Saturday the 13th, we attended the 11th Annual International Wine & Food Festival held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center and quite frankly it was a it disappointed. The primary deficiency was that there was not nearly as many participants as previous years; there was so much open space where wine vendors should have been. I guess the economy has taken its toll.
The main attraction were wines from the Kingdom of Navarre and while decent, they weren't anything to knock your socks off. Their best quality was their affordability - most brands were under $15. In contrast there was one Spanish collection that peaked our interest - the wines from Galicia. Both the red and white wines from this region had character - probably because winegrowers there were still using mostly indigenous grapes in which history has suggested flourish in that geography. In particular the Coto de Gomariz have been in the forefront using these indigenous grapes, most which we had never heard of. Yes, of course, Albarino; but not, Treixadura, Loureira, Godello and Sousón, Ferrol, Mencía, Brancellao and Caiño Longo. We were most intriqued with Treixadura - both in blends and as a 100% varietal. For reds, the Cuvée Primo - a blend of Sousón and Caiño Longo - was very nice. Wines from Galicia will be on our horizon for quite sometime.
As in years past, the festival included wines from Maryland, Virginia, and New York through the Monticello Wine Trail, DC Wine Country, Maryland Wine, and Finger Lakes Wine Country.We didn't spend to much time sampling their products since we regularly have chances. However, what is notable is that this year saw a larger contingent of Maryland wineries and the promotion of several new wine trails: Chesapeake Wine Trail , Patuxent Wine Trail, and Piedmont Wine Trail. The proprietors of Thanksgiving Farm were on hand pouring their excellent Meritage as well as wines from Bordeleau Winery. Bordeaux wine styles were also available through Black Ankle Vineyards and a couple from Elk Run Vineyards. The former is one of our favorite Maryland wineries - they provide great wine and music.
There were a few California wineries in attendance, but the main focus was on international producers. the Côtes-du-Rhône graced us with their presence once again and we sampled several affordable Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, and Mourvedre blends. Love these grapes. France was also represented by Alsace Wines; although known for their Reisling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, our favorites were their Pinot Blanc - the Dopff & Irion and Jean Baptiste Adam. In years past, there would be several eastern Europe wineries, but this year the sole brand was Alana-Tokaj from Hungary. They of course were pouring some Tokaji Aszú and similar late harvest wine made from Furmint, but I've always liked the dry Furmint by itself. They also were pouring a dry Hárslevelü which was nice. We tried several New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir which were quite nice. Tarras Vineyard poured two Pinot Noirs which were completely different even though the vineyard was the same. They showed the difference that just one year can have on the grape's character. Oyster Bay also poured an excellent Pinot Noir as well as Sauvignon Blanc and a Chardonnay. The Sauvignon Blanc was not your standard version - it had a mid palette not just the typical grapefruit acidic explosion at the first sip. Finally, we learned about the International Society of Africans in Wine which sells South African wine owned and operated by black South Africans. The organization will return to Washington D.C. on May 14th and 15th for their "Drink Well, Do Good" tour. Dates for other cities are available on their website. Looking forward to tasting wine made from the Bukettraube grape.
Usually this festival provides a few beers or spirits, but this year saw just one entry - Philadelphia Distilling. I'm glad they came - their appearance made our visit. Master Distiller Robert John Cassell crafts three spirits: Penn 1681 Rye Vodka, Bluecoat American Dry Gin, and Vieux Carre Absinthe. Now, we have never been fans of absinthe - although we love the paraphernalia associated with dispensing the beverage. However, their vodka and gin are outstanding. Funny how we can drink practically anything, but like absinthe, gin is usually not in that list. There are always a few that force us to adjust our preferences and the Bluecoat American Dry Gin is one of these. It's probably the citrus peels that are added to the juniper berries and the other organic botanicals. Or maybe that it is distilled five times in a custom-built, hand-hammered copper pot still. Whatever, this gin is excellent neat or with the grapefruit juice - as they were providing this day. Their vodka is even better. It may be the first we tasted using rye and distilled four times using a column still. But what makes it so smooth - absolutely zero burn must be the charcoal filtering. Penn 1681 Rye Vodka may have supplanted Maine's Cold River Vodka as our favorite American vodka.
Discovering the wines from Galicia and tasting the spirits from Philadelphia Distilling made it worth attending this event - even with the reduced number of wineries pouring. Let's hope next year is back to normal.