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The Wine Seminars at the 2013 Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival

As we have mentioned repeatedly, the seminars at the Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival represent a unique chance to experience great wines and unique presentations from some of the biggest names in the field.  This year I went to two seminars, one that kicked off the weekend Friday afternoon and one Sunday afternoon before hitting the Grand Tasting.  Both were excellent, different and well worth the time.  If you are into wine you really should be at some of these.

They’re held at the Hyatt on Goat Island, which is a beautiful spot with sweeping views of the bay from the back of the CIMG2082property and a direct view of the Newport Bridge from the deck and pool areas.  Unfortunately the seminars do not share this view, but rather are in an interior function room with no windows.  Since you are here for the wine it is not a big deal, but it is also not Marble House.  If they could get these into a space that was more open it would be good.

But you are here for the wines, and Friday’s first seminar kicked off the weekend in fine style with a journey through Sangiovese with the Marchesi Antinori Family.  Antinori is one of the first names in Italian wines, and their wine making origins go back to 1385.  You would think they should know what they are doing by now, and they do.  This was a study in Sangiovese from the Tuscany region, which is not extremely large but does never the less present a series of different soil and climates which represent themselves in the wines.  We tried five different wines, all Sangiovese, and all quite different.

The Antinori Wines

The Antinori Wines

The wines were presented by Niccolo Maltinti, the Wine Ambassador from Antinori.  Niccolo did an excellent job presenting both the history, philosophy and motivations of the Antinori family as well as the wines themselves.  The hour went quickly, and he had to speed up a bit at the end to meet time.  This could easily have gone a little longer.  Fortunately Niccolo stayed around at the end to answer further questions.  Even better, they put the remaining wine in the back of the room and it was serve yourself!  Nothing better than a free glass of Tignanello.

Here are the wines:

1. 2006 La Braccesca Santa Pia Vina Noble di Montelpuciano DOCG Riserva

While this is from the Montelpuciano area, it is not the grape most people are familiar with, which is Montelpuciano d’abruzzo.  This is pure Sangiovese.  The soil is a bit richer here than in some other parts of Tuscany, but there is not a lot of rain.  This wine is aged six months in barriques to soften the tannins, then spends another 12 months in larger barrels.  On the nose I got dark fruit, leather and an earthy quality.  The palate presents dark fruit and firm tannins. It’s medium bodied with good length.

2.  2007 Badia a Passignano Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva

The vineyards here are in the highlands, at an altitude ranging from 900 to 2000 feet.  It ‘s deep purple /black to the rim.  The nose is full of fruit, with some tar, chalk and orange peel (for some reason this one hit me with some specific aromas).  It’s a nice wine, with some complexity and some deep flavor.  It’s medium bodied. Chianti never seems to knock me over and this is no exception, but it is very good.

3.  2007 Pian delle Vigne Brunello di Montalcino DOCG

This was the darkest in color of the five wines we tried.  It is deep purple black to the rim and almost inky.  There is

Neil, Niccolo and Tignanello

Neil, Niccolo and Tignanello

prominent wood here, both on the nose and the palate, but it works.  There is also some very nice fruit.  Medium plus in body it is very long.  Maybe some tobacco notes on the palate as well.  This wine is expressive and rich, growing on you over time.  Very nice.  The Brunello’s are aged at least four years before release, and the Riservas are aged at least five.

4.  2006 Pian delle Vigne Riserva Brunello di Montalcino

This was the lightest in color of the five, which is interesting since it’s close cousin was the darkest.  There was some amber tinge at the rim.  It is more jammy than the others, presenting with deep fruit, tobacco and earth.  It is rich and long.  Lighter in body that the previous wine, it is also more elegant.  It feels like it needs more time, but this is serious wine.  All of these are excellent, we’re really splitting hairs here.

5.  2010 Tignanello

CIMG2075

Five Tuscan Sangiovese

Now we have a legend on our hands.  Created in 1971 and flying in the face of the Italian wine establishment, Tignanello brings Bordeaux varietals into the picture.  This is Sangiovese blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.  It is admittedly very young, but even now it is complex, with very subtle wood and firm tannins that will even out over time.  I loved this wine and will try to find a couple of bottles on sale.  Not only is it delicious, but it is iconic and a part of history.  It’s kind of cool to pull the first Super Tuscan out of your cellar.

Five wines, all with the same grape varietal, and all very different.  This was a fascinating journey and a fun hour.  Thanks to Niccolo for being such an informative and gracious host.

Next up is the New Collectibles Seminar, which I attended on Sunday while Cheri headed over to the Grand Tasting to cover Alex Guarnaschelli’s cooking demo.  This was the one I had really been looking forward to, and I was not

The panel

The panel

disappointed.  Over the course of an hour and a half we sampled eleven wines from around the world, with comments from an expert panel of wine makers and industry representatives.

Six of the soon to be eleven wines

Six of the soon to be eleven wines

This seminar got beyond the taste and smells of the wine and really bit into the production methods, vineyard locations and any other factors which gave the wines their unique qualities.  Since some of the panel made the wines in question they could really speak to what they were going for and how they tried to get there.  I learned so much during this event.

