Bob's Cheese and Wine Blog

My world of cheese and wine

Posts Tagged ‘Wine Tasting’

South Beach Wine & Food Rave

Posted by fromagebob on February 27, 2011

Crowd at the 2011 SoBe Wine & Food Fest

I went to my first South Beach Wine and Food Festival event (ever) this past Friday. It was the “trade tasting” event that is ostensibly a venue for wine makers to present their wares to the wine trade and media. Since one of the major sponsors of the event is Southern Wine, most of those in attendance have some presence in the local market; there’s nothing worse than finding a great wine, only to find it’s not available. Unfortunately, the crowds at the event precluded even a modicum of research. If I had to pick one word to describe the event, it might be “zoo,” but that doesn’t adequately describe the chaos. Rave, maybe? Wine mosh pit?

Speaking with some of the wine makers who attended, most expressed disappointment with the event, as there was no possible way that any kind of conversation about the wines could take place. The crowd was a mix of every age group, from those barely over drinking age, to a number of rather elderly participants. In addition to the wine tables, there were tables dispensing everything from food to liquor to mixed drinks to books. I managed to visit about 10 tables, far below what the norm would be in a real trade tasting.

Violet Grgich

I understand that blogging probably falls on the fringe of “wine media” but I like to think that I make a contribution (albeit a small one). That’s my justification for getting in to the trade/media portions of the events. The public portions often become something akin to an open bar, with only a passing resemblance to a wine tasting. That was illustrated most aptly when, during a conversation with Violet Grgich, I was shoved aside by a fellow who thrust his arm out – with two wine glasses clutched in his hand – and demanded “two cabs” (sans ‘please…’). Ms. Grgich accommodated with a pained smile.

Even getting in was a bear. We stood in a huge line for over 1 hour. We got into the event at about 2pm, with an even larger line behind us. As we approached the main entry to the glass tent, there was a steady stream of line-cutters barging in with no control. The tent dispensing the glass and sample bags was understaffed and not equipped to handle the people passing through. And, once in the village, it became a wine rave. Not to mention far too many people wandering outside scalping tickets (to a free event). That really bothered me; the only way to get the tickets was to be in the trade – a wine shop or restaurant. That meant that some rather unscrupulous players got the tickets representing that they would attend, then turned around and tried to profit. Sleazy. I was hoping for the undercover squad to get them.

Despite all of the sweaty bodies, there were some real gems. I followed a strategy of looking for producer names I did not recognize and tables with no drinkers. Using that technique, I was able to try wines from the Biltmore Estate, in North Carolina. They produce a passable Chardonnay in North Carolina, along with wines from California bottled under their direction and label.

Brazin Lodi Zinfandel

Here are some of the other wines I found that are definitely worth a second look:

  • Muscadet Sèvre st Maine 2008, a Loire wine bottled by Remy Pannier
  • A 2009 Vouvray from Moreau & Fils, in Chablis
  • A Crémant de Loire Brut Rosé from Langlois
  • An interesting 2008 Chinon, from Marc Brédif
  • A red Sancerre of Pinot Noir, from Château de Sancerre
  • From Bernardus Winery, in Carmel California, a 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, a 2008 Chardonnay, and a 2008 Pinot Noir, all from Monterrey County, and their Marinum red blend, from Carmel Valley
  • Brazin Wines, from Lodi, offered to nice Zinfandels: a 2008 Lodi Old Vines, and a 2007 Dry Creek Valley Old Vines.
  • Summerland Winery, from Santa Barbara, showed a 2009 Santa Barbara Chardonnay, a 2008 Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay, a 2008 Monterrey County Sauvignon Blanc, and a 2005 Santa Ynez Syrah.

In addition, I had the opportunity to try several delicious wines from Grgich Hills, including their Stellar 2008 Fumé Blanc, their 2007 Chardonnay, their 2007 Zinfandel, their 2006 Merlot, and their 2006 Cab (which made me almost want to stop drinking for the rest of the day, just to see how the wine evolved). I managed to spend a few minutes with Brian Loring (who I was able to speak at length with at Sunset Corner’s Pinot party the next day – more on that later).

All in all, it was a beautiful day on South Beach, great showcase for the city, moderately so for the winemakers. But it looked like the attendees had fun.


