Showing posts with label Montaluce. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Montaluce. Show all posts

Friday, August 10, 2012

Georgia Wineries: Visited, Revisited, and Reviewed

Mountains Pair Well with Wine
In anticipation of this year's Wine Bloggers Conference, Hubby and I drove through Georgia wine country last weekend to pick up a few bottles to share and more to drink ourselves.  We had been to several of the wineries before and decided to try out a few new ones. 

I wrote in my last post about expectations, and a lot of people have doubts about the ability of Georgia winemakers and growers.  It's time to put those aside.  Of course, the opinions expressed here are mine and Hubby's, and everyone's tastes are different.  Still, Georgia wines are worth a try, or another try depending on if you've had them in the past, for the following two reasons:

1)  Georgia wineries have been doing better with eliminating or minimizing the sweet leathery overtones that creep into the reds.  I suspect this has been a big factor feeding the skepticism about the wines here, and I bet a lot of people will be pleasantly surprised.
Note the red clay in the pond.  That's terroir, baby!

2)  Each tasting room has its own character and charm.  More about that below.

We started at Wolf Mountain Vineyards, where we're in the wine club.  The exposed wood and high ceilings give the lower tasting room, which was filled with boxes due to them just having bottled, a mountain resort feel.  We tasted in the cozy upstairs tasting room.  The highlights here are the bubblies and the rosé, but they have good reds, too.  Try the Howling Wolf Red and Coupage, both blends.  Our current favorite sparkling of theirs is the Blanc de Syrah Brut, and a friend of ours cannot get enough of the Plenitude white blend.

Grapes at Blackstock
Another place where you could easily kick back with a glass of wine in a rocking chair is Blackstock Vineyards and Winery, where we're also in the wine club.  These guys supplied grapes to a lot of the other wineries as they got started, so they've done well with figuring out how to make the finicky vinifera play nicely in Georgia's climate, and they were one of the first to figure out that Sangiovese does well here.  They have a fun vibe, both because of the wines and the tasting room staff, often local college kids.  If you're looking for a fantastic Georgia Viognier, often touted as the Southern white wine grape, try this one.  We also really liked their Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon.

In the past, Frogtown Cellars seemed to have the most West Coast attitude, but it's mellowed, and I was really impressed with the wines this time.  They seem to have reduced the number of wines they make with a corresponding increase in quality.  Highlights of this trip included the Steel Chardonnay, Touché (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Tannat), Sangiovese, Shotgun Second Reload (NV blend of Tannat, Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Franc and Merlot), and Cabernet Franc.

Go just up and over the hill from Frogtown to Three Sisters for a winery experience that's about as opposite from snobby as you can get.  There are overalls, Cheetos, and other things you just have to see for yourself, but that you're definitely not going to find in California.  What you will discover are great authentic Georgia wines.  The UnOaked Chardonnay is a fruit bomb of a white.  It's been a favorite of mine year after year, and I'm not usually impressed by Chards.  The dry reds are a little on the sweet side, but don't let that deter you; they're still well-balanced and won't kill your palate.  I liked the Merlot, and Hubby and I both liked the Cynthiana, which is really well done.  It's worth trying just to see how a native grape varietal holds its own with the imports.  We didn't so much like it with the optional chocolate pairing, but as I mentioned above, your tastes may differ.

It pains me to say so, but the best parts remaining of Montaluce under their new ownership are the restaurant Le Vigne and the gorgeous view.  We tried the wines and weren't bowled over this time around.  The rosé and chardonnay weren't bad, but not good enough to warrant buying a bottle this trip.  We'll wait and check out their next vintage.

Wine with a View at Montaluce
The wineries above are all featured as part of the Dahlonega Wine Trail Weekend.  We didn't visit Cavender Creek this time but have enjoyed them in the past.