The whole thing was hosted and moderated by Jordan Mackay, author of The Secrets of the Sommeliers, and he did a great job keeping this moving while injecting his own knowledge and insights.

The wines were pretty good too, and here they are:

1.  2011 Leirana Albarino – a nice, classy and surprisingly complex white from Northwest Spain.  It has a beautiful golden straw color.  There’s some structure and length to this.  It is not a “chill and kill” wine, as one panelist put it during discussions.  Should be very good with food as well.  The winery uses a proprietary yeast in fermentation and no oak, so this is nice and clean.  About $35-$40.

2.  2012 Sandhi “Santa Barbara County” Chardonnay – has a pretty typical nose and flavor profile of a clean, not oaky Chardonnay, but there is a definite sense of quality to this wine.  It is a cool climate Chardonnay.  I got pear, melon and grapefruit.  Nice acid as well, this is refreshing.  It’s also very long.  About $30-$35.

3.  2011 Coulier “Monument Tree” Pinot Noir Anderson Valley – this has a sappy cherry nose, with a muted red color and amber tinges.  It is not what you expect on the palate, as the fruit is much more reserved.  It’s lighter than I would have thought.  It also does not have impressive length, with a pretty non-existent mid-palate.  The panel suspected that this was fermented whole cluster, or with the stems and leaves, and that kept the fruit down.  It’s not my favorite.

4.  2009 Brittan Vineyards Estate Syrah – this is pretty special, and really is a classy wine.  It’s from the Willamette Valley, home of cool climate Oregon Pinot Noir.  It’s inky purple to the rim, and presents a nose of deep fruit with a meaty quality.  The palate is pretty restrained right now, but promises to open up over time in a grand way.  As Ellen Brittan said, “it’s just a baby.”  The tannins are integrated, and the cherry and grape flavors linger on and on.  I’m going to try and buy some of this and start a vertical.  $40 from the winery.

5.  2011 Orto Tinto – the panel thought this was “extremely well made”, and it was actually recently picked by the New York Times as the #1 red from the Montsant Region in Spain.  It’s also a bio dynamically made wine, which doesn’t really matter to me.  Somehow the biodynamic thing seems a bit over the top.  Anyway, it presents a nose of dark, deep fruit aromas.  There is some acid, some noticeable alcohol and some restrained fruit on the palate.  This is also very long, and needs some time.

6.  2010 the scholium project Golgotha – this one the wine maker did to want to disclose the varietal for some reason.  He eventually did, and it is 100% Syrah.  It has a port like nose and seems very over extracted.  This wine spent two and a half years in barrel with whole clusters, without any racking at all.  Nor was it ever topped off.  It’s very deep.  It’s inky.  The wine maker described it as “dense”.  For me it is a bit too dense.  I have to say I did not like it.  It’s also very expensive.

7.  2008 Megas Oenos – this is a blend of 80 % Aghiorgitiko and 20% Cabnernet Sauvignon.  It’s a cousin of the 100% Aghiorgitiko we had at the Grand Tasting and rated as the fourth best red of the event.  So it’s no surprise I liked this as well.  There s pepper on the nose up front with some wood notes. The color is a muted purple red.  The palate presents a nice mix of restrained fruit and well integrated wood.  Incredibly long.

8.  2005 Yocochuya – Argentinian Malbec from old vines, and very different. From vines located at 6600 feet altitude, this wine doesn’t really bring the fruit, but rather notes of forest floor and earth.  There is also a faint rubbery component I am not a fan of.  It was fascinating to contrast this with the next wine, which is from the same producer and also is old vine Malbec.

9.  2007 Val de Flores – these vines sit at 3000′ and as such are very different than the previous wine.  This shows a big nose of deep dark fruit with some wood.  It smells robust and that impression carries through to the palate. This is a big, mouth coating wine which has excellent length.  I loved it.  Hard to believe these past two are so close in origin.  They are both old vine Malbec and use similar production methods, but are so different.

10.  2007 Meteor Vineyard Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – another wine with a big fruity nose here.  Just a touch of something rubbery comes across, but it sort of blows off after a bit.  Lots of fruit on the palate, but this wine exhibits less structure and depth than every other wine in this tasting.  It really falls short in this company.

11.  2010 REALM Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – this is special.  There is a pure core of Cabernet fruit that runs down the middle of this and which is always there.  It’s not huge but still is a bigger wine in overall impression, elegantly unfolding as it progresses.  I have seen other cabs described as having a “wonderful purity of Cabernet”.  Well this is that all over. One of my favorite wines ever, and only $160!  Oh well, I grabbed another glass at

Some of the New Collectibles

Some of the New Collectibles

the tasting before I left, and that is probably the last one I’ll ever have. If you can afford it this is the real deal.

What a lineup.  The wines were great as was the panel discussion.  For a wine enthusiast this was a fabulous way to spend some time, and for $40 it was a steal.  This is a format I definitely would like to see the Preservation Society bring back next year.

 

If you haven’t tried the seminars you’re missing one of the best parts of the weekend, and that’s not to take anything away from any of the other events.  These are just different.  I’m certainly going back.

A votre sante!

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