Sunday, November 8, 2009

Decatur Wine Fest: The Good, The Bad, and the Warmish

When I first heard that the Decatur Wine Festival was always held the first full weekend in November, I was shocked. "Are you crazy?" I thought. "The weather is going to be terrible!"

I've now attended the Wine Fest three years in a row, and each time, the weather has been fantastic, although the beginning and end of the day last year were chilly. The forecast yesterday was for a high of 67 and sunny, so Hubby put on our jackets and walked to downtown Decatur, where the entrance was indicated by a line of people snaking along the sidewalk and over by the old courthouse. While we waited, I spotted something that one rarely, if ever, sees in Decatur -- available parking:

It stayed empty for a good five minutes, too!

I also got a picture of the big wine grapes on top of the tents juxtaposed with Christmas decorations, which Decatur puts out after Halloween:

Merry Winefest!

The jackets came off quickly. The deceptive thing about "67 and sunny" is that on the square on top of the MARTA station, it ends up being about 78 and sunburn-inducing. I'm actually a little concerned about Hudson of Two Friends Imports (aka "The Macedonian Wine guys"). He was looking seriously pink by the end of the day, but then, like me, he was wearing black. While speaking with his business partner, I revisited the Popova Kula Merlot and Cab, which I'd reviewed before, and found that I liked the Cab better this time.

Side note: I got lots of comments on my "Drinks well with others" t-shirt. So if you were there and told me you liked it, thanks for the compliment!

Hubby and I started in the sun because last year, we noted that some of the reds had become undrinkably warm. My plan: focus on reds and try some of the more interesting-sounding whites

The first stop was Angeline/Pernod-Ricard at Table 26. I rated the Campo Viejo Crianza as Very Good, and the Graffigna Malbec was Okay due to its odd finish.

Then we stepped to Table 27, Freixenet. This wine holds good memories for me because when I graduated with my M.S. degree in 2002, I had a small party (didn't want to celebrate too hard when the Ph.D. was the final target), and I could afford the Freixenet sparkling on my graduate student budget. We've found their wines to be consistently good through the years. Here's what we tried:

Freixenet Cordon Rosado: Very Good -- don't let the pink color fool you; this is an excellent sparkling

Segura Viudas Aria: Good

Gloria Ferrer Va de Vi: Very Good to Excellent: bubbles with elegant dry citrus flavor

Tapena Verdejo: Good

Tapena Tempranillo: Meh to Good, a victim of the sun already

Tapena Garnacha: Good to Very Good with interesting sweetness on the edges of the palate

A brief stop at Table 28, Gruppo Mezzacorona, found another heat victim, the Righetti Valpolicella. I'm going to try that one sometime when it's not been overheated.

Hubby wanted to go to Table 30, Legacy Sales, because of the Soprano's wine line. One of the volunteers told us it was part of a promotion for an upcoming movie. I tried the Pinot Grigio, which was very good. Hubby said the reds were okay, but already warm.

Speaking of interesting labels, I'm a sucker for wine with dessert names, so we shifted to Table 31, Concannon. The wines:

Cupcake Chardonnay: didn't try, but Hubby said it was an "over-the-top oak bomb" Yeah, he liked it.

Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc: Good. It's a Marlborough. 'Nuff said.

Cupcake Merlot: Meh, had a funky structure and flavor profile

Cupcake Riesling: Very Good and Very Dry, just how I like my Rieslings

Table 33, M Imports, looked like they had some interesting Portugese wines, so we skipped the Pacific Southern (Kenwood, NO, Firesteed) and went there. The NOPA inho Verde was Good to Very Good but wanted food. The Qinta do Portal Grande Reserve Duoro was also Good to Very Good with an interesting cherry nose and very dry finish.

Table 35, Avanti Fine Wines, apparently had not monitored the amount poured by their volunteers. They were already out of the Villa Granda Prosecco, and it wasn't even 2:00 yet! The Alba Rosa Albarino was Very Good, and the Sombrero Rojo Crianza rated a Good to Very Good.

Catamarca Imports at Tables 38 and 39 had noted the heat problem and was taking care of the reds. Intrigued by the blend, I had the Eguren Shyraz Tempranillo, which was Very Good to Excellent.