On Saturday, we got adventurous…  Helen, Georgia's faux-German town that hovers between parody and peculiar, seems to be a natural hub for wineries, but Habersham, which we didn't visit, has been getting all the attention.  Frogtown has also opened a tasting room, so if you're not going to visit the Dahlonega one, you can still sample their wines with your bratwurst.  My suggestion is that you venture out a little further and try these two:

Sautee Nacoochee Vineyards feels like you're tasting wine in someone's house, and you can pull up a chair and have a glass or even a wine slushie on the back porch.  It felt the most relaxed of all of them.  Hubby is typically very picky about the pink stuff, but we both liked the White Merlot.  Also, their website has some entertaining tasting notes.  About the White Merlot:  "How do we make White Merlot? By making red grapes blush of course. That's just what happens when proper southern grapes are undressed."  Oh, my.

Go further down the road to Sautee-Nacoochee Village, where you'll find the Yonah Mountain Vineyards tasting room.  It's in a little strip, and the best way to find it is to look for the purple Wine Tasting sign:

The inside of the tasting room is elegant, and they had live music, which was nice and not intrusive .  They're still getting their vineyards going and are sourcing some grapes from elsewhere, but still doing fairly well with what they've managed to grow or get locally.  The Serenity Cellars Bianco Bello is a lovely white blend with a nice fruit/dry balance.  The Sangiovese and Harmony (blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, and Syrah) were also quite nice.  

We headed north to Tiger Mountain, which we'd enjoyed in the past, but the current vintage didn't do much for us.  The best ones were the Mourvedre and Tannat, but the price point was too high for how we felt about them. So, we'll check back with them after their next vintage is released, which will give us a chance to try out the brand new Stonewall Creek Vineyards, which wasn't open yet.

Kudos to Le Caveau  in Atlanta for carrying the Yonah Mountain Traminette.  Yes, I had to get a plug in there to show my excitement for Georgia wines becoming more widely available.  It would be nice to get even more of them down here in the city.  Until then, they're definitely worth the drive.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Random Events: Montaluce 2009 Vintage Release

As I've mentioned, I'm a bit behind on my blog posts. Yes, I feel like a slacker, but check out this post at my Random Writings blog to see what's been going on. Ohyeah, I think I might be in danger of becoming a lamp junkie. I'll let you know if I find one with a genie in it.

July was a busy month for me and Hubby, even beyond the business drama. On July 18, we attended the "Taste & Tweet" 2009 Vintage Release at Montaluce Vineyards in Dahlonega.

The visit began with a Georgia summer downpour. If you've never been through one of those, picture your favorite deity hurling tablespoon-sized waterballs at you. The clever valets and allowed us to pull into the barrel room so we wouldn't get wet:

No, we didn't get to park there.

The weather cleared while Hubby and I ate lunch at the winery's Le Vigne restaurant. He got the Italian Sausage flatbread, and I had the Berkshire Pork Meatballs, served over rich, creamy polenta. Was it good? Were you paying attention? Let me list out the main ingredients again:


'nuff said. Here's a pic:

After lunch, we met up with a couple of friends (her blog post on the day is here) and got so comfy on the wide porch with the lovely breeze that we convinced everyone to join us outside.

One of the highlights of the day was getting to meet the new vineyard manager and wine maker Maria Peterson, who has a lovely South African accent and an obvious passion for wine. She explained the new releases to us, which, according to the winery blog post had been in the bottle for about six weeks. The wines (all 2009 unless indicated otherwise):

Nose of strawberry-cherry-lime. The tasting notes say "Cherry limeade" with watermelon, and I'd agree that's pretty accurate. Other attendees agreed with Maria that it's a French style rosé.
Rating: Good to Very Good

"Primoro" blend of Seyval and Vidal
Pineapple, mango, and some honey. Very smooth and balanced.
Rating: Very Good

Leechee and melon nose with soft tangerine-melon characteristics.
Rating: Very Good

A little smoky on the nose, some floral and honey. Balanced vanilla, citrus, and smoke on the palate.
Rating: Very Good

Very mild nose and apple pie in a glass. Should satisfy the sweet wine drinkers but didn't overpower those of us who don't usually drink the sweet stuff.
Rating: Good to Very Good

2008 "Centurio" 90% Georgia Merlot and 10% French Merlot
Yum! This wine should help to dispel the myth that Georgia makes wimpy reds. Nice plum/currant nose and good ripe fruit with some herbal notes.
Rating: Very Good

Keep in mind that these wines had only been in the bottle for about a month and should only get better. Hubby and I are looking forward to going back and trying them again, and perhaps purchasing a few for the holidays.

