Monday, February 20, 2012

Finding the Finger Lakes at the Washington DC International Wine & Food Festival

Last week we attended the 13th annual Washington DC International Wine & Food Festival primarily because friends from the Finger Lakes Wine Country were pouring. In addition, this is always an opportunity to find interesting and unique wines and spirits from regions throughout the globe.

But let's start in New York. The Finger Lakes is home to Riesling and each winery usually had samples of both dry and off dry styles. Each have their place and the off-dry is usually balanced by refreshing acidity. The flavors differed amongst each winery - some apple, some peach - but all solid representations of the grape. Two of the wineries, Anthony Road and Fox Run, were also pouring Lemberger, one of our favorite wine grapes - probably because they traditionally exude blackberry flavors. The first was pouring a 50/50 blend of Lemberger and Cabernet Franc where the latter adds a little green pepper to the mix. Fox Run's was a 100% varietal Lemberger - that blackberry smoothness with with a slight peppery finish. Finally a few wines to mention were the Dr. Franks Rkatsiteli, Ravine Pinot Noir, Glenora Pinot Blanc, and Wagner Niagara. These represent the diverse grape plantings in this region. Please take a look at these wineries:
I also spent a considerable amount of time with a Pisco producer. Pisco Portón was concocting a few tasty cocktails like their Portonero, Mohito, and Peruvian Strawberry Margarita - but this spirit is worthy consuming neat. It is fermented from grape must (partially fermented grape juice) and distilled to proof. That means no water is added to the distilled spirit to bring the percent alcohol down to the regulated amount. And since it is fermented using the must, the spirit contains more grape sugars and flavors. Fifteen pounds of grapes go into every bottle. Ever wonder which grapes are used in Pisco? The Pisco Portón uses three. Cheers to Pisco
  • Quebranta is a non-aromatic varietal that evolved on the Peruvian coast. It is the most popular pisco grape in Peru and gives body and fullness of flavor to Pisco Portón.
  • Albilla is a fragrant green grape with a soft and fruity taste structure. It is prized for its smooth finish in pisco.
  • Torontel grapes have a strong citrus and peach aroma that lingers on the hands and clothing of workers who handle them. Its expression in the glass is alive with heady aromatic complexity.
There were several other spirits we enjoyed tasting. Philadelphia Distilling was pouring a new 100% corn whiskey - straight spirit - no oak aging. The sweetness from the corn was prevalent with no noticeable burn. Blue Star Beverages Czarskaya (czars gold) Vodka and completely smooth wheat based vodka distilled 15 times - yes fifteen - and filtered 20 times through a 22 carat gold mesh. Not sure what that process beings to the table - but the end result is a nice vodka. And then there was the iichiko Shochu - a spirit I had never heard of before. iichiko was pouring several styles - all made from Australian grown barley. The barley is polished and then made into a mash which is then distilled into a relatively low alcoholic spirit - starting at just 30%. Each was also extremely smooth. Interesting - but not sure I'm willing to commit to a long term relationship. Need to explore a little more.

As for the other wines, there were many, many interesting wines. Strong reds from Wild Horse Winery, Charles Krug Winery, and Franciscan Oakville Estate; Pinotage from many South African Wineries; Rhone wines; and plenty of Spanish Tempranillo and Albarino. Explore these wineries and regions. There's plenty for all of us to learn. Cheers.
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