At Sunday’s Grand Tasting at the New York City Food & Wine Festival we returned to wines – and in particular those that we hadn’t tasted previously. For there was a large sample of California wines that we are well familiar and enjoy often: La Crema, Murphy-Goode Winery, Chalk Hill Winery, Carmel Road Winery, and Concannon Vineyard. Two California wineries that were present and who we hadn’t tasted before were Wente Vineyards Estate Winery and Zaca Mesa Winery. Wente Vineyards was founded over 125 years ago and is currently the United State’s oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery. That’s five generations of family winemakers. What makes this winery also appealing to us is their integration into the musical environment. Not only do they host several excellent concerts throughout the summer (proceeds are contributed to the Livermore Valley Education Foundation), but 5th generation winemaker Karl Wente is a musician himself and recommends music for download. As for their wines, we tasted their Merlot and Cabernet (both were very good), but particularly liked their Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. The wines were acidic and refreshing with excellent fruit flavor – just the type of white wines we enjoy. Zaca Mesa Winery also poured and excellent white wine: their 2007 Viognier, Estate Bottled Santa Ynez Valley. This wine was just as good as the excellent Viognier produced in Virginia – at half the cost. It has a little acidity but more texture and some vanilla flavors.
This weekend we discovered Prosecco; this Italian grape is very popular in its homeland and is starting to make a presence in the states. Our friends at Danny DeVito's Premium Limoncello recommended blending their Limoncello with Prosecco and fortunately the grand tasting had a few samples. There was the Lunetta Prosecco, the the Nino Franco Prosecco “Rustico” distributed by Vin di Vino, and a couple from Mionetto. The Lunetta is a nice sparkling wine with some peach flavor as is the Nino Franco Prosecco “Rustico” but the best was the Mionetto Prosecco Brut. I believe this wine retails for under $15 and is a bargain. It has a soft lemon flavor but is rich and the tail is somewhat nutty.
Vin di Vino also poured several other interesting wines. The Casa Silva Carmenere Reserva was a good wine in which good wines from this grape are difficult to find. The Loimer Gruner Veltliner LOIS was a really good white wine – citrusy and acidic. Finally the Cusuman Benuara was the first of several nice Sicilian wines that we tasted. It is a blend of Syrah and the indigenous Nero d’Avola, very smooth with a slight peppery finish. This wine also tied in nicely to two we sampled from Corvo winery in Sicily. The Corvo also consists of Nero d’Avola and is a medium bodied wine marketed to pasta and pizza lovers. We liked it straight – the cherry flavors and smooth finish. Corvo also produces an excellent white in the Corvo Bianco, made from the Insolia and Grecanico grapes. This is another food friendly wine – slightly acidic – but fruity. Plus they cost around $10.
Touchstone Wines introduced us to a few low priced wines, starting with the animus – a Portuguese wine from the Douro River Valley. It is a dry wine, medium bodied, and very smooth. From Germany they were pouring the Erben Riesling and the Erben Pinot Noir. This was our first German Pinot and it wasn’t bad. The Riesling matched our tastes exactly – it was made dry, but full of the typical Riesling fruit flavor. We also liked the Leonard Kreusch Rieslings and their Piesporter – also affordable at around $10.
There were also several nice French wines, starting with the Lansen Champagne. The black label brut was awesome – and apparently they also produce a nice rose. Chateauu D’Esclans was pouring several still rose wines made from their winery in Provence. Their entire portfolio was excellent but our overall favorite was the Garrus – made from 80 year old Grenache vines and Rolle. There were several excellent Bordeaux wines offered by Bernard Magrez Grand Vignobles. There was the Chateau Saint Genes – a complete Bordeaux blend, the Saint Emilion Grand Cru from Le Cadran du Chateau Fombrauge and the Les Douves du Chateau la Tour Carnet from Haut Medoc. In addition, the company was pouring an awesome Spanish wine, the Paciencia – 100% Tinto de Toro. This is a full bodied earthy wine. The final French wine that stood out was the Chateau D’Aussieres from Les Domaines Barons de Rothschild. It is a Rhone blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre – full bodied with a strong cherry flavor and a smooth finish.
We wish we could have tried more, but with a flight home waiting, we had to cut our tasting short. The New York City Food & Wine Festival was a great event, next year we will try to attend more of the smaller events. But until then, there’s always South Beach.