The rest of the day included wandering out to the vineyard, seeing the grapes, and learning about the pruning process that keeps Montaluce's wine high-quality. We even got to taste some homemade strawberry and lavender mead.

Part of the fun of "tweetups" like this is seeing people you normally only interact with online. Yes, we tweet as we go, but there's plenty of conversation otherwise. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we stayed for dinner, which, that night, was a three-course Prix Fixe for $40/person.

I started off with the Diver Scallop, served with cream corn and smoked blueberry. This was my favorite course of the evening with its mix of sweet and salty flavors and fun textures:

I chose the Butter Poached Poussin with summer squash, maitake mushroom, and cipollini onion for my main course. The chicken itself had been cooked to tenderness and not beyond, but I found the sauce to be a bit salty.

Finally, I’m a sucker for Chocolate Silk Pie, this fudgy one with mint and raspberry sauces:

Oh, and pictures of our hosts the Beecham brothers in their natural habitats. Rob's the one in the vineyard, and Brent's the one with the martini. When I first met them, I thought that Brent was the quiet one. I have since been proven wrong.

Disclosure: We paid for our own food, but the alcohol, including with dinner, was courtesy of Montaluce. This has not influenced my review in any way.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Winery Reviews: Wolf Mountain and Montaluce

My parents' cabin just south of Blairsville is giving us great opportunities to check out the wineries around Dahlonega, which are on the way. We just have to be careful because stopping on the way up means we have to go over Blood Mountain, and on the way back we have to be mindful of Georgia 400 and Atlanta traffic. In other words, we have to sip judiciously, which is hard because we visited a couple of good ones this last trip.

Wolf Mountain Vineyards is just off the road between Dahlonega and Blairsville. I had high expectations because I had visited their Roswell tasting room many years ago and loved the reds, and I wasn't disappointed. I don't think that the Roswell tasting room is still open.

They offer two tasting flights, the "Estate Tasting Flight," or tastes of eight of the estate wines for $10, or the "Reserve Tasting Flight," eight reserve wines for $20. Some of the wines overlap lists, but we saw Claret on the Reserve tasting list, so that pretty much made our decision. Here's what we tasted:

2008 Blanc de Blancs Brut
Yes, a North Georgia sparkling wine! Oaky chardonnay nose, which is not surprising since that's the grape used. Citrus on the palate with very mild yeast and some creaminess.
Rating: Good

2008 Vintners Reserve Brut Rosé
Has some Reserve Claret in it for the color. Nice balance of yeast and red berry flavors. A pink wine that Hubby liked!
Rating: Very Good

2009 Plenitude
75% Chardonnay and 25% Viognier
Stone fruit Viognier nose, but with the acidity of Chardonnay. The best comparison we could come up with was that it's like a Sauv Blanc with the smoothness of an unoaked chard and the silkiness of Viognier.
Rating: Good to Very Good

2008 Chanteloup
70% French-Oak aged Chard and 30% Steel-Fermented Viognier
A little oak on this one, but mostly citrus and melon with some minerality, and again the silky texture of a Viognier.
Rating: Good

2007 Instinct
"Field Blend" of Syrah, Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Touriga Nacional
Musky, smoky nose. A medium-bodied red with currant-cherry flavors. It would probably be better with food. Like meat. Red meat. Yes, it's aptly named.
Rating: Good to Very Good

