Guest Speaker …
This afternoon’s keynote was given by Karl D. Wente, the fifth generation winemaker for Wente Vineyards – the oldest family owned winery in California (127 years). The tall 33 year old brought with him the message of good soil, taking care of the soil and how it in turn will allow you to make great wine.
“I’m marginally sick of the green message,” he told us, but he knows the importance of it. There was some levity in his talk when he listed off, in rapid succession, the grapes he grows, before moving on to his more serious topic, which of course centered around the effects good soil has. Healthy soil makes healthy grapes he intoned over and over again, giving examples of the various organic nutrients they are putting back into the soil. Healthy soil makes healthy grapes and healthy grapes taste better – follow the logic here, and it does make a lot of sense.
“Everything starts with taking care of the soil.”
“Putting good things in the soil puts good things into the vines which puts good things into the grapes which put good things into the wine.”
“What I really am is a flavour farmer and a tannin farmer.”
Of Interest …
Karl believes in the relationship between wine and music, which is why he likes to pair 6 wines with six songs every year, what he likes to call an olfactory and oratory pairing – those pairings can be found at www.wentevineyards.com/discovery
This is always an interesting affair; some like it and some don’t, but I feel chef David Garcelon (of the Royal York) does an excellent job considering he’s cooking for 200+ people.
Liquids at Lunch …
The wines at my table were all Wente wines and include a couple of their Nth Degree wines: 2007 Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon – the Cab tasted as a Cab should, but the Syrah was the star of these two, showing a spicy-peppery elegance wrapped in red fruit. There was also a Wente 2007 Reliz Creek Pinot Noir that had lovely earth notes that melded nicely with the fruit flavours. The two wines from Wente’s second label Tamas, were my two favourites, these proved to be real winners and the best values. The Tamas Estates 2008 Pinto Grigio was fresh and fruity with slightly sweet notes along with grapefruit and apple – this is perfect for summer patio sipping, all for a mere $14.95 (****). But the real star was the Tamas Estates 2008 Double Decker Red, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Barbara – a simple yet tasty red full of raspberry smells and flavours with hint of spice … great value in this friendly sipper, only 14.95 (****½) … the 2007 version of this wine was being poured on the trade floor and was just as juicy, smooth and delicious – proving that what I had tried at lunch was no fluke. I’m told this wine is headed to an LCBO store near you “at some point” – the sooner the better would be nice, I’d love to sip on this one on the patio on summer evenings, this summer.
The Wines …
With over 500 wines on the floor there’s no way to try them all, so while I was trying to figure out where to start I bumped into former Wine Writers’ Circle President Sheila Swerling-Puritt, we made a pact to comb the floor searching for good examples of one of our mutual loves: Zinfandel.
Zins of Notes …
XYZin 50 Year Old Zin – vines for this wine are a minimum of 50 years old (they range from 50 to 99 years), chocolate, spicy raspberry and deep dark delicious fruit. The XYZin series also has a 10 Year Old (vines 10-49 years old) and a 100 Year Old version – I suspect you can figure that one out on your own. The 50-Year was quite enjoyable and one of my highlights – the 100 Year old was not in attendance, too bad. (****½)
Bogle Vineyards 2008 Old Vines Zinfandel – a rich plumy, vanilla, smooth and sexy Zin … this one continues to impress year after year and still under twenty-bucks. (****½)
Delicato 2007 Brazin Old Vine Zinfandel – sweet cherry and nice plum. (****)
Mettler Family Vineyard 2007 Zinfandel – nice mineral notes with black fruit, plum, vanilla and cinnamon. (****)
Peachy Canyou 2007 Snow Zinfandel – very lush, black cherry, vanilla and big sweet fruit. (****) Another Peachy Canyon Zin is their 2007 Especial Zinfandel – this is a vineyard within a vineyard, it’s one heck of a juicy and delightful Zinfandel, I can see why this fruit is segregated. (****½)
Peach also makes a delicious Port-style Zinfandel which was quite impressive.
Pedroncelli Winery 2007 Mother Clone Zinfandel – this is a good value Zin, coming in at $16.50; it has what Zin fans enjoy in their robust red, lots of plum, spice and vanilla. (****)
Pezzi King Vineyards 2007 Zinfandel – a label change here, I almost didn’t recognize it. Pezzi is a consistent performer in Zinfandels, but I really wish they had brought their Old Vines which has been a real winner each time I have tasted it and always in my top 3 of Zins to taste. The regular is spicy and plumy and still good. (****)
Seghesio Family Vineyards – I vacillate between two of this family’s wines. The 2008 Home Ranch Zinfandel (at 15.5%) has very nice fruit and chocolate notes (****); the 2007 Old Vine Zinfandel, with its average of 80-year-old vines is point-one higher in alcohol and point-five stars better – this one is balanced and delicious with no sign of that 15.6% alcohol on the nose or palate. (****½) Last year I know I liked the Home Ranch better but I think the Old Vines gets the nod this time round.
Other Wines of Note …
A Cellar Full of Noise 2005 Tempranillo – a slight perfume note sucks you in on the nose; the palate is delicate and delicious. (****½)
Bell Wine Cellars 2006 Big Guy Red – this is a wine made with 60% Syrah and then Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc all put in an appearance. Juicy red fruit, white pepper backing it up and a nice medium length finish. (****)
Blue Moon Wines 2007 Heavy Weight Red – primarily Cab with Petite Sirah and Zinfandel – this one’s juicy and playful. (****)
Bonny Doon Vineyard 2004 Le Cigare Volant – the story behind this wine is almost as interesting as the wine itself. This is a Cote du Rhone blend from California’s maverick wine house Bonny Doon (Randall Grahm) – spicy, black fruit, peppery and good tannins – this one could see the inside of your cellar for quite a few years. (****½)
Mettler Family Vineyard 2007 Petite Sirah – as good as their Zin was this wine was even better: chocolate, spice and wonderful black fruit notes. The wine was lovely and would be a pleasure to serve around the BBQ this summer. (****½) These guys were looking for an agent to represent them in Ontario I hope they found one.
Wente Vineyards 2007 Southern Hills Cabernet Sauvignon – I’m told this general list red could be on its way out, too bad, this one’s got the blackberry and spice that should make it a good seller in the California Cab category – some people just haven’t found it, and if you don’t find it soon it will be gone – so might I suggest grabbing a few bottles before that time comes. (***½)
With all this wine, even if I didn’t swallow much, I am glad I took the bus home … and that’s one reason you can be thankful for the TTC in Toronto.