Monday, February 28, 2011


Beverly Hills Wine Festival

A winter weekend which was supposed to bring bad, bad weather to Southern California - "look, a snowflake!" - actually yielded a lovely Sunday on February 27, 2011 for the Beverly Hills Wine Festival.  Held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza - just around the corner from Beverly Hills, in Century City - the event provided those not already involved in Oscar Night festivities an afternoon of tasting the wines of about 50 wineries, plus a handful of beer and spirits.

I wondered about the wisdom of scheduling an event in Los Angeles on Oscar Afternoon, but I needn’t have concerned myself.  The huge room at the Hyatt was elbow-to-elbow with wine lovers who apparently had no previous commitments for other parties, Oscar-related or not.

There were some snags in traffic due to red carpets which were rolled out for various movie biz soirées, but once at the festival, it was all about the wine of the minute, not the movie of the year.

The occasion benefitted 
Fran Drescher’s Cancer Schmancer Movement.  From the look of things, the fundraiser will probably be looked upon as a rousing success.

The caliber of wine which was presented was a little disappointing.  The crowd, too, seemed a little different from the usual throng at a Southern California wine tasting event.  Usually I overhear a dozen or so people at tasting tables asking for "the Cab."  Interest in Cabernet Sauvignon didn’t disappear for this event, but it did dwindle to just one Cab request overheard by yours truly.

I did hear requests - maybe a half dozen of them - for "sweet wines."  This is something I have not noticed to a great degree at other tasting events.  I couldn’t help but think of 
Eric Asimov’s article recently suggesting that wine writers trim their tasting notes down to either "sweet" or "savory."  For the record, I heard no one asking the pourers for some "savory" wine.

Cap'n Morgan, with friendThere was a party atmosphere abetted by DJ Reaper spinnin' some classic hits, and the Cap'n Morgan Pirate was wandering around for photo ops like the one pictured at right.
Notable Wines
Although the selection of wines was a little disappointing overall, there were some winners present.

Casa Barranca,
 an organic winery and estate retreat in Ojai Valley, California, presented a wonderful '08 Pinot Noir with fruit from Arroyo Grande's Laetitia Vineyards.  Roses on the nose are met with soft and gentle cherry flavors.  Their '07 Bungalow Red mixes Syrah and Mourvedre from Santa Barbara County for a dark, earthy, cherry nose and a palate full of minerals and red fruit.  Casa Barranca's '08 Viognier is sourced from Madera and shows floral aromas with guava notes and a citrus/banana flavor.  Their '08 Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles' French Camp Vineyard is light and dry with tart berries.

Ritual Wine Company's  Mike Stan poured a delicious '09 Viognier of Paso Robles fruit.  The nutty nose and savory taste with great acidity really knocked me out.  The New Black, a 2009 Cab/Syrah/Grenache blend has the Grenache coming through in strong fashion with big tannins and dark cherries.  Ritual's '08 GSM is dark and earthy with a meaty finish, while their '09 Grenache is still young.  Simple and soft, Mike feels it's still about six months away from full integration.
Los Olivos, California producer Coquelicot brought a brawny 2006 Bordeaux blend called Mon Amour which shows intense anise on the nose with strong, dry tannins and deep, funky fruit.  It's a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec.  Their 2008 Sixer - Syrah with 6% Viognier - is big, bold and peppery.  Great tasting cherry marks the '09 Pinot Noir, but with a lofty 14.5% abv.
Chatom Vineyard isn't shy about letting the alcohol take center stage, either.  The Calaveras County winery has an '06 Zinfandel which brings 15.5% to the table, but it doesn't feel like a lot.  It does have good acidity and earthy chocolate notes.
Pink Girl Wine poured their 100% Syrah rose from Napa Valley's Coombsville appellation.  It boasts a rich rosado color and is strong in strawberry.
Keating Wines from Sonoma had a 2007 Malbec, sourced from Rockpile, a 2009 Zin from Dry Creek Valley fruit and their Georges III '08 Cab made from 100% Rutherford grapes.  Each is bragworthy.
Fillmore, California's Giessinger Winery presented a tableful, to mixed results.  I found their whites generally wanting in acidity, although the flavors are great.  Their '07 Barbera boasts Amador grapes and is the best of the lot.  A close second goes to their Forgiveness, a dessert blend of Symphony and Zinfandel from the South Coast AVA which is sweet in the Lambrusco style.
Paso Robles' Estrella Creek showed some good wines, my faves being the Petite Sirah and the Stargazer Syrah/Cab/PS blend.
Big bargain producer Barefoot had hired help manning their table.  The gentleman commented to one taster, "Hey, it's six bucks!"  He was barely more interested than that when answering my questions.  I thought Barefoot's dry wines were somewhat ordinary, but I really liked their sweet ones - a Moscato Spumante bubbly and a still Moscato actually run around $10 - while the Sweet Red is not TOO sweet, and is a killer chiller at $7.

Maybe that's why those tasters were looking for more sweet wines.

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