Sometimes we lead charmed lives. I recently had a seven-day stretch of wine that left me feeling very, very blessed. The week provided honest-to-goodness, heart-felt pleasure for me, and broached several spectrums of the world of wine, from the professional to the personal to the simply mind-blowing.
“Oh yeah”, you’re thinking. “Mind-blowing? Sure.” Fine, you be the judge. One week: Two trade events, one concert, and a once-in-a-lifetime cellar event. Ready to read about them? Go ahead.
Event 1: The New Zealand Wine Tasting
My top four picks from this tasting are as follows:
Villa Maria Estate 2015 “Bubbly” Lightly Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc, NZ: A ‘carbonated wine’, I found this to be an absolute delight. Beautiful nose, balance of citrus on the palate, remaining light, delicious and dry. With a retail price of $15, I’ll expect to find by the glass in restaurants as well as on the patio this summer.
Gladstone Vineyard & Jealous Sisters: The 2014 Jealous Sisters Pinot Gris, under $15, is one of the best values in Pinot Gris at the tasting. I sought out winemaker Christine Kernohan and learned about her sustainable and environmentally responsible winemaking perspective which only increased my respect for her work and products.
If you aren’t a fan of Pinot Gris this is a bottle to change your mind. Nevertheless, Christine’s Gladstone Vineyards Wairarapa 2013 Pinot Noir is also a delightful wine
Christine Kernohan of Gladstone and Jealous Sisters
Rockburn Central Otago 2013 Pinot Noir. Red fruit and minerals on the nose, the palate is bombarded with black cherry, gravel, limestone, fresh cut herbs and a hint of mocha. Expressive and expansive on the palate, it was one of my favorites of the day.
Huia Pinot Gris Marlborough 2013
Aromatic without being as perfumed as sauvignon blanc, this was another pinot gris that made me sit up and take notice. The flavor profile immediately put me at a lawn party in the Hamptons. The wine is elegant and slightly reserved; dry, and delicate in flavor. The finish has notes of stone and sand. Certified biodynamic, a delight in the glass. Winemakers Claire and Mike Allan are doing something right down in the Wairau Valley!
Claire Allan, Winemaker from Huia Vineyards
The Huia 2015 Sauvignon Blanc shows the delightful, trademark New Zealand aromatic aromas and a fresh, citrus mouth feel.
Event 2: USA Trade Tasting, Beverage Trade Network
I went to this USATT brand-new event looking to find what was fun and new, with zero expectations. I met some great people and tasted lots of wines. Some of the wines I found interesting included a range of mid- and top-level wines from Le Cantine, Inc. I enjoyed their dry “Una” Grüner Veltliner, their single vineyard St. Laurent red as well as their RW Blend of zweigelt, blaufrankish and pinot noir grapes. All the wines they showed hail from the Burgenland region of Austria and the Lake Neusiedl microclimate that is key to the quality of fruit grown in the area.
What would springtime be without a Rosé? Rosé par Paris from Domaine de l’Allamande is a grenache/cinsault/rolle/cabernet blend from the Côtes de Provence area. The fruit blend is gentle and fresh, with great limestone minerality. I could have taken a bottle of this and sat outside in the sun for the rest of the afternoon…
South of the Border! I met Vicente Johnson and Bernardita Court of Trasiego Wines who specialize in importing South American wines from Chile and Argentina. I enjoyed their Mano del Sur line from Chile’s Cachapoal Valley with sauv blanc, pinot noir, malbec, and cabernet sauvignon, as well as their Casas del Toqui line, with gran reserve and terroir series showing beautiful winemaking from Chile that is sure to be a hit in the North American marketplace.
And my last hit from this show, Maple Wine! Technically, can it be called a wine if it’s made from sap and not fruit or grape? Regardless, it IS a tasty treat! Domaine Labranche was showing several unusual maple-based products: semi-sweet maple wine, sparkling maple wine, sparkling cider (8.5% ABV), and dessert ciders. I was really intrigued and impressed by the flavor profiles and think that many of my readers will find these fascinating. I expect to see them gaining in quick popularity, so let me know if you see Domaine Labranche in your local stores!
Event 3: Steve Kimock in Concert at NY’s City Winery.
