The last Monday of July, local wine distributor Vanguard Wines invites industry and media folk from around the state (and nearby states, too) for an afternoon of wine tasting. The more than 60 winemakers, flown in from around the world, pour their latest vintages. So much of what is tried here could make an appearance on an upcoming restaurant wine list or on the shelves of a wine shop.
This week, I had a chance to sample and visit with some of the winemakers. Here are a few styles sampled that I’d love to see (and drink!) more of when they hopefully make it onto local restaurant wine lists and store shelves this fall.
Winery that I’ve fallen in love with:
Mauro Veglio (Piedmont, Italy)
It’s easy to see why this Barolo-producing Italian winery is a favorite of Vanguard Wines president Eric Stewart, who insisted this was one winery from which to try the entire lineup.
The 2013 Dolcetto d’Alba ($14.99) was fruity and floral. And I could see pairing the 2013 Barbera d’Alba ($17.99) with a wonderfully fatty charcuterie plate, or a rich, heavy dinner with the slightly more complex 2012 Langhe Nebbiolo ($23.99). But, this winery stands out for its Barolo, and that’s what I loved most here. While pouring the warm and spicy 2010 Vigneto Gattera Barolo ($56.99), winery owner and winemaker Daniela Veglio (her husband Mauro is owner and winemaker as well) commented that true Barolo is like a meal—open a bottle, and from the first sip to the last, it changes. She expertly built up the tasting, ending with the 2010 Castelletto Barolo ($59.99)—a bold, in your face red that spends two years in an oak barrel. It’s earthy and rustic, aggressive without accosting the palate. It’s a wine that would stand up to food, or drink beautifully on its own.
Most surprising cabernet sauvignons:
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon from O’Shaughnessy
This cab caught me off guard as it was made during a challenging growing year in Napa Valley (2010 was great, and so was 2012 and 2013). But O’Shaughnessy’s cabernet vines, planted on Howell Mountain in the northern part of the valley, were literally growing above the problems, explained commercial director Luke Russ. “We don’t do anything to make our wines bigger,” he continued, adding they actually restrain the wine. And it shows. The cabernet is full and tannic and really sticks to your palate. ($89.99)
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from Luminis
Pulled in to try this Argentinian wine by friend familiar with the wines of South America, she promised this cab tasted nothing like others she’d had from the region. While this area (Lujan de Cuyo) of the Mendoza region is best known for malbec, the chalky soils can evidently also produce great cabernet with a little spice and black fruit. ($16.99)
2011 H from Allamand Vinas & Vinos
Though technically a cabernet-malbec blend (a 60-40 ratio), I’m sneaking this Argentinian wine in here because it was too delicious not to mention. The cabernet brings a depth and spiciness, while the malbec swoops in to offer stability and fruit. This is one to try if you see it on store shelves. ($36.99)
Wine I want every day:
2012 Le Nain Violet Grenache Noir from Dom de la Pertuisane
This French grenache (Cotes Catalanes, Maury, France) smelled beautifully of currant and fresh jam. It was easy on the palate without being flip. It’s the kind of wine you could drink all night long. ($29.99)
Pinot noir faceoff:
Failla Wines v. Martinelli Winery
Stewart pointed me in the direction of two west coast wineries producing pinot noirs in very different styles—Failla from Sonoma and Martinelli with pinots from Russian River and Green valleys. “Both are pinot powerhouses and are good to try side-by-side,” Stewart says. While I preferred the feminine 2012 Occidental Ridge Vineyard pinot ($64.99) from Failla with aromatics that virtually leaped out of the glass, I can’t deny the wonderful balance of the red berry and espresso laden 2012 Moonshine Ranch Vineyard pinot noir ($69.99) from Russian River. It would be fun to sample these vintages side by side at a dinner party.