Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Report from … A Taste of Monterey - September 17, 2011

Stop the presses, what have we here … I am in a shop completely devoted to the grapes (and wines) of Monterey County.  I’m at a little mall on Cannery Row in Monterey, California (700 Cannery Row, Suite KK) called A Taste of Monterey, and I am staring at bottles and bottles of Monterey County wines, from different producers, all in one store – being from Ontario I can barely believe my eyes.  My guide through the wines and the store is a gentleman by the name of Gray and he explains the concept of the store that I am in:

It’s a retail outlet devoted to wines made using Monterey grapes, the winery that made the wines does not have to be located in Monterey, but if they have an offering that uses 100% Monterey grapes they’re in.  The outlet store represents between 80 and 90 different wineries and offers tasting to visitors of some 18 different wines a week (picked by a committee within the store’s hierarchy) – these wines change from week to week, which means within a month and a half they have tasted through all the wines.  Interesting to note, 3 Monterey winery owners, who were not named to me, are partners in this venture, it is also interesting to note that their wineries were not mentioned to me either.  It turns out that they are very careful not to showcase the wines of the owners often to avoid any favoritism, because the store is all about the love of Monterey wines … what an incredible concept this is.

About Monterey … is a cool climate region comprising some 40,000 acres spread out over 9 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs): Carmel Valley, Arroyo Seco, San Bernabe, Chalone, San Lucas, San Antonio Valley, Hames Valley, Monterey and Santa Lucia Highlands.

The Tasting … I went through the tasting menu with Gray, selected a few wines myself, but in general left the wines I would be tasting in the hands of the man that knew best.  Gray, who poured seven different wines for me wanted to give me good idea of what is being grown and made in Monterey and the styles of wines they produce.  The tasting menu was heavy on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as it seems to be a staple with every Monterey winery (as I learned on my tour the day before).  Highlights of the tasting was Gray’s favourite Chardonnay: Hahn 2009 SLH Estate Chardonnay ($25.00) I was positive that the SLH stood for Select Late Harvest, but Gray corrected me, it stands for Santa Lucia Highlands.  The nose was delightful, full of fruit like peach and pear, wrapped in buttery-vanilla aromas … the palate is so inviting it kept you coming back for more; on the palate it was fresh and crisp with nicely balanced acidity: pear mixed with hints of green apple and yet with a buttery-creaminess in the mouth; it was hard to believe you can keep that nice acidity and still get that great creaminess – welcome to cool climate California Chardonnay … (****+).  Another beauty was the Parsonage Winery 2009 Syrah ($36.00), this winery is known around these parts for their Syrah and I can see (and taste) why.  The nose is red raspberry, white pepper and hints of chocolate; while the palate doles out spice, white pepper, raspberry, black cherry with a real sexy smoothness to the finish (**** ½)  

Other Highlights from the Taste of Monterey Tasting:
Talbott 2009 Kali Hart Pinot Noir ($21.00) - *** ½+
Joyce 2008 Merlot ($20.00) - *** ½+
Tondre 2008 Pinot Noir ($43.00) - ****

Next up: tasting Carmel Road at the Jazz Festival.

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