2007 Claret
70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Mourvedre
Well-balanced with nice, dark fruit on the nose and all the way through. Oh, yes, we liked it.
Rating: Very Good

2007 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Nice dark fruit nose with blackberry and cassis on the palate. Yum.
Rating: Very Good

Like Port, but not syrupy.
Rating: Very Good

We ended up joining the wine club and bringing home bottles of the Brut Rosé, Claret, and Reserve Cabernet. Yes, we liked them that much. We'll do the regular tasting next time. Oh, and we also ended up having a glass of the Reserve Cabernet with a cheese plate while enjoying the view:

On the way back to Atlanta, we stopped by Montaluce Winery & Estates. Well, not the estates, just the winery. If you recall, we were there back in January for the "Wine Conclave." I am pleased to report that they thawed out nicely, and the view from the porch is even prettier in the spring:

The winery offers different flights of three wines for $10 each. We tasted the rose, two whites and two reds, all made at Montaluce.* It was interesting to taste the wines outside the context of a meal. Click here for my first review of the wines as well as what they were served with.

The Risata, or rosé, seemed to have simultaneously smoothed out and become a little more tart than previously. The Chardonnay still had its vanilla and lime flavors but had also developed some melon notes. The Viognier is honeysuckle and honey, a good sipping wine for a hot afternoon. The Merlot, again medium-bodied with blackberry and raspberry, had some tobacco overtones. Finally, the Cabernet Sauvignon was still very good. We got glasses of the Cabernet and Viognier to sip on the porch and wait for snack time:

Both Wolf Mountain and Montaluce have restaurants as part of the wineries. I'm looking forward to trying Wolf Mountain's Vineyard Cafe sometime. At Montaluce, we shared an arugula salad with blue cheese, pork belly croutons, and cashews tossed in sherry vinaigrette. We also split a ramp flatbread, which had ramps (a garlicky spring onion-type vegetable), Manchego, and chilis. They paired a wine with it, and unfortunately I didn't get the name, but it was one of their wide selection of Italian whites. Apparently our efforts to eat light posed a challenge to the sommelier, but he rose to the occasion and picked the perfect wine.

One thing to remember is that several of the North Georgia wineries host weddings, so if you're looking for a less expensive "destination," it's something to consider. For the rest of us who are already married, it's a good idea to call ahead and make sure they'll be open regular tasting hours on weekends.

We came back from Montaluce with bottles of the Risata, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

It looks like my parents' investment in a mountain home is going to benefit us in many ways. I'm happy to be able to support our state's "agritourism" efforts. If you've turned your nose up at Georgia wine in the past, consider visiting one of these wineries. You may change your mind.

*Yes, FCC, they comped the tasting and all but two glasses afterward because they know us.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Montaluce Wine Conclave, Part Two: An Afternoon of Tasting

One of the most interesting things about the "Wine Conclave" at Montaluce last Saturday was learning about the artistic side of making wine. It sounds like each harvest of each grape varietal comes with a thousand questions to be answered, and sometimes circumstances work for you, sometimes against. For an example of a happy accident, Oliver Asberger, the winery's vineyard manager, told us how they had a real bird problem last year and decided to harvest early. That actually saved the grapes from being ruined in the fall rains.

The afternoon continued with a tour of the restaurant and cooking demonstration. At one point, we went out on to the restaurant balcony, which was delightfully sobering (note the ice on the trees):

And then more wine, namely tastings from Avant Partir and Quality Wine and Spirits distributors. I was ready to take notes:

I mentioned in my last post how I felt a little intimidated, and I was doing okay with conquering those fears of looking like I didn't know what I was doing until Matt Rosenberg of Avant Partir told us that we'd be tasting his wines blind. Oh, wow. I wasn't the only one, though, because only a few people ventured guesses, so I felt better. I really need to give myself more credit. Or a break because I did pretty well with guessing flavor profiles. I didn't guess grapes, but I'm not that good with Italian wines, hence my New Year's Oeno-lution to drink more European. Matt helped me to keep that oeno-lution. The wines:

