Showing posts with label Tasting Panel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tasting Panel. Show all posts

Thursday, December 29, 2011



People say Champagne should not be reserved for special occasions, that we should drink it all the time.  I'd be alright with that, if it weren't for the fact that I like the variety of the wine world and I often have only one glass a day.  I usually go for a still wine, given the limitations.  

Sparkling wine corks don't pop as often as they should at our place, but that's my choice and I'll live with it.

It was especially nice, considering my wanting Champagne ways, to be invited to The Tasting Panel Magazine's tasting event featuring about three dozen sparkling rosé wines from France and California.  The event was held during the afternoon of December 15, 2011 at Waterloo & City in Culver City, CA.

The elegance of sparkling rosé is undeniable.  The variance in color, taste and aroma is quite noticeable when given the opportunity to sample so many side-by-side.  Those in attendance were buzzing about their favorites.  Much of the talk I overheard centered around the most expensive examples being poured, naturally.  Even among wine trade and media types - maybe especially among them - it's a rare treat to sample a $300 bottle Champagne.

There were, however, plenty of much more affordable bottles on display with as much presence on the palate as the top-shelf stuff.  I did hear quite a few comments on some of the mid-range wines, and I imagine a few mental notes were being made for the next time a sparkler would be purchased.

The wines started in the $14 range and went up from there.  I'm listing here the ones I found to be well above expectations, and I've noted the ones I thought were exceptional sparklers.

Here are the bubbles that really tickled my fancy:

Palmes d'OrScharffenberger Cellars  
NV Brut Rosé, Mendocino County ($23)
A nose of earthy fruit and tasting of minerals and orange peel, this was possibly the best value in the room.  Great finish.
Exceptional.  Best value.

Roederer Estate
NV Brut Rosé, Anderson Valley ($27)
It's earthy and spicy, with a hint of tartness.

NV Mirabelle Brut Rosé, North Coast ($27)
Flinty and yeasty on the nose with a raspberry and citrus palate.

Domaine Carneros  
NV Cuveé de la Pompadour Brut Rosé, Napa Valley ($35)
Aromas of smoke and toast lead to beautiful cherry and mineral flavors.

Frank Family  
NV Blanc de Noirs, Napa Valley ($43)
A light golden tint with an earthy nose and fabulous almond notes in the flavor profile.

2008 Brut Rosé, Dundee Hills ($50)
Muted wild cherry aromas with a really dark fruit expression.  Creamy, with a hint of coffee.  Heavy on the Meunier.

Heidsieck and Co.  
NV Monopole Rose Top Brut Rosé ($50)
Pink salmon color with a tangy taste of strawberry and tons of fizz. 

NV Brut Rosé Sauvage ($55)
Almost red, this beauty tastes of toast and cherries.

NV Brut Rosé ($55)
Hardly any color at all, it's extremely bubbly with the smell and taste of nutty apples.

Moët & Chandon 
NV Brut Rosé Imperial ($59)
Deep salmon color, with a lovely, dry, strawberry/apple flavor.

G.H. Mumm
NV Brut Rosé ($75)
Salmon-colored, with a funky nose and earthy berries on the palate.

NV Brut Rosé ($90)
Very pink salmon hue, with red berries and a splash of citrus.

NV Brut Rosé ($99)
Just a "pinkish hue" with a yeasty nose and nutty, tropical flavors.

NV Brut Rosé ($100)
Light salmon in color, the nose is an earthy strawberry/banana while the palate shows tart lemon balanced with a sweet note.

Nicolas Feuillate  
2003 Cuveé Palmes d'Or Brut Rosé ($200)
Very deep pink with a striking nose and palate of smoke and cherries.  An explosive palate in an "alligator skin" bottle.  
Exceptional.  My favorite.

Brut Rosé ($299)
Very light pink, it tastes of earthy peaches.  Quite dry with an excellent finish.

