fresh peaches and melons flow out of the glass. Very fresh with a bit of citrus, maybe lime, on the finish.
Cupcake Chardonnay 2009
I have enjoyed other Cupcake wines before, but never the Chardonnay. I have heard and read rave reviews so I had to try it when I saw it available. The key for me were the pungent aromas. I am betting the reviews come as they do because that component is so strong and the smooth texture and clean finish work together so well.
Finca Decero Amano
This is a blend of Cabernet, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Tannat from Mendoza, Argentina. Very well balanced with a definite focus. Moderate tannins. Would be great with a grilled steak.
Quinta do Noval Black Port
Spicy aroma. Intense dried fruit flavors with sweetness the whole way through. Very dark in color.
La Puerta Torrentes
Hugely aromatic and almost reminiscent of Muscat or Gewurztraminer. Smooth with a clean finish.
Willamette Valley Vineyards
Their Pinot Noir is a cuvee blend of 13 clones of Pinot Noir sourced from four of their properties. Very friendly with low tannins and lots of enjoyable fruit flavors. The Riesling is süsse-reserve blend with 90% of the fruit used to make the wine fermented dry before the addition of the unfermented remaining 10%. The flavors and aromas are very pronounced with a gentle sweetness that can’t help but make you smile. Mandi Silver, their Eastern Sales Manager, provided all of the winemaking information with relative ease and clear knowledge of the winery, it’s history and products. She as well told us to give a call before our upcoming visit to arrange for a tour and a meeting with winery staff if we were interested.
Yering Station Shiraz/Viognier 2006
The first time I ever saw a Shiraz/ Viognier blend I was intrigued. Why would anyone blend these two grapes? One whiff and you know why. The Viognier adds aroma notes that the Shiraz doesn’t have and those aromas greatly enhance your tasting. Smooth with restrained oak influence and expressive fruit flavors, this is one I definitely want to experience again.
Yering Station Chardonnay vs. Next of Kin Chardonnay
Two slightly different partially oaked Australian Chardonnays. The Yering hails from the Yarra Valley and the Next of Kin comes from the Margaret River region. Both have accessible fruit flavors with oak influence present, but not overwhelming.
Pol Roger Champange
Fruit flavors in the middle of this Champagne were amazing. It is dry but not to the point that the flavors are lost. This demands a repeat taste.
Sandeman Imperial 20 Year Tawny Port
Incredible! The rep explained that this is much older than 20 years but the labeling requires them to stop at 20. The brown color is a dead give-away of age. Aromas of dried fruits, e.g. raisins, black currants and figs. Immense length of flavors and a coating of the tongue that allows it to stick around quite a while.
Alcyone Vinedo do Los Vientos Red Tannat
This wine from Uruguay is one of the best dessert wines I have ever had. The Tannat grape expresses flavors of chocolate naturally, but when concentrated into a dessert wine it is out of sight! It is coating and has a long smooth finish with the fruits, spices and chocolate all along the way.
I ran into Chris Riendeau, a certified sommelier working in NH and one of the reasons why I am pursuing my own certification path. He, like I, was enjoying the vast selections available and recommended a few different tables to stop at. Expecting to find some great wines with his direction, I gladly followed along. Most exciting of these recommendations were the wines from DeMartino and meeting the winemaker Marcelo Retemal. Marcelo was happily pouring the wines with a huge smile on his face. One taste and I could see why. We tasted all of the reds which are either varietal Cabernet or Carmenere, or a blend of the two. These wines have intensity and have well developed and unmitigated flavors. My favorite was the 347 Vineyards Carmenere.
A couple other interesting notes.
When I tasted the Colde Valdemar Rioja I immediately recalled the specific flavor profile of red Rioja. It was a moment for me. I realized I was successfully training my palate and building my sensory memory.
Also on a recommendation from Chris I tasted the Coldisole 2003 Brunello. While I found it well put together and representative of the styl,e I was struck with the odd sensation that aged red wines aren’t that exciting to me. I have had several in the couple of years and am starting to think that my current preference is for younger, fruitier styles. I’ll be interested to see what time and experience do for this consideration.
With three hours nearly gone we packed it up and headed over to JD’s Tavern (located in the hotel) to have something to eat and review the excitement of the evening. Juggling my glass, spit cup and blackberry as I was the only picture was of me from dinner. You can see from the smile on my face that I had a great time and had a little buzz!