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Miami Wine Fair, Day One

Posted by fromagebob on September 26, 2009

The Miami Wine Fair Tasting Floor

The Miami Wine Fair opened today, and as anticipated, has improved greatly over previous years. The tasting floor held a plethora of vendors, offering over 1,500 wines to taste, along with quite a variety of other exhibitors, including several charitable organizations, Yelp!, and a few local food spots.

As always, the seminars were my favorite. The day started with “Grandes Pagos de España” which translates to “The Great Estates of Spain”, a group of 21 estate growers who are focused on producing superior quality wine. Their group is very similar to the cru structure in other countries. We tried 9 wines in 3 flights, and all of them were quite good. My favorite was Escena 2004, from Manuel Manzaneque winery. The blend is 90% Tempranillo, 5% Syrah, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. The initial nose was spicy cinnamon candy, with smoky, dark cherry, cigar box and licorice notes. The taste was very nice: chocolate covered cherries, blueberry, with a slight vegetal undertone. It was a bit tannic, but smoothed out on the finish. I can see this aging quite nicely, and going very well with roasted lamb, or some braised short ribs.

The second seminar was titled “Wine Tour de France” and explored a number of France’s wine regions. In this session, we tasted 7 wines, including a Rosé Champagne that was quite tasty – my initial impression of the nose was a rich strawberry soup, with sweet cherries, vanilla and light fruits on the palate. The other wines covered a broad range of appellations, including a Chablis, an Alsace Riesling, a Chinon that was quite nice, an excellent Beaujolais Villages from Louis Tête – really nice, followed by a nice Bordeaux. We finished with a Sauterne from Château d’Arche that had to be one of the sexist wines I have ever put my nose to. The aroma in that glass was superb, and I could not stop inhaling. In most cases, the olfactory system shuts down after a few sniffs, but for this wine, there was something that kept coming. Yum.

The third session was Ribera del Duero, which is probably my favorite wine region of Spain, and which produces some of my favorite wines. This was a massive tasting of 16 wines, all Tempranillos, with a very wine expression of the grape – I was quite surprised in several cases, and found some very nice wines.

The last session of the day was wines from Castilla-La Mancha, another of my personal favorites, and given by Charlie Arturaola, one of my favorite instructors. Charlie took us through 10 wines from the region, including 4 whites and 6 reds. It was an interesting journey; we tried a couple of grapes indigenous to the area that I had not tasted, including a Airén that was very interesting, and a Macabeo-Sauvignon Blanc blend that was quite nice. The reds, as expected, were delicious.

On the tasting floor, I tried quite a few wines of which the most memorable were those from:

Esporão, a Portuguese producer, whose winemaker I met last year. He’s an Australian fellow who went to Portugal some years ago to make great wines (and boy, has he succeeded!). They make a very nice Reserva White, a Reserva Red, and a great Verdelho, but the magnificent example of what they do is in their Private Selection 2005. This wine just blew me away. It’s made from a blend of Alicante Bouschet and Syrah, and has such a rich, deep nose and velvety, soft, complex taste, that I was sorely tempted to grab a bottle and run. They are at booth P-14, if you attend tomorrow! That wine alone is worth the trip.

I also tried wines from Peter Figge; I had tasted these about 2 weeks ago with a wine tasting panel I belong to. Peter is from California, runs a solo operation, but makes some very nice wines, including a great Chardonnay, and several nice Pinots. I’ll be writing about those in more detail in the near future.

The other wines that really impressed me were from a Argentine producer called Oyikil (pronounced O-gee-Kill). The winemaker was there; her work is superb, and included several Malbecs and a very nice Cab. We’re going to be trying those on October 7th at our tasting panel, so I will write about those wines as well.

I’ll post an update tomorrow about my day at the fair, and I’ll be sharing more of the wines I tried with more in-depth commentary over the next few weeks.

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8th Annual Miami Wine Fair

Posted by fromagebob on September 20, 2009

MWFLogoThe Miami Wine Fair returns for its eight year this coming weekend, September 26th & 27th. This year, exhibitors will be presenting more than 1,500 wines, along with two days of excellent seminars, geared towards novice, enthusiast, and expert alike. Another feature of this year’s fair will be its support to Educate Tomorrow, a non-profit organization that supports youth who are aging out of the foster care system.