2006 Azienda Agricola Bastianich Tocai Plus (Friuli, Italy): 100% Friulano, 90% of which is late harvest
Stone fruit/floral nose, some minerality on the palate with a bitter almond finish. I think I would've liked it better if it had been served colder.
Rating: Good

1999 Rocche dei Manzoni "Bricco Manzoni" (Piedmont, Italy): 80% Nebbiolo, 20% Barbera
Italian acidity with black cherry finish
Rating: Very Good

2005 Azienda Agricola Bastianich "Vespa Rosso" (Friuli, Italy): 50% Merlot, 30% Refosco, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc
Dark fruit nose, and a hint of anise on the end. This one qualifies as an "interesting red" (in a good way).
Rating: Very Good

Scarbolo "Campo Del Viotto" Merlot Reserve:
Hmmm, no vintage or location given for this one, but it was really yummy, very smooth with some spiciness and overtones of clove and caramel. I don't think I'd've ever guessed this to be an Italian or a Merlot.
Rating: Very Good to Excellent

The next two guys, Josh Culbreth and Ryan Mullins from Quality Wine and Spirits, took us on a wine tour. Ryan is a certified sommelier and had some interesting tidbits about the wines and winemakers. The wines:

2006 Miolo Brut (Vale dos Vinhedos, Brazil): 50% Pinot Noir, 50% Chardonnay
Nice bubbles with hints of seashell, vanilla, and pear. The flavors fell a little flat at the end.
Rating: Good to Very Good

2007 Jean Claude Thevenet Macon Pierreclos (Burgundy, France): 100% Chardonnay
Good minerality with lime-citrus that emerges.
Rating: Very Good

2007 Stuhlmuller Chardonnay (Alexander Valley, California):
Fermented with ambient yeast, Hubby and I enjoyed giggling about the "free-range yeast" images for a few minutes. Hey, it had been a lot of wine to that point. Oaky, tropical fruit nose, it's more delicate than your typical California oaky chard, but I dumped it.
Rating: Okay

2006 Hudelot-Noellat Vosne Romanee (Burgundy, France):
This one tasted a little young/green, and definitely wanted food. Pretty straightforward fruit with good acidity. Would love to try it again in a few years. Like we keep wine around that long.
Rating: Good

2007 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast, California):
Ryan described this one as "strawberry-leather," and I agree. It had a lot of earthiness for a California Pinot. That would be a fun one to pull out in a blind tasting (yeah, I know, I'm inviting more pop blind tasting karma).
Rating: Very Good

2006 Terry Hoage Vineyard Skins Grenache (Paso Robles, California): 90% Grenache, 10% Syrah
In a pick-up game, it's the skins every time; they've got much more to lose. Light fruit nose with some concord grape, and a lingering, almost syrupy finish, but completely different from the Tempranillo I panned last week for being too sweet. Yep, they're persistent.
Rating: The Skins have it! Very Good

2007 Janasse Cotes du Rhone Terre d'Argile (Rhone Valley, France): 40% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 30% Mourvedre
Super fruity.
Rating: Very Good to Excellent

2004 La Spinetta Barbera "Bionzo" (Piemonte, Italy):
The nose is grape and blueberry, and this one has some herbal undertones to the fruit.
Rating: Very Good

2005 Vine Cliff Winery Oakville Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley, California): also has 2% Cabernet Franc and 2% Merlot
Slight herbal-funky nose (someone said Sun Chips), but mostly dark fruit and cedar/caramel with a little mint and cassis
Rating: Very Good

2006 Ben Marco Expresivo (Mendoza, Argentina): 60% Malbec with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot, and Tannat
A little pepper on the nose, but it's dark fruit all the way with smooth currant on the end.
Rating: Very Good to Excellent

During the tasting, Chef Steven Hartman brought up a cheese plate, a charcuterie plate, and three kinds of flatbread. The food was greatly appreciated and all excellent.

