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Summary of the 2014 Mohegan Sun Winefest

CIMG2360We just wrapped up the 2014 Mohegan Sun Winefest, which is the 11th year for this event, and we have to admit we were pleasantly surprised.  We started at the Elite Cru on Saturday afternoon, and then came back for the Grand Tasting on Sunday.  There were ups and downs, but way more ups.  The crowds on Sunday were also not as bad as we feared.  At one booth we added another Gunter Wilhelm knife to our collection as well, so you never quite know what you’ll end up going home with (or who for some people, but that’s another story).

Much like last year at Newport there were a couple of winemakers that just blew us away unexpectedly.  This year it was Hope Family Wines in Paso Robles (I’ve tried their Liberty School before but there is so much more!), Michael David’s reds and surprisingly the whites from St. Supery.  Casey Flat

The excellent Austin Hope Syrah

The excellent Austin Hope Syrah

Ranch, which stole the show in Newport in 2013, was there as well and their wines will be firmly in the Top Ten Reds and Top Five Whites list, but that is no longer unexpected.  We were able to hang a little with Brenda from Casey Flat, and that made the whole weekend even better.  We have to thank Vicky Cirilli from Cirilli Associates for keeping us up to date on what to expect and of course providing us press admission to the two events.  She was great.

Since we started with the Elite Cru, that’s where we’ll begin the report.  This is held in the intimate Cabaret Theater at Mohegan Sun, a smaller, terraced room that suited the event well.  The wineries, winemakers and distributors were well spaced out and it never felt over-crowded, except for a few moments at the bottom of the theater near the Duckhorn table.  When that got really crowded I turned the other way and ran smack into a 2009 Gaja Barbaresco.  Worked for me.  There are two wines that would clearly be on the Top Ten Reds list except that they are

The Cabaret Theater

The Cabaret Theater

prohibitively expensive, and they are the 2009 Gaja ($275) and the Terlato 2008 Episode ($180).  Just too steep.  Actually you can make that three and include the Signorello Padrone ($175) – really, really good and really expensive.

We got to chat for a while with Michael Martini, who was pouring his Monte Rosso Cabernet Sauvignon, and it was a 2001 Monte Rosso years ago that really was a revelation wine for us.

2010 Monte Rosso Cab - yum!

2010 Monte Rosso Cab – yum!

I thought it was very cool getting a chance to tell him that.  The current release is great as well.  There were several other long conversations, one with Derek Rohlffs, who makes a fabulous Pinot Noir from grapes on Signal Ridge.  We talked about the clones that were in each wine and really the whole winemaking process for this wine, which is a kid gloves approach and just flat out works.  Hands down this was the best Pinot Noir I tried all weekend.

We would be remiss without mentioning the food, which included cheese and crackers, fruit, endless shrimp cocktail and oysters on the half shell.  We availed ourselves of all of them.  Even with the small group it was impossible to get to every wine within the two hours, and we

Signorello 2010 Hope's Cuvee Chardonnay - very Burgundian

Signorello 2010 Hope’s Cuvee Chardonnay – very Burgundian

probably left three or four tables unvisited.  While this causes sadness it is bearable as this was fun and we are content.  The cost is somewhat steep for this ticket, but it is really two hours of top end wines.  There were Cabs and Chardonnays and Bordeaux and Champagne.  The Elite Cru comes with a ticket to the Grand Tasting, so in that context it is a pretty good deal.  Ideally they would sell a package that included the Elite Cru on Saturday and the Sunday Grand Tasting, because that is what we ended up doing and it worked out perfectly.  It’s possible you can ask for that if you buy the Elite Cru, but I’m not sure.

We heard some  stories from a few people about Saturday’s Grand Tasting being very crowded, and that was confirmed by a few of the wine representatives we talked to on Sunday.  The Sunday afternoon session was really good though, and the crowds never got to the point that you felt claustrophobic or really had a problem getting to a specific wine.  We sauntered around for

The main event on Sunday

The main event on Sunday

about four hours.  There were some pleasant surprises, especially the aforementioned St. Supery whites and the reds from Michael David.  We’ve tried their 7 Deadly Zins before, but the full range of reds is really impressive.  They seem to like to put a dollop of Petite Sirah into everything, and it really works.  Great values here.  Some highlights were the Banfi wines (expected), the Pine Ridge offerings, of course Casey Flat Ranch and the Don Melchor Cabernet from Concha y Toro, which was spectacular.  Rest assured there were many others.

An entire beer section was set up on an upper level which we never made it to.  I did get to try a few whiskeys though, and found a Canadian Rye (JP Wiser’s Blended Rye) that was really nice, complex and so smooooooooth.  Definitely going to buy some.  Our son will love it.

Wines That Rock

Wines That Rock

Trends abound these days, and one which stood out was the movement of pop culture into winemaking, or at least wine selling.  There was a local winery owned by a jewelry maker, lot’s of catchy names, Rock n Roll wines and even Fifty Shades of Grey wine, although I think you had to get tied up to try it.  We did try the Wines That Rock, more specifically the Dark Side of the Moon Cabernet (one of my favorite albums ever) and Rolling Stones Merlot.  These were both actually rather pleasant, not big, cerebral or complex, but still pleasant.  A lot of people would like them, and if you are moving from whites into red

Michael David 2010 Ink Blot Cab Franc - outstanding

Michael David 2010 Ink Blot Cab Franc – outstanding

they would be a good choice to start the transition. Not badly priced either at $14.99, although for the serious wine person you can buy the Michael David 6th Sense Syrah for the same price and that is a whole different league.  Still, they’re cool.  We didn’t really have time to get tied up and cannot comment on the Fifty Shades of Grey offerings.

We spent so much time with the wines the food and cooking demonstrations are a blur.  There is a lot going on here.  We can’t report on that aspect though as we didn’t actually see it.  You can really spend two days here if you want to and be busy the whole time.

We look happy!

We look happy!

After two fun days we can say we would definitely do this again.  It would just be nice to find a hotel that was quieter.  You have to expect people coming in and being loud at all hours when you’re close to two casinos, so it might be worth staying further away, as we didn’t really get any sleep.  The events were great though.

A Top Ten Reds and a Top Five Whites blog will be coming up.  There will also be several additions to the value list from this weekend.  We’ve already bought one of the wines for our cellar (the 2009 Chateau de Fieuzal Rouge) and we’ll be adding some of the Austin Hope Syrah, the Treana Red and hopefully the Bravium Signal Ridge Pinot Noir.  Cases of the Michael David reds are in our future as well.  Casey Flat is already well represented in our house.

This was good, and certainly worth considering next year if you like this kind of thing.  (which we of course do)

A votre sante!

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