This will be my fourth year attending. In years past, I’ve had the opportunity to try some great wines, and learn quite a bit from the fair’s seminar series – which I think is one of its best features. This year, the show will feature 10 seminars over its two days. Each seminar focuses on a specific topic, and includes ample tastings for attendees. A full schedule is available on the Fair’s website, but I wanted to highlight several sessions that I attended last year, and truly enjoyed. Two of the sessions are on Saturday’s schedule, and both focus on the wines of Spain. One session features the wines of the Ribera del Duero, which is one of my favorite wine regions. The second features the wines of Castilla – La Mancha; I was not as familiar with these wines until last year, but found them to be delicious – they’ve also become some of my preferred wines.

On Sunday, a session featuring the wines of Portugal promises to be fantastic; last year, the fair featured the wines of a particular winery; this year, they are casting a wider net, and focusing on a specific grape. This should be an excellent session. Finally, Sushi Samba Dromo, one of Miami Beach’s best Sushi restaurants, is back again for a wonderful Sake Paring. Sake sommelier Midori Roth will present 5 special sake’s paired with some of SushiSamba Dromo’s signature bites.

This year, the fair is also adding two new features involving cheese. First, Cabot Creamery of Vermont is going to be furnishing cheese to the fair for the seminars. Currently, the planned cheeses are their Sharp Cheddar, their Seriously Sharp Cheddar, and their Pepper Jack (one of my favorite nibbling cheeses!). The fair is working on the pairings, and if I learn anything further, you’ll read about it here. Second, Anco Foods, importers and wholesalers of gourmet foods will be hosting a booth featuring a selection of their cheeses, paired with wines from the fair. Two of their productsthat I am hoping will be present, are Quenby Hall Stilton, a delicious cheese from the UK, and St. Andre – a triple-crème brie style cheese that is quite tasty and pairs well with a variety of wines.

One of the reasons that I enjoy this particular fair is that the venue – the Miami Beach Convention Center – lends itself to a more relaxed environment in which all attendees, from novices to experts, can focus on tasting the wines. I find that quite often, novice wine drinkers are intimidated by tastings that are held at wine shops. In one of my recent classes, I dubbed the condition “Wineaux Fauxbia”, a term I coined to describe the fear of things associated with wine. I’ll post something on that in the near future, but for those of you reading this, consider the $75 price of admission to the tasting floor gives you a pretty wide open field to try numerous wines that you’ll not easily find anywhere else. The floor of the convention center is not crowded, so even if a few tables have people in front, there will be others that are wide open to try. And, the people manning the booths are quite friendly, and open to discussing their products should you wish.

Please also be sure to visit the International Wines booth, and talk with my friend Henry Barrow – he’ll be the celebrity pourer for Figge Cellars, a set of great wines from an up-and-coming wine maker in California.

Hope to see you all there!

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Frontier Red California Red Wine

Posted by fromagebob on September 4, 2009

I picked this up at Sunset Corners a couple of weeks ago. A customer was asking one of the guys in the store for an inexpensive red wine, and this is what he recommended. Sounded interesting, and the price seemed right, so I got a bottle, too. I think it was around $12.00. Can’t beat that for a casual red wine! It’s a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Carignane. Bottle doesn’t have the percentages on it, but you can really taste the notes of the Grenache and Petite Sirah.

It’s got a nice nose. Cherries, some tobacco and leather, a little spice, touch of alcohol. The taste is a little thin, but there’s cherries, pepper, vanilla and oak. The finish isn’t bad – medium, but the flavor stays. Doesn’t get candy-ish. If anything, it gets a little spicy, then drifts away. I like it, will definitely keep a couple bottles around.

This is bottled by the Fess Parker Winery in Santa Maria, CA.

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Clos Pegase Petite Sirah Port

Posted by fromagebob on August 30, 2009

A very good friend brought a bottle of this lovely wine to a recent cheese tasting I had at my home. We tried it with a few cheeses, which I’ll write about later, but the wine (or the port, if you will) was quite delicious. Port, as most know, is a wine from Portugal that has been fortified with brandy (Aguardente) to stop the fermentation of the wine, and to boost the residual alcohol content. Wikipedia has a good article on Port that you can see for more information.

Technically, if you add spirits to a wine, it is made in the port style. I dug around on Clos Pegase website to find out what was added to this particular wine, but there was no information. I’ve e-mailed them to find out (just for the heck of it). On the bottle, it does note that the wine is from grapes from their Palisades estate vineyards. The alcohol content is 18%. The tasting notes on the bottle indicate sweet blackberry fruit, but I found this to be much richer and less sweet than it may have been. I found more dark cherries and very pleasant smoky notes, with licorice, dark fruits, and a mild sweetness. It had a richness as you might expect in a port, but not the richness of a port (maybe because the grape was different? Hmmmm).