Back to the interesting names, Hubby and I went to Table 42, Unique World Wines, for the Big Red Monster, a blend of Syrah, Zinfandel, and Petite Syrah. It was big and fruity, as promised, and rated a Very Good to Excellent. Norman "The Monster" Zin, another fruit bomb, was Very Good.

We did stop by the Sherlock's table to find Warner and Darryl. Most of the wines looked familiar to us, so we only tried a few:

Chateau Marjosse Blanc: Good to Very Good

Chateau Lescours St Emilion: Meh

J Sanders Nuit St George Vaucrains: Meh

By that point, it was time for a food break and the first raffle. The food went better than the raffle, although there were long lines at all the tables. I tried some pasta from Zucca and renewed my intention to try that place out soon. The Pharm House had run out of chicken salad sandwiches, and I just didn't feel like vegetable soup, although I heard it was very good. I did try one of the sandwiches later, and it was okay, but a little bland. Hubby got a meatball from the Iberian Pig. Cake Cafe Atlanta (warning: web site has cheesy music) had brought something, but it was gone by the end of the first hour, and people were scraping up caramel icing off a board with forks. As much as I love icing, I didn't want to kill my palate so early. FIGO similarly ran out quickly. Later in the afternoon, I had some Praline Pecans, but I'm not sure from where, and The Grange was dishing up excellent wine munchie food: mashed potatoes, gravy, and sausages. The most perfect food for the afternoon? Definitely Parker's on Ponce with their fancy cheeses and bread and/or crackers.

Okay, back to the wines.

Hubby and I enjoyed stopping by the Mad Housewife table (#1). We tried the Merlot and the Cabernet, which were both Very Good, especially at their $7 price point. They're not fancy examples of what they are, but I think they're great "training wines" for beginning oenophiles as well as good "pop open on a weeknight" wines. No, I have not received any freebies or other endorsement compensation from the Mad Housewife or Rainier Wines.

Table 2 brought us to the Pacific Rim/Oregon wines. I tried the King's Ridge Oregon Pinot Gris, which was Good but not great. We tried to skip around the crowd and go to Quality Wine & Spirits at Table 15, but the crowd caught up with us. The Crios Rose of Malbec was good, and the Malbec itself would have been very good had it not been warm. Quality W&S also poured from Table 16, and I tried the Evodia Old Vine Garnacha, which was Okay but had an odd herb taste.

Still in the shade, Table 20 (Delicato) poured the 181 Merlot, Very Good and fruity, and the Brazin Old Vine Zin, which was Good but lacked brazenness and body. We tried a couple of Pinot Noirs at Table 21, Georgia Crown. The Redtree was Good. The Veramonte was Meh. Finally, we visited Artie at Table 22, Georgia Crown, and Table 23, Banfi--Italy. The Zaca Mesa Z Cuvee was Very Good, and the Banfi Rosso di Montalcino was Very Good. I was disappointed to find that they were all out of the "Rosa Regale." Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned it in my previous post because Feast had also run out of the bread pudding, which was my suggested pairing.

By the end of the Wine Fest, we had a serious case of the Wine Munchies, so we headed to the Brick Store, where we sat in the Belgian bar and enjoyed some beer and frites:

Finally, thank you to Dan Browning and Artie Macon of Banfi for their tips in the comments section of my last post! I did take your tips to heart, and it seems that several others did as well. Thanks also to Hudson of Two Friends Imports, who was turning pink (see above) and pouring some good Macedonian Wines at Table 47, for his comment. Also, thank you to the Decatur Metro and inDecatur blogs (see right) and Inside Access for re-posting my Wine Tasting survival tips.

Disclaimer: All opinions expressed in this post are my own, but I am not responsible for what others say in the comments section. I'm still not getting any freebies for my reviews. Bite me, FTC.


hudson said...

great post! I'd like to add that my "superwife" did bring me some bullfrog, but it was too late. Anyways, I'd rather get a little sun than have a rainy-wintery wine fest! See you there next year.

Anonymous said...

The Mad Housewife had an absolute blast making new friends and will definitely be back to Decatur's Wine Festival next year. Thanks for the shout out! I am enjoying your blog as well-keep up the good work!

Cecilia Dominic said...

Hudson, I agree. Would you, perhaps, be referring to the lovely weather at this year's Beer Fest?

Thanks, Mad Housewife! Glad I'm on the "not mad" list. :)