Hubby and I got to join Ryan, Josh, their wives, and Oliver as well as Caroline (@FrenchTart on Twitter) and her husband for dinner at Le Vigne, the restaurant at Montaluce. By then, we felt like eating a little lighter, so Hubby and I each had an arugula salad with butternut squash and pork belly cubes and sherry vinaigrette as well as the pureed butternut squash soup, which was served with crunchy maple crumbs and a dollop of some sort of sour cream. The food continued to be excellent, and Ryan got a fantastic bottle of Italian wine for the table to share.

Thanks again to Rob and Brent of Montaluce as well as Matt, Ryan, and Josh, the distributor reps, for a fantastic day of dining and tasting! I think I am looking at winemaking a little differently, and I have a lot more appreciation for how difficult it can be. I'm also grateful for "happy accidents," whether they're fortuitously-timed harvests or menu typos.

Disclosure: The tastings described above were free to attendees of the Wine Conclave. Dinner was not. So there -- bite me, FTC.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Montaluce Wine Conclave, Part One -- Oh yes, there was lunch!

Okay, first the disclosure stuff: we didn't pay for anything except for dinner last night and a contribution to the tip jar for the two servers who were helping out with the Wine Conclave. Okay, FTC, happy now? Why don't you get doctors to do the same things with their patients? "Hey, Ambien CR took me out to a great dinner at a fancy restaurant last night!" Or is this because bloggers don't have a big lobby yet?

So there. Hmph. On to business now…

Yesterday's "Wine Conclave," held at Dahlonega's Montaluce Vineyards and Winery, brought together some of the wine bloggers in the Atlanta area who had met and chatted with co-hosts Rob and Brent Beecham, two of the Montaluce owners, on Twitter. Montaluce is an Italian-style winery and restaurant designed with the Atlanta day-tripper in mind. They source some of their grapes from Blackstock and are also growing their own. The restaurant downstairs and banquet hall upstairs overlook the vineyards:

Hubby and I left Decatur early and arrived a little after ten, the designated starting time. However, Georgia weather had decided to complicate things. Once we left the main road and hit back roads, we noticed that each branch on every tree had been coated with a thin layer of ice. It was beautiful and a little unsettling, like we had driven into a different world. I was happy to get to Montaluce and be shown into the warm banquet room upstairs, where I got my nametag and proceeded with trying to put faces and real names with Twitter handles. I really hope there's not a test later because I remember faces and handles, but I didn't retain many real names. You'll see why in a moment.

The original agenda of discussion in the morning followed by lunch, tours, and tastings got turned upside-down by several of the food bloggers coming late due to weather. We started with a tour of the winery itself, where vineyard manager and assistant winemaker Oliver Asberger showed us the process and allowed us to taste some of the wines in progress, a Seyval and a Viognier from the 2009 vintage that are still fermenting in their large metal tanks.

Then there was lunch. Oh, wow, was there lunch! A five-course tasting menu with wine pairings, to be exact. We met chef Steven Hartman of the winery's restaurant Le Vigne, and he and Oliver acted as culinary tour guides for the next couple of hours.

The first course, chicken liver mousse with housemade pickles and lavosh, had a nice balance of savory and sour, and the texture of the "pickles," which were essentially pickled vegetables, played off well against the chicken liver mousse, which wasn't liver-ish at all but tasted like a certain sandwich spread my mom used when I was a kid. It went away when my dad was diagnosed with high cholesterol, and after seeing Chef's demo on how to make it, I can see why. Yeah, liver and butter – not so good for the bloodwork. Thankfully I don't have to get mine done again til June. The lavosh, a cracker-type thing made of cake flour and water, was good, too.

