Yes, we haven't focused much on the wine that was served at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival - mainly because there are so many other choices. But wine is an integral part of the event, starting with The Celebrate France! Pavilion held in the Village. Attendees didn't have to wait for the Grand Tasting tent to open in order to sample nice wines. Inside the tent were wines from obscure regions such as Languedoc, sparkling wine, dry roses from Château d'Esclans, and even box wine. All the while displaying the diverse richness of the French wine culture. And in both tents, the Loire Valley Wine Bureau was pouring samples from this esteemed region. They were also instructing the audience about the sub-regions. Chinon produces Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc. Ask for a red Sancerre and expect a Pinot Noir; ask for a white Sancerre and expect a Sauvignon Blanc. The same for a Pouilly-Fumé; but a white Vouvray would land a Chenin Blanc. These wines were sometimes old world - earthy with minerals - and sometime new world - bright and fruity. Hopefully people left with more knowledge about the region.
Other countries were represented as well. There was plenty of Italian wines, some from Argentina, some from Spain, and even a collection from Greece. Try pronouncing some of their endogenous grapes: Xinomavro, Aidani, Tsaoussi. And yes, there were plenty of American producers - mainly representing California. However there were a few non-California wineries. Bedell Cellars was demonstrating that quality Bordeaux styled wines can be produced in Long Island and local Schnebly Winery was proving they could produce an avocado wine. Better to make the wine than allow the produce to rot in the field. Actually it wasn't too bad - its made try - but the avocado finish made me crave salt. Maybe pair with chips and salsa. Schnebly also had a selection of fruit wines that received a better reception and showed that you have to make do with what grows in your environment.
As for the California wineries, we spent the most time talking and tasting with the folks from Paul Dolan Vineyards, including Mr. Dolan himself. He is at the forefront of the bio-dynamic movement and can teach Oregon wineries about sustainability. In fact he jump ahead of the organic train long ago. We have discussed the wineries unique practices in the past, but most shouldn't be unique and should actually be a best practices for the industry. Use natural predators to evict insects and rodents; not pesticides. Use natural remedies such as chamomile and oak bark. Plant covering crops. I even like how they allow sheep and cattle to graze in or around the vineyard to reduce weeds and for fertilizer. But business success still depends on selling quality wine. Yes, the grapes are healthy - but is the wine? They were pouring their Dark Horse Vineyards, Mendocino grown bio-dynamic wine, Deep Red - a Côtes du Rhône styled wine made from Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Grenache. This is a great wine, fruity yet it retains some of the volcanic minerality. They were also pouring a pair of their organic wines - but I kept reaching for the Big Red. Nicely done.
There were several other American producers, many that we avoided at the Grand Tasting knowing we would revisit at the Best of the Best. As we posted previously, these are outstanding wines and we concentrated on the Pinot Noirs from Pali Wine Company, A. P. Vin, Hanzell Vineyards, and Roessler Cellars. All mouth watering, velvety, and silky smooth. Add in offerings from Burgundy and Sancerre and New Zealand and you can see why this wine varietal continues to soar.