An Epic Fantasy Novel - from the Writer of Red Wine Please!

SUBSCRIBE!

If you would like to be notified of new posts please enter your email address

FBFPowered by ®Google Feedburner

Travel Spots

Previous Posts

James Bond, Terroir and Salumi – Review of the Seminars at the 2014 Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival

Wine-food-glass-logoWith so much to do at the Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival you just can’t get to all of it, but we certainly gave it our best this year.  One change that helped along those lines was the move of the Saturday and Sunday seminars into the Chinese Tea House, right there on the grounds of Marble house and fifty feet from the Grand Tasting tent.  This opened up new opportunities to attend more seminars without completely

Inside the Tea House

Inside the Tea House

sacrificing the Grand Tastings.  Opportunity is something we like, so we crammed five seminars into the weekend as well as both Grand Tastings.  We’ve reported on everything else, so now we’ll wrap up our coverage of the 2014 event with some seminar fun.

You can find pretty much any kind of experience across the range of seminars offered.  Some are almost whimsical, some are general food and wine sessions, maybe from a specific area, and some get very detailed with technical information meant for the more passionate oenophile.  Take your pick, they are all good and we still think they’re great values as well at only $40.  You have to remember these are hosted by some of the biggest names in the wine and food business.

We’ll start with a trip to Italy, talk about some philosophical questions, explore the role and impact of terroir and finish with some rollicking fun pairing James Bond and Bordeaux.  This was quite a journey.

Fresh, Aged and Textured – Italian Cheese – this was really a culinary and enology tour of Italy, with Lou Di Palo hosting and guest appearances from Marco the Salumi expert, wine makers and wine importers.  We covered a broad swath of the country, trying several different styles of

Marco and his Salumi slicer

Marco and his Salumi slicer

cheese, Salumi and accompanying wines.  Highlights included the Asiago Pressato DOP, a soft and spongy cheese made from cows milk from the mountain herds beneath the Dolomites.  It was outstanding, and aged only 20 days.  The thing to remember here is too serve this just coming down from being fully chilled.  Too warm and it will get very buttery.  The wine with this was a Fiano from Puglia, with a great nose of stone fruit, excellent minerality and good texture.

We followed that with another Asiago, this time aged over a year and a hard cheese, made from 50% whole milk and 50% skimmed (which means that the top layer of fat has been skimmed off, this is not our definition of skim milk).  This had a little bitter taste, and is perfect as a table cheese or grated on pasta.  We also tried the Grana Padano Stravecchio Ora del Tempo DOP, the most historic cheese of Italy, made the same way for over 1000 years.  Other wines we sampled included an excellent Zapato Ripasso Valpolicella (which received an honorable mention in our Top Ten Reds list), a Chianti Classico from Querceto di Castellina (which Cheri loved) and a very enjoyable Rosso Veronese from Sartori.

Our host, Lou Di Palo continues his family’s traditional Italian food shop in New York City, at Di Palo’s Fine Foods.   Lou has visited the places that make the cheese,  the wine and everything else we discussed.  Let’s also not forget Marco, who regaled us with Salumi lore and demonstrated his hand powered slicer.  We left with a word of wisdom to remember forever: all salami is Salumi,but not all Salumi is salami!

In Pursuit of Balance – now we went right into the philosophical, as Jordan MacKay led a discussion on what balance means in a wine, and how does it vary based on opinion.  There is a movement in California, and a group of allied wine producers who promote their vision of balance

Jordan MacKay and Larry Stone

Jordan MacKay and Larry Stone

in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  It essentially preaches more food friendly wines, with higher acid and lower alcohol levels than the big, in your face style California gravitated to over the last twenty years.  Jordan is a James Beard award winning author, and his book Secrets of the Sommeliers is well worth a read.  He was joined by master Sommelier Larry Stone, so here are examples of the world leading wine experts we mentioned earlier.  What made this better was that the experts frequently disagreed.

You will have your own opinion of course, as you should, but the discussion was fascinating, and the interchange between Jordan and Larry was hilarious at times. Along the way we got to try 6 California Pinot Noirs as well, and some of them were pretty good.  Our highlights were the 2012 Twomey Russian River Valley Pinot and 2012 Ojai Solomon Hills Pinot Noir.  This was fun.

Quintessa Rocks and Dirt – now let’s talk ‘terroir’, that elusive term that is really about everything which influences the wine grape.  It includes the soil, the weather, the water sources, the wind and what it carries and lots of other stuff.  Does it matter?  Can it really influence a wine that much?  This seminar was a great way to find out, as was the next one we’ll talk about.

Here we had a chance to try barrel samples of three of Quintessa’s single vineyard Cabernet lots.