All in all, great to have a friend like this! Thanks, Mike!

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Wine and Cheese Tasting at Casa Toscana – Part II

Posted by fromagebob on July 16, 2009

The cheeses were wonderful. They were all from Il Forteto, a rather interesting producer in Italy. According to the representative at the tasting, the farm was founded to help disadvantaged youth find a place to prosper, and from their initial foray into cheese making, the project blossomed into a full-fledged farm producing a variety of wonderful products. You can check the website for more information on this.

There were three cheeses: Pecorino Stagionato con peperoncino, a Brillo Pecorino Di Vino, and a Boschetto al Tartufo.

Pecorino Stagionato con Peperoncino

This translates to “Aged Pecorino with red pepper” and that’s what it is. The cheese is made from pasteurized sheep’s milk, and aged for at least three months. The ingredients are simply milk, rennet, salt, a fermentation microbial, and the peppers. The paste is kind of crumbly, but moist; it’s in between a semi-firm and firm cheese. The aroma is slightly herbal, with hints of straw and cream. In the mouth, it’s spicy with a nice peppery taste, and flavors of brown butter and cream. It was quite nice. We paired this with the first wine (2006 Toscana Rosso). It was quite nice. The two paired well, but the alcohol content of the wine (14%) really “hotted up” the peppers. Eating a portion of the cheese with no visible peppers went well, but with the peppers started OK, but got pretty warm. I found that after a couple of bites and sips, my mouth was on fire – pleasant – but hot. The wine and the un-peppered part of the cheese rated a +1, but the wine and the peppers got a -1. I guess that evens out to a zero. I would probably serve this cheese with a dark beer, or maybe a lower alcohol Sancerre.

Brillo Pecorino Di Vino

These cheese are matured in wine in clay pitchers, for about four months. According to the website, selected cheese are washed, dried, then placed in terra cotta pitchers containing a mixture of Tuscan wines (doesn’t say what wines, but I would love to find out). The website suggest that they need constant attention; I suspect that they are turned and rotated periodically to make sure they age consistently. The cheese wheel is dark red, with distinct wine-y aromas emanating from the wheel. The cheese itself has a nice aroma of cream and butter, with a hint of the wine off the rind. The flavor is almost fruity, with some citrus notes. I also tasted butter and herbal notes. The cheese has a pleasant, tart finish. We pared this with wine #2 (the Rosso de Montalcino). I gave this a +1. The wine faded out a bit, but it made the cheese fruiter and more creamy. Nice paring.

Boschetto al Tartufo

What’s Emeril say? BAM! Good description for this cheese. Tartufo is “Truffle” in Italian, and you could see the truffles embedded in the wine. This cheese was a fresh cheese, and is 30% cows milk, 70% sheep. The flavor is rich and luscious. With a wonderful truffle notes. The aroma is truffles, cream, and roasted nuts. The flavor was really truffles. You got some cream and butter from the cheese, but the truffle flavor just stood out.

I got to try this with the third and fourth wines (the Nero De Casanova and the Sassontio). I gave the cheese and the Sassontio a +1 – the wine enhanced the truffles, and actually got a tiny bit fruiter. Then I tried the cheese with the Nero de Casanova and the sky lit up. It was a stellar paring, a definite PLUS TWO! The wine and cheese just came together into something quite delicious – I actually forgot to take notes, it was that good (don’t worry, I will get more of both!).

What happened was this: they were coming around with wine #4 and the cheese, but I still had wine #3 in my glass, so I told the pourer to hold off. I tried the cheese with wine 3, and after the fireworks stopped, I got some of wine #4. My table-mates were commenting on how nice the cheese and the Sassontio were. I tried it, and it was good – but not as good as with the Nero. So I told them. Naturally, we all had to get more cheese and some of the Nero (the research involved in this is just excruciating!!).

One girl stayed with wine #4, but another had an interesting experience. When she first got the wine in her mouth with the cheese, she commented that she liked the other paring better, but then her eyes widened, and she said “WOW”. She described it like this: “At first, the wine and the cheese were separate, and I didn’t think it would be better, but then they came together in my mouth, and it was amazing!”

Couldn’t have said it better myself!

The cheeses are available from Casa Toscana – visit their website to order. The first three wines should be available at Whole Foods – going to check that out myself.

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