Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Now to the wine...

On Saturday we went to the SF Chronicle's Wine Competition Public Tasting. The official tasting competition took place over 3 days in January, and the entrants are all invited to appear here, at the public tasting, at Ft. Mason. It's an amazing day of wine and food, shared with hundreds of other wine lovers. I was truly surprised at the numbers of young people there... sometimes I wondered if they checked ID's at all. But I understand that students from the various programs, from Santa Rosa Jr. College to Cal Poly. It was super crowed, but everyone was pretty nice and in a good mood, so that helped.
At first we tried to stay together, but that was a nutsy idea, because one of us would be talking to the vendor, and the rest would be bored, so we soon wandered off in our own directions, letting our tastebuds and curiosity lead the way. At first I was going for the Pinots, but soon changed my tactics and began to seek out anything that wasn't a Pinot. That made the trek quite an adventure!
My usual mind set is to try to taste all the wines that are too expensive for me, all the stuff I would never ordinarily be able to afford. But then you feel like you might be missing some real finds that you actually could go out and buy. In the end, no matter what your plan, be open to surprises and there's no way to lose!
Out of the 300 or so wines available for tasting, I got maybe 50, That's enough, as I learned last time, if you try to sample everything you end up too wasted and you have a hard time getting home! Spit, spit, spit... that's the secret.
Here are the wines that I would recommend (my favorites being starred):
listed by:
the winery, the appellation or vineyard, price, award won
Handley Cellars, Anderson Valley, $28 -Double Gold
Row 11, Russian Hill, $32 --This winery is making some amazing pinots. Highly recommended.
*Row 11, Santa Maria Valley, $36, Gold
*Mac Murray Ranch, Sonoma Coast -We pruned vines on this ranch- the wine is outstanding!
Phillips Hill, Anderson Valley Toulouse Vineyard, $40, Gold
*Adamo- still a fav
*McKenzie Mueller- still a fav

The Gold winner, Best of Class, Flying Goat, didn't blow my socks off, so I'm not recommending it for the price.

*Macchia, Old Vine, Lodi, $18, Double Gold-- A fantastic value!
*Mazzocco, Stone Ranch, Anderson Valley, $24, Gold
Mazzocco, the other 2 vineyards were just as good!
Passalacqua, Dry Creek, $29, Gold
*Cycles Gladiator, Central Coast, $11, Gold --Not the greatest ever, but a good value for the price.

Petit Syrah:
*Gold Note, Fair Play, CA, $50, Gold, Best of Class - Loved this one!!!!!!
Wolff Vineyards, $22, Gold

Sauv Blanc:
Handley Cellars
For some reason I didn't like many of the SB's. It's hard to taste them after going red, so I guess it would be best to just stick to whites, if you want a good tasting of SB's. Besides, I'm stuck on the fruit forward NZ SB's, and the flat California SB's disappoint me. I'm prejudiced, I admit it.

*Zaca Mesa Winery, Santa Ynez Valley Estate Grown, $17, Gold- I very highly recommend this one!

Wattle Creek, Alnderson Valley, $50, Gold -- A tasty wine, but the Niner was more exceptional...
Niner Wine Estates, Paso Robles, $25, Double Gold I can't recommend this one enough! And I don't really go for cab's, so I guess it's a good time to start exploring this grape again..

*Council Tree, Edna Valley Ranch Estate Grown, $25 --Yummy! And a really nice winemaker too!

Rhone Style Blends:
*Epiphany, Santa Ynez Valley Revelation Vineyard, $32, Gold, Best of Class -an excellent wine, well worth the price.

Prager Portworks
Alapay, $25, Gold

The reason I don't include the year is that many of these wines will be already sold out and not available for sale by now. But with a reliable reputation of putting out an award winning wine, you can probably be assured of getting something delicious in the bottle.

The biggest surprise to me was the number of very good California ports that are becoming available.

It seems hard to imagine how many things I missed in 3 hours, but there were a lot of folks there, and sometimes I avoided the tables which were swamped (the double gold winners) and tried the less populated stands. I always feel bad for the one's who are just standing there with no one around, just because they don't have the "big" name.
And although everyone who was there, from pourers to winemakers, were quite friendly and eager to discuss their wines, my favorite quote of the day was a brush-off I got from the folks at Volcano Winery:
I walked up to an empty table and asked of a taste. I love volcanos, so I was genuinely interested in the name. I asked if they got the name because they grew their grapes on volcanic fields. (which is newest fad in viticulture at the moment) The guy pouring said he didn't know, he was just there helping out for the event, but he would ask the winemaker who was getting some stuff out of a box behind the table. As he listened to the question he got the look of "oh that stupid girl" on his face and walked up to me to deliver his rolling eyed proclamation "Heh, well, ALL soils are volcanic" with plenty of attitude. At that I felt like saying "Well, your wine sucks" but I just politely said "Umm, I don't think so," dumped my wine in the spittoon and turned away. I ran over to T (who is a geologist) and told him the story. We went on to our next discovery laughing all the way!

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