Since I make my living in entertainment, it would be rare for me to want to attend a concert for “fun” since my industry involvement makes it almost impossible to enjoy. But for this artist, I invited a few friends from the business (who also needed some relaxation and a little wine) and chose a few wines for us to enjoy.
We met our server and began with a tasting of the house “on-tap” pinot and cabs. After which, I selected a bottle of an on-tap Cabernet Sauvignon. It was tasty, but I wanted more. So I asked the somm for the “big” wine list, and off to the races we went.
One of the cool things that City Winery does is partner with musicians to make their own “house” wine. Below, an example of Kimock Wines from City Winery. For a gimmick, it was tasty! If I recall correctly, a syrah-grenache-cab blend.
Bring out the big guns: Movia’s Veliko Rosso 2007. A Slovenian blend of Cab, Merlot, and Pinot. I was looking for something closer to a blaufrankish to pair with one of the dishes the table shared. It came highly recommended by Sam (our somm for the evening) and delivered through and through.
For us, the star of the evening (apart from the music) was La Ragose ’06 Amarone Della Valpolicella. The wine features beautiful dark fruit up front with great expression, depth, and tons of dark flavors to follow: dried plum, graphite, licorice, wet earth, and granite with a medium finish that kept us raising our glasses until the bottle was drained.
Event 4: A Private Reading Leads to Wine Cellar Visit
Attending a private reading of a new musical is one type of event, not uncommon in my industry. But it becomes something else entirely when the event host has a stunning wine cellar and can show me a portion of their Red Bordeaux collection, as well as some key bottles to other seriously famous wine lovers who collect Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru (this for another discussion). Before the reading began, I met the host. As we chatted, one oenophile meeting another, shortly after we began discussing wine, he asked me if I’d like to see his wine cellar. (Mic Drop.)
Like I would ever say no to a cellar visit. My “tween-aged girl at a Justin Bieber Concert” reaction had him leading the way in a fraction of a second.
To me, wine cellars are always fun to visit, but rarely awe-inspiring. I tried to act pretty casual about the thousands of bottles of carefully-stored and categorized bottles, as we walked past them and another room sharing bottles and crates, until I saw things that gave me a “Wile E Coyote reaction”.
Just look closely at the pictures below and tell me you don’t feel the same way.
OWC’s of ’86 Mouton-Rothschild, Pichon de Longueville, Margaux, and La Mission Haut-Brion.
A few more OWCs of 1986 Mouton Rothschild and Chateau Margaux. #YouHadMeAtMargaux !
OWC’s of 1999 Latour and Palmer. Thirsty yet?
These three pictures were a tiny portion of one of three rooms in this collector’s cellar. He also explained that he and his brother have an entire warehouse with the bulk of their collections. OOF.
Seriously- take a look, these are unopened OWCs of some stunning wines. When I was done scraping my mouth of the stone floor, I casually mentioned to my host that I was a huge fan of the 1986 Chateau Margaux. He shocked my by pulling an ’86 from a nearby rack of un-crated bottles, carrying it upstairs where he opened it for me to enjoy, and then gifted me the remainder of the bottle to take home. This kind of gift one does NOT refuse, so I gladly accepted!
Had this twice before…long before it was prohibitively expensive for mere mortals.
Enjoying more of the same in my own home. Premier Grand Cru Classé, anyone?
It has been over a decade since I tasted the 1986, and I was thrilled to have another opportunity to experience this stunning wine. While a Chateau Margaux would be enough for me on any day, the host had other ideas. His pièce de résistance came after the reading. He opened and poured an 1875 Malvasia Madiera- which was simply mind-blowing to all the guests, myself included. Even the non-wine drinkers had a tiny taste of this unbelievable vintage.
Here are pictures of the front and back of the 1875 Madeira bottle.
Tasting notes: A dark rosewood in color, spun sugar and candied citrus on the nose. It was quite heavy in sediment but delightful on the palate with notes of caramel, burnt sugar, fig, and orange peel. After so much time, this wine was still excellent in quality. It was so rare and extravagant, yet I had another whole element: the combination of the 1875 madiera and the 1986 Chateau Margaux… simply amazing.
It made for an unforgettable day, and the day was a delightful finish to a week of serious and wonderful wine pleasure that I will never, ever forget.
à votre santé!