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Quick Look at the 2015 Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival

New Newport LogoThis past weekend saw the 10th Anniversary edition of the Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival unfold at various venues in Newport, RI.  We managed to get in the seminars and the Grand Tastings, and can happily report that it remains a preeminent wine and food event, matching quality with quantity in a spectacular setting.  Whoever reserved the weather did a great job, as it was sunny with a light breeze and comfortable temperatures throughout.  What a place to hold an event like this.

The Friday seminars were excellent, as Taittinger led it off, pouring Champagnes pared with

Champagne and great food

Champagne and great food

food from Matthew MacCartney, owner of Jamestown Fish.  The food was great, the Champagne was great and the paring was great.  Taittinger was pouring their high end bubbly as well.  On Saturday morning we had a chance to try their just released 2006 Comte Blanc de Blancs.  It is, in my limited Champagne experience, the finest one I have ever tried.

The Antinori Wines

The Antinori Wines

Antinori followed with a look at two vineyards, the iconic Tignanello vineyard in Tuscany and the Antica vineyards on Atlas Peak in Napa.  Good stories were accompanied with good wine.  All were happy.

Finally, Greg Gauthier from Bouchaine took us on a sometimes comical but very thoughtful exploration of a range of their wines and some of the motivation behind them.  There is an insane amount of calculation in these wines.  One saw ten different fermentation protocols, each selected to bring certain flavors or characteristics to the wine.  They also had a great Pinot Meunier still wine, something you don’t see very often.  It was an excellent end to a great afternoon.

The weekend was all about excess, with wine and food and food and wine and then more of

View from the back

View from the back

each.  We ran the gambit of the options over the two days at Marble House.  There were many great wines and many great values.  With so many wines there were, alas, some not so great and even a few bad ones.  Considering they were pouring hundreds of different wines it is bound to happen.  It always does, but here it is a tiny fraction of the choices available.  Between the Friday night gala at Rosecliff and the two Grand Tastings 6600 bottles of wine were opened.  That, ladies and gentleman, is a lot of wine.

We’ll review our favorites in the Top Ten lists, as well as highlight some of the unexpected and unusual wines we uncovered.  You’ll see traditional favorites as well as unknowns.  For now though, let’s mention a couple of the producers who excelled across the board.

J. Lohr is a producer we always mention, and who is pushing their limits constantly.  They

One of several excellent J. Lohr wines

One of several excellent J. Lohr wines

brought some wines we hadn’t tried from Arroyo Seco in Monterey.  Both were excellent and good values in the $20-$30 range.  Many people consider them as a commodity wine producer, pumping out tons of Seven Oaks Cabernet and others.  Have you tried the Seven Oaks Cabernet?  It’s good.  It’s very good for the money, which is a good thing.  And now for the breaking news – their higher end ventures are excellent.  We have to do a separate in depth article on them sometime soon.  I’d love to get a chance to talk to the winemaker.

Tenuta Santa Maria is someone we told you about after the Savor event in

This is outrageously good!

This is outrageously good!

April (read about that here).  They brought some new vintages of wines we loved, and these were spectacular as well.  Once again we liked it all, but two of the reds are amazing, actually crazy good,  and will hit the the Top Ten list.  One white will as well.  We need to go to Verona sometime.

Another to highlight is Arkenstone, who poured three stunning wines all of which will make one list or another.  Also Pine Ridge really surprised us, with a great range of wines and there was actually a Zinfandel from Seghesio we actually loved, something extremely unusual. Two more to mention are Raats and HALL.

On the food side there was a lot of duck and salmon, which are unfortunately not Cheri’s favorites.  They are mine though!  Throw in a few oysters on the half shell and a great fish taco from Tallulah’s and it was pretty good.  Highlights included the Maple Leaf Farms duck quesadilla,

Jamestown Fish's sockeye salmon, seaweed and sesame seeds

Jamestown Fish’s sockeye salmon, seaweed and sesame seeds

the wood fired Neopolitan pizzas from Don Antonio, Jamestown Fish’s cured sockeye salmon with seaweed salad (the sesame seeds really popped it!), and the pork belly on steamed rice buns from Tamo Bistro and Bar.  One that set itself apart was the Smokehouse of NY, with an outrageous Jalapeno Cheddar Crostini, featuring smoked salmon soaked

Amazing Jalapeno Cheddar Crostini

Amazing Jalapeno Cheddar Crostini

in Cuervo 1800 tequila, basil infused creme fraiche, cilantro and a carpaccio of Jalapeno.  This was one mouth full of flavor and really great.

Of course there was much more, including celebrity chef cooking demos, a silent auction, assorted wine and food related vendors, a great Kitchen Aid display section and the wonderful views of Cliff Walk and the ocean from the back of the main tent.

So much to do and so little time.  As happened last year, even with two days we didn’t see quite everything, although we gave it our best.  We’ll publish our Top Twelve Red (there were just too many good ones), Top Ten White and a summary of some unusual or unexpected wines as well.

Congratulations to the Newport Preservation Society for pulling off another great event.  We IMG_1847are already looking forward to next year, which will be on September 23-25, 2016.  See you there!

A votre santé!



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