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.

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