We just attended the 2017 Mohegan Sun Wine & Food Fest, at least the Saturday Grand Tasting portion of it. This event was held between 12 noon and 5:00, and featured over 1000 wines, craft beers and spirits. Celebrity chefs provided cooking demonstrations, and many local restaurants were serving up food.
This event is different from many wine festival Grand Tastings in that it is almost entirely made up of low to mid-range priced wines. There are no high end, $50 – $100+ premium wines from either small, boutique wineries or the big guys you would immediately recognize. What is here is what you are likely to find when you go to your local wine shop, supermarket or liquor store to buy a bottle or two. Actually, this has a lot of advantages, as you can try out a whole range of wines that are affordable. Sometimes at an event you fall in love with a wine only to find it isn’t for sale anywhere near you, or you have to buy a half case from the winery to get it. These wines should all be readily available and very reasonably priced. There is an Elite Cru event, which is ticketed separately. That features nothing but higher end wines.
At the Grand Tasting there were some great values, some new finds and some not so good juice as well. That’s the beauty of this, we learned what we would want to buy and what we would want to pass on, and went through 100+ different wines in the course of a few hours. We should throw out a word of warning here – this event gets very crowded as it goes on. If you are going we strongly recommend getting there at opening to get the most out of it. There is a lot going on.
Let’s talk about some of the wines in particular. Below we’ll present the wines we ran across that we think are excellent values and drink well at their price point. In most cases they drink well past their price point, and isn’t that what we’re always looking for?
Right out of the gate we started with some Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Talbott, and what a way to start.
2013 Talbott Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Pinot Noir – 9 months in oak, fruit from the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey, and a complex profile of red fruit, spice and caramel. This has beautiful balance. At $36.99 retail, it was one of the pricier wines at the event. This is worth it, and is a premium bottle of California Pinot.
2014 Talbott Logan Pinot Noir – maybe a better value than the wine above is the Logan Pinot. Here there is a little earthiness, some vanilla and great structure. There’s a little Burgundian note here. Just delicious at suggested retail of $23.99. Great wine at that price.
2014 Talbott Kali Hill Chardonnay – 9 months in oak, sur lie aging and clearly superior fruit yield a classic Chardonnay with tropical fruits and a nice texture. Under $20.
Next we hit the table presented by Opici Wines. This was also impressive across the board.
2014 Auspicion Cabernet Sauvignon – from Napa and Sonoma fruit, this Cab checks in just under $10.00, and is full bodied and rich. There are caramel notes and a long finish. When you get something rich and full at this price you immediately suspect megapurple, and maybe there is a little in here, but it still has nice structure and some complexity. It is not one note at all. We would buy this for our house wine.
2012 Carpineto Chianti Classico – I though this was excellent, and almost a little Brunello like. Cheri was not as impressed, but tends not to like Chianti in general. At $24.99 I think this is very good value.
2012 Cesari Amarone – at almost $50 this might be the most expensive wine of the afternoon. It is excellent though, not at all raisiny, and the beautifully pure fruit flavors come screaming through. Rich, lush, long and balanced. We would buy this.
Our third stop was at the Terrazas de los Andes table, and we were three for three at this point. I wish that had kept going but it got much more hit or miss after this. Still, it was a great way to start.
2015 Terrazas de los Andes Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva – rich and full bodied, with classic Cabernet flavors and nuances. This is a quality bottle of young Cabernet, ready to drink now, and value priced at $15.99.
2015 Terrazas de los Andes Chardonnay Reserva – here the oak is almost imperceptible, but the fruit is very forward and the wine is clean and bright. Line priced with the other Reserva wines from Terrazas de los Andes at $15.99.
After this point we struck out quite a bit, but also found some gems. Here are a few:
2013 Bogle Phantom – Bogle is generally a solid bottle of wine at a reasonable price. This wine is a blend of Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s lush, full bodied and full of red and black fruit and rich caramel flavors. Smooth and long and about $17. This is pretty decadent stuff.
2014 Bogle Petite Sirah – we didn’t know, but were informed by Robbie LaBlanc from Bogle, that they are the number one producer of Petite Sirah in the entire world. As in the entire planet. Wow! This version is medium+ in body and a little lighter than you might expect. That’s all good though, as it has great balance, and will accompany many foods very well. This is a $9 bottle of wine, which is crazy.
2014 Sterling Vintners Collection Merlot – only $12.99, this Merlot is rich with full body and a smooth overall experience. Very nice.
When we got to the table of wines from Murphy Distributors more good things started to happen, and we found some new wines worth talking about.
2014 Simple Life Pinot Noir – from Sonoma grapes this has good fruit and lots of spice. The black pepper hits at the end. $12.99
2014 The Path Cabernet Sauvignon – owned by Don Sebastiani & Sons, The Path finds off the beaten track vineyards and sources fruit from California’s premier grape growing regions. This is medium+ bodied with lots of berry flavors, is very smooth and a great value at $9.99.
2014 The Path Merlot – similar to its brother above, this is smooth and very good for the $9.99 price tag. Case consideration here.
2014 Gunstock Cabernet – this is made with Napa fruit, has full body, berry fruit that goes on and on and soft tannins. While more expensive than the previous three wines it is still unbelievable value at $16.99
Spain joined the party as well when we ran into the offerings from Casalbor, who brought some great wines from Rioja and Ribera del Duero. They also make spirits, including a new, Spanish gin! There is much more here we have to try, but their Rioja Crianza was excellent.
2015 Hizan Verdejo – the other wine from Casalbor, this white from Rueda has great structure and richness. This is a serious white wine, and extremely well made. About $14.
We’ll jump to Italy and something a bit different now.
2015 Col d’Orcia Spezieri – 65% Sangiovese Grosso with the rest primarily from the local Ciliegiolo grape, this is a fruit forward, young red to drink now. No oak here. It would be perfect for a picnic red and will run you about $15.
And finally for the reds, two more excellent value Pinot Noir options:
2015 Martin Ray Sonoma Pinot Noir – just really, really good all around. A very pleasing Pinot at $18.
2013 Stephen Vincent Pinot Noir – also from Sonoma fruit, this was one of the best value wines of the day at $16. Rich, long and smooth.
And lastly two white wines which stood out:
2015 S.A. Prum Essence Riesling – from Mosel in Germany, this wine has a great all around Riesling profile. There is a little petrol aroma, some great fruit and a hint of sweetness. This is really good for $12. It would make a great house white. I has this with some oysters from the Matunuck Oyster Bar, and it was a perfect match.
2105 Tom Gore Sauvignon Blanc – this is clean, with no faults to be found. It’s $12.99, it’s very good and it is a good value.
This list is a little different than our normal event list, as it is really entirely made up of reasonably priced wines you might, actually most likely will, find on your local store’s shelves. These are all good choices. Most are familiar names, but some are new and we’re going to have to explore them a bit more.
If you go next year, go early. We didn’t even get to the craft beer and spirits. There is a lot to see and do here in one afternoon.
A votre sante!