Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tasting Event: Pourtal - Cradle of Wine



Santa Monica's 7-month-old wine hang, Pourtal, kicked off their December program with a pouring party Tuesday night.  Featured were the distributors of all the wines to be spotlighted during the month of December.  The wines are part of the "Cradle of Wine" series, in which Pourtal will take an in-depth look at - and taste of - wines from the Republic of Georgia, Israel, Lebanon, Bosnia and Croatia.  Representatives of the distributors who bring these wines to the U.S. will pour and talk about them, as they did Tuesday night.


The event to kick off the series found the room in party mode, with a friendly and boisterous crowd filling the area.  In addition to the "Cradle of Wine" tastes, also available were the samples from the Enomatic wine system, which delved into other areas.  Since they are available all the time, I decided to stick with the wines being poured by the distributors.

The Republic of Georgia was represented by Greg Alonzo of Terrell Wines.  He boasted that Georgia is the birthplace of wine, since the region's winemaking is traced back around 8,000 years.  Alonzo told me "Georgia has around 500 grape varieties, but only 38 are grown for commercial viticulture."  My favorite of the four Georgian wines Alonzo poured was the Mildiani Saperavi.  Saperavi is the most important red wine grape grown in the republic, and produces a hearty and distinctive wine that would probably appeal to most American wine lovers.  I thought there was a strong resemblance to Zinfandel in this wine.  The Teliani Valley Khvanchkara was also a hit with me.  Made from Alexandria & Mudzhuretuli grapes, this semi-sweet red had a beautiful bouquet and was all about raspberries.  I had the semi-sweet white as well.  The Teliani Valley Tvishi is made from Tsolikauri grapes and is floral on the nose with a refreshing minerality to edge the moderate sweetness.


Israel's wine industry was represented by Rob Fogarty of Yarden Wines.  Fogarty poured a very nice 2008 Golan Heights Moscato that held some nice effervescence along with the sweetness.  It was quite refreshing, and could work well before or after dinner.  There were also two from Israeli Wines Direct which I did not get the chance to sample.



A wine from Bosnia and one from the Dalmation Coast of Croatia were poured by Michael Morales of the Blue Danube Wine Company.  The 2007 Citluk "Herceg" was the Bosnian entry.  Made from Zilavka, Bena and Krkosija grapes, this white wine was light and a little bit sweet on the finish.  The 2007 Bibich Riserva is made from grapes - Babich, Plavina and Lasin - which are related to Zinfandel.  That doesn't surprise, since Zinfandel's roots come from Croatia.  The dark fruit and peppery highlights seemed right at home in California.


I have saved the most unusual for last.  Going into this event, I expected to find many different and unusual tastes.  This was largely not the case, as many of the wines I sampled seemed designed for an American palate.  The Lebanese wines offered a healthy dose of that "different" I was expecting.  The three wines from Chateau Musar were highlighted by stories of winemaker Serge Hochar growing Cabernet on a hillside just outside Beirut; skipping vintages due to war raging right around the property; and having difficulty getting enough labor to work the land and harvest the grapes because of the danger.  With all that stood in the way, it's no wonder the wines produced here were a labor of love.


The Cuvee White is made of Obaideh and Merwah grapes, which would translate loosely to Chardonnay and Semillon.  It has a musty funkiness that rivals any Sauvignon Blanc I've tasted, but without the acidic edge.  The Cuvee Rouge is made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Carignane, always in equal measure.  The Hochar Pere et Fils is the winemaker's response to a request from the distributor for something "a little more sellable."  These wines are very distinctive, to a fault, perhaps.  They are not for everyone's palate, but if you're looking for a wine adventure, they certainly qualify.


All in all, Pourtal got the month - and the "Cradle of Wine" series - off to a rousing start.  December is jam-packed with events - there are at least six in a ten-day span - so check their calendar to plan your favorites.  The people behind Pourtal are as friendly as they can be.  If the music is too loud when you are there, ask them to adjust it.  No doubt they will be happy to oblige.  

Stephen Abronson, the proprietor has put together a good room and wine director Rachel Bryan has made some good choices in the wine dispensers.  Small plates are served, with a great cheese selection from Andrew's Cheese Shop and hand-crafted flatbreads from Full Of Life.  Their Autumn Salad was delicious.  There's a small outdoor patio in front with some heaters, in case your party would like to people-watch along the boulevard.