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NOWFE 2009 Grand Tasting Review Part 2: The Wine

Posted by perle0 on 2009-06-03 00:14:15 (6507 views)

[Editorial]
[New Orleans]
So now, the answer to the question you've all been asking yourselves: forget the details of the how the Grand Tastings went, how was the wine? The short answer is: voluminous! This year, I counted 150 wineries/importers/distributers in the event program, and each one generally had anywhere from 4 to 12 wines available for tasting. Yep, that's over 1000 individual wines, and each tasting lasts a mere three hours. So if you were able to swig one wine every 10 seconds or so, without any need to walk from table to table, point out the wine you want to taste, converse with the winemaker, etc., then you might be able to taste them all. Unfortunately, the laws of physics, not to mention the laws of human endurance, makes this utterly impossible. Even attending both Grand Tastings, thus effectively doubling the tasting time, I could not have tried even half of the wines on offer. With that in mind, let's see what wines stood out in my book....
Freixenet had plenty of options to try.

Reds
The reds were, by far, the most numerous wines available at the tasting. Every winery seemed to offer several, and usually more varieties than the whites. I have to admit, though: the most common wines, cabs and merlots, just aren't my favorites. I tried a number of them, and many of them were good...but because of my personal preferences, they didn't much strike me. One notable exception was to be found at the Rodney Strong table, where among their selections they offered the Symmetry Meritage. This Bordeaux-style red blend is one of the finer offerings from Rodney Strong, and priced to match. But that's what makes NOWFE so much fun; you can try a wine you couldn't normally afford, and decide for yourself whether it's so good that you might want to save up and buy some anyway. Symmetry was such a wine. With this blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Franc, you can't go wrong. And maybe it's just us, but Chateau St. Michelle just seems to get better and better each year, especially with its single-vineyard bottlings.
The Rodney Strong Display

Another benefit of NOWFE is getting to try some of the more unusual reds. There were at least three tables focusing solely on Port, for example--a real boon for Port fans, of which, alas, I am not one. A number of tables offered at least one Pinot Noir, and King Estate, known for its Pinot Noir, had several. Concannon Vineyards had a Petite Sirah that was quite tasty; I did not see many examples of this varietal this time, which is a shame. Earthquake had another fine example, though. On my annual pilgrimage to the Australian Premium Wine Collection, I ran into another favorite, the Tir Na Nog Old Vines Grenache. This delicious offering is flavorful and light on the tannins, an easy-drinking Shiraz with lots of punch. Another new favorite red I discovered on this trip was also Australian--d'Arenberg's The Derelict Vineyard, one of two all-Grenache wines offered by d'Arenberg for tasting. I liked this one immensely, far more than the other one--The Custodian, I believe? It would seem that a really fine Grenache may be becoming my new favorite wine; it's as flavorful as a Shiraz, but a bit lighter and fruitier.

Whites
I didn't sample very many whites, though there were a number of Chardonnays on offer, as well as a good representation of Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc, and even a Riesling or two. One of the interesting oddities was a sparkling Grüner Veltliner, the Punkt Genau from Lirette Selections. Lirette is a wholesaler to watch; I'll discuss some of their other offerings further down. I always enjoy the rare opportunity to try some new dessert wines, but for a change there wasn't much new to tempt me. But for anyone who doesn't try a dessert wine at the drop of a hat, there were a number of good examples to try, from King Estate's Vin Glace, a faux icewine, to d'Arenberg's The Noble, to the Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto d'Acqui sparkling red dessert wine. I always forget how tasty the latter is, even for a non-Port fan like me.

Sparklers
Meanwhile, though, that brings us to yet another well-represented category: sparling wines. On hand were , Taittinger, Freixenet, Moet Hennessy, Mumm Napa, and Piper Heidsieck, not to mention some wineries that don't specialize in Champagne-style wines which nevertheless offered a sparkler or two among their wines. Among those I sampled, my tip-top favorite was the Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvée Brut, which is owned by Freixenet. Another interesting table was Brancott, with an entire line of sparkling wines from New Zealand. The standout there was the Patutahi Gewürztraminer, a champagne-style wine based on that spicy, floral grape. It made for a tasty variation on Champagne with a bit more interest. I tried the Mumm Napa Brut Rose and the Cuvée M, which was particularly delicious. And finally, I enjoyed a Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs, a fine Champagne-style sparkler great for any special occasion. It's always nice to be able to try so many different sparkling wines at once; the opportunity doesn't come up that often.
The Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvée (purple label) was excellent.

Other
In addition to all of the fine wines available for tasting, other beverages were represented as well. As mentioned in Part I, Agave had a whole tequila tasting area. Lirette Selections had an eclectic selection of wines, spirits, and liqueurs available for the tasting...some liqueurs that sounded interesting (Nux Alpina Walnut Liqueur, ), some that sounded odd (Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur of the Alps, ...pine tree liqueur? Er, yum?), and one that I found very intriguing (Crème de Violette, a violet-flavored delight). And of course, alcholic beverages were not the only type available for sampling. Bayou Brew Wellness offered herbal tea, Cool Brew Coffee had coffee both hot and cold, and a few other "instant" beverages--I tried the Green Tea concentrate. And of course, this year they had an embarassment of riches in the way of bottled water, kept in strategic locations in large bins of ice. On Friday, the water was always in good supply; on Saturday, even the water started to run low. (And we had to make do with wine....)

Next week, we'll take a closer look at the astonishing food selections that were on offer.

 

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