The wine from Quintessa

The wine from Quintessa

All from the 2013 vintage, these are separated by tiny distances physically, but they have different soil types, drainage and sun exposure.  We also got to try two of the final Quintessa Cabernet blends, those being 2009 and 2011.  Larry Stone led this seminar, and he knows this vineyard intimately and the wines it produces.  We tried the three different barrel samples, and when you were done you could no longer doubt that ‘terroir’ was important.

The first was from the Mt. Calise block, and it had minerality and dusty tannins, presenting a wine that had great length but was only medium bodied.  Next, and coming from right next door was the sample from Dragon’s Terrace.  This vineyard tract, physically adjacent to Mt. Calise, was strikingly different.  The wine was savory, fruit forward and tannic, bigger and brawnier than it’s neighbor.  Finally we tasted the sample from the Bench, which was fruity with red and black fruit evident.  All checked in at 14% alcohol.  All come from different soil types.  You also get an appreciation for the art of blending after going through this, as these are very different building blocks that I would have no idea how to combine into a polished final product.  That’s why they get the big bucks I guess.

The finished wines were also very different.  In the 2009 there is no wine from the Bench in the final blend, and the wine is elegant and delicate, with red fruit, rose petal and an earthy mushroom finish.  The 2011 has wine from the Bench, and the overall growing season was colder.  The result is more of a left bank Bordeaux style, with a slight herbal note and a tannic finish.  Both wines are clearly quality, but very different.

Quintessa operates their land and vineyards in a sustainable manner, with an eye towards the natural ecosystem.  They use compost from their cattle, and mountain lions to keep the deer population in check.  When it comes to enology it is about not being overripe.  The extracted, high alcohol Cabernets do not play here.  This is taking what the vineyards provide, and it is about terroir.  I think Larry would definitely say it is also about balance.

Kistler Chardonnay: California’s Ultimate Terroir – let’s just start by saying we have no idea whether Kistler is California’s ultimate terroir.  We’re not even sure what “ultimate” terroir means.  What we do know is that this was another, and possibly even better, chance to see what “terroir” can do to influence a wine.  This time we had a chance to taste eight different single

Geoff Labitzke from Kistler

Geoff Labitzke from Kistler

vineyard Chardonnays, four from 2011 and four from 2012.  The only difference in these wines is that they come from different plots of land,  all the winemaking is consistent.  This is the ultimate terroir comparison, if not the ultimate terroir.   From a characteristic perspective they were all over the map, with the exception of bright acidity, which presented in all of them.  Kistler has nine single vineyards they either own or lease, and we got to try almost all of them.

Once again, this was a clear demonstration that terroir matters, and it matters a lot. Don’t doubt it. One of the other interesting tidbits we learned was that one of the vineyards, that being Vine Hill, is still on old vinifera root stock.  The vineyard is in very sandy soil, which protects it against the Phylloxera louse.  That is very unusual in California.

This was another fascinating study in wine, terroir and all of the subtle influences that play into a wine’s character and traits.  While not for the beginner, it didn’t require being an expert either.  Rest assured the host, Geoff Labitzke, could get as technical as necessary, and did so on more than one point.  However most of the presentation was at a more of an avid wine lover level.

And now the really fun one:

Bond’s Bordeaux – which James Bond actor would you pair with the different communes of Bordeaux?  It made for a great seminar, and Phillipe Newlin was hilarious as he guided us through his personal picks for the associations.  Unfortunately Phillipe sent the wrong wines, and the originally planned examples looked to be much better than what we sampled, but still it was very enjoyable.  We started with a Bordeaux AOC wine,  a 2011 no less (a maligned vintage), and this actually was maybe the best wine of the session.  The pairings ended as follows:

Margaux – Pierce Brosnan

Bond's Bordeaux

Bond’s Bordeaux

Pessac-Leognan – Timothy Dalton

St. Julien – Roger Moore

Pauillac – Sean Connery (I guessed this before we arrived)

St. Estephe – Daniel Craig

St. Emilion – Austin Powers (of course not a James Bond actor, or an actual person – not sure what the message was here.  Maybe the Right Bank being called out?)

We also tried a Sauternes, and I correctly guessed that represented Ursula Andress when he hinted it was a woman and the color was gold.  That gold bikini was a classic moment in film.

So the wine wasn’t great, and we have many better bottles of Bordeaux in our cellar.  Still, this was a lot of fun, and Phillipe is really an entertaining host.  What a great way to cap off our seminar experience.

So now we’ve talked about it all, and we can close out the 2014 Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival.  This was the best one yet, which is saying a lot, and we sort of know as we’ve been to almost all of them.  Next year marks their tenth anniversary and we can’t wait to see what they have planned.  Our room is already reserved in downtown Newport for the weekend. Great wine, great venue, great food and just a great time.  See you there.

A votre sante!

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>