2004 Belle Epoque Brut Rosé ($300)
More orange than pink, the toasty nose leads to a taste of nuts and sweet apples.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Tasting Panel Event

Sometimes I wonder how tough the competition was when I taste a wine which boasts that it won a medal.  Almost all the 26 double gold winners from the 2011 San Francisco International Wine Competition I tasted at this Tasting Panel event were credibly good wines, but a few left me scratching my head.  That's not too easy to do with a glass, a sheet of paper and a pen in my hands, which is how I spent an hour on September 22, 2011 at Waterloo & City in Culver City, California.

The three boxed wines - a Sauvignon Blanc, a Pinot Grigio and a Riesling - were drinkable, but certainly not exceptional, to my palate.  Is there a category for boxed wine?  Were these the only three in that category?

There were a few that did get my attention, as they got the attention of the judges at the competition.  Here are the double gold winners which I had no trouble accepting as just that:

Raza 2011 Torrentes Sweet Sparkling Wine (Famatina Valley, Argentina) - This demi-sec is prize-worthy.  A fruity, sweet nose invites a taste and the palate is rewarded with a lovely, sweet peach/pear/melon combo.  All this, and bubbles, too.

Saint Clair Family Estate 2010 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand) - The grassiness takes a back seat to some beautiful lime notes on the nose, while lime meets wet rocks on the palate.  Outstanding acidity, with a gorgeous finish reminiscent of limeade.

Türk 2009 Grüner Veltliner (Kremstal, Austria) - Minerals on the nose try to block the apple and citrus aromas from getting through, but without success.  A very nice acidity pairs perfectly with the mineral-laden palate.

Fritz Winery 2009 Chardonnay (Russian River Valley) - Oaky custard on the nose and tasting of buttery fruit, this is not a Chardonnay for unoaked fans.  There's a very nice burnt caramel apple finish, too.

Jenner 2009 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) - The nose of candied strawberry is replicated on the beautiful, fruit forward palate.  Great acidity.

Martin Ranch Winery 2009 Malbec (Dos Ninas Vineyards, Santa Clara Valley) - Smokey cherry and blueberry on the nose, with complex dusty fruit flavors.

Cakebread Cellars 2008 Merlot (Napa Valley) - A floral and fruity nose with oak influenced red fruit flavors.

Bethany Wines 2005 Shiraz GR10 Reserve (Barossa, Australia) - Aromas of dark fruit and a hint of meat; on the palate, that meatiness gives the fruit a run for its money.

Hope Family Wines Troublemaker Blend 2 (Paso Robles) - This Rhone blend has an amazing nose full of dark fruit.  The palate is dark, too, with spicy notes.

Colcanyon Estates Wines 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (Los Angeles County) - This Malibu wine - what, you didn't know they grow grapes in the 'Bu? - shows very dark fruit aromas and tons of meatiness.  It seems almost odd that it's so lovely on the palate.  During the sip, I had a hard time believing it was a Cab, but on the finish there was no mistaking it.

Hughes Wellman 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) - This one is all Cabernet, from top to bottom; a really nice quaff with fine tannins.

Vinturi AeratorVinturi was at the event, showing their line of wine aerators.  Since I had not tried the Vinturi yet, I lined up for the side-by-side comparison.  I must admit that although I had heard and read that the units worked quite well, I was still skeptical.

Vinturi representative John Moraytis poured a bit of Feather Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from an open bottle and another sample of the same wine which he ran through the Vinturi aerator while I watched.  I can vouch that there was nothing up his sleeve - the sample he poured into the Vinturi was out of the same bottle from which the unaerated sample came.

The difference was noticeable.  The aerated sample was rounder and softer than the one straight from the bottle.  The tannic structure wasn't diminished in the least, the wine was simply a little easier to drink.  It even showed a little more complexity, with some different notes coming forward on both the nose and palate.

I should mention, in the interest of full disclosure, that Vinturi gave me - and all the attendees at this event - a travel size aerator to take home.  The travel size and the regular size both work the same way - you pour the wine into a hole in the top of the unit.

The hole on the travel size is a bot smaller than on the regular version, so a steady hand is necessary.  There is a stand for the regular version which allows you to put the wine glass underneath the unit to catch the aerated wine.  All three elements - regular, travel and stand - cost about $40 each.  There's a package available with both the stand and the regular size Vinturi which costs $70.

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