The course was paired with the 2008 Montaluce Chardonnay, thankfully unoaked. It does have some vanilla notes from the type of fermentation used (some malolactic if you're a wine geek), but the overall flavor is very clear with notes of lime and pineapple. It went very well with the course, balancing the richness of the mousse but not fighting with the pickled veggies.
Wine Rating: Very Good to Excellent (yes, this is high praise for a Chard from me. No, it's not because it was free).

The second course, smoked steelhead trout with boiled peanuts, fennel, meyor lemon, and sweet tea froth, made Hubby happy. The fennel, lemon, and tea froth combination made me think of spring, and the smoked trout made lots of other people think of salmon. I'm not a big trout fan, but I liked it, especially with everything else and the wine pairing.

The 2008 Montaluce Risata was made from Sangiovese that had to be picked early due to the weather. Raspberry nose with good acidity and a nice finish with a little butter and a hint of tart sweetness. It's dry, but well-balanced. At this point, Hubby tweeted, "A Chardonnay @RandomOenophile likes followed by a rose I like? Can this be?"
Wine Rating: Very Good And it was pretty!

Continuing on with the theme of things I normally wouldn't eat but will try if someone else makes them, the third course was a coppa di testa, or Berkshire hog head and feet terrine. Once a week, they bring a whole (dead) pig into the kitchen and break it down. I guess they use everything. It was served with apple mostarda (spicy apple mustard), cider braised cabbage, and apple. It satisfied my Belgian side with its combination of pork, which tasted like bacon, and apple.

Now came the red wines. I like North Georgia wines, but I do have one complaint: the reds tend to be a little light-bodied for my taste. Not so with the 2008 Montaluce Cabernet (blended with a little Merlot and Sangoivese), which was comfortably medium-bodied. It smelled like a Cab without reaching out of the glass and whacking me up-side the head (yes, I did just say that), but it had good body and a lingering finish. The food brought out the fruitiness.
Wine Rating: Very Good to Excellent

I'll get to the last two courses in a moment, but it's time for some random thoughts. Through the first part of the day and couple of courses, we did formal introductions, and there wasn't much spontaneous conversation. Admittedly, I got slightly annoyed just before lunch, when Rob wanted Oliver to keep talking until the food was ready. Oliver had been a good sport and had been talking all morning, and my thought was, "When are we going to get to talk to each other?" After the second course, the magic happened. People opened up like good bottles of red wine, mostly with "oh, so that's who you are!" I felt a little intimidated at first – there were some serious wine people in attendance – but then I remembered that my blog is deliberately non-expert, and I felt better, opened my ears, and learned a lot.

Back to the food! And then God, or maybe Chef, decreed, "There shall be comfort food!" Yep, it was fancy chicken and gravy, or a chicken thigh terrine with cipollini onion, baby carrot, and celery leaf. It was paired with the 2008 Montaluce Merlot, also medium-bodied with some interesting fizziness on the palate. Overall, it was nicely balanced with a little cedar and butter to go with the fruit. It had been made with oak chips for one month, which added spicy notes that balanced the richness of the food.
Wine Rating: Very Good

Yes, there was a dessert course – stuff in jars!

Seriously, it was butternut cup custard with maple gel, oat crumble, and buttermilk espuma (essentially buttermilk whipped cream). The flavor of the butternut squash came through, and the oat crumble added fun crunchiness. I'm going to have to try that maple-butternut combo at home. This course would've been better with a dessert wine, but Montaluce doesn't do those yet, so they paired it with the 2008 Montaluce Viognier, which has 1.5% residual sugar. The dessert overwhelmed the wine, which would've been nice on its own with its floral nose and tropical fruit (but not citrus – someone said papaya and banana).
Wine Rating: Very Good

One of my fellow attendees actually brought a real camera, so for really good pictures, check out Brad Kaplan's photos.

Finally, thanks so much to Rob and Brent for allowing us the opportunity to come up and play with y'all yesterday! We had so much fun!

Next up on Tuesday: But wait, there's more! Wine from distributors Avant Partir and Quality Wine and Spirits