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So much wine, so little time. That's the way I felt yesterday afternoon when Vanguard Wines, an excellent, small regional wine distributor based on Columbus, Ohio, came to our town yesterday to show off a good portion of its eclectic portfolio to potential buyers in the wine-retail and restaurant trade.
I was lucky enough to be invited to join the tasting in the old Seelbach Hotel's 1907 Rathskeller room with its baroque Rookwood Pottery tile decor. I was unlucky enough to have the invitation fall on a very busy day, when the tug and pull of conflicting deadlines allowed me only about a half-hour to make my choices from what appeared to be several hundred wines open at about 40 winery and importer booths.
How do you choose? A random walk, more or less. I looked for people I knew - it was a special treat to catch up with Carole Meredith, the retired UC/Davis oenology professor whose team tracked down the ancestry of Zinfandel and many other varieties, and who now, with her husband Stephen Lagier, owns an excellent Napa Valley winery specializing in Syrah - and I looked for wines and regions that I really wanted to taste.
I ended up sampling maybe 20 wines from a half-dozen tables, a random walk that only whetted my appetite for more. Time, alas, did not permit, but I thought you'd enjoy a quick peek at a potpourri of interesting, recently released wines from around the world that this group of importers and winery representatives were showing off.
Retail prices are my estimates based on Kentucky wholesale prices and/or actual street prices.
Terry Theise Estate Selections (Champagne and sparkling wines)
Schloss Gobelsburg Brut Reserve (Austria) ($36)
A sparkling Grüner Veltliner, and a good one. Earthy, lots of lentil and split pea aromas; foamy texture, mouth-filling, dry and tart, with clean citric lemon-lime in the finish.
Champagne H. Billiot Fils Brut Reserve ($50)
Cocoa and toast, full body and rich flavors reflect 80 percent Pinot Noir in the cuvee.
Au Bon Climat (Santa Maria, California)
Au Bon Climat 2005 Santa Barbara Chardonnay ($20)
Toast and apple jelly and a whiff of smoke. Crisp, good acidity, nicely balanced at 13.5% alcohol; oak appropriate to the style.
Domaine Serene (Willamette Valley, Oregon)
Domaine Serene 2004 Evenstad Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($55)
Good Pinot fruit, hints of raw meat and smoke. Good body and balance, red fruit and cola on the palate.
Domaine Serene 2004 Jerusalem Hill Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($100)
Perfumed red fruit, elegant and pretty; substantial tannins show on the finish, suggesting cellar time.
Terry Theise Estate Selections (Germany, Austria)
Nigl 2006 Kremser Freiheit Grüner Veltliner ($18)
Lentil, green pea and white pepper, good body and length.
Nikolaihof 2005 Hefeabzug Wachau Grüner Veltliner ($25)
White fruit and damp wool, very rich and full, clean acidity in a long finish.
Schloss Gobelsburg 2005 Gobelsburger Langenlois Grüner Veltliner ($18)
Stony, "rainwater," noteworthy minerality behind crisp white fruit. White pepper on the palate and a fresh hint of peach.
Nigl 2002 Kremser Kremsleiten Riesling ($30)
Subtle mango and stony granite, distinctly minerally with good fruit in a rather full-bodied, dry and tart wine; very long finish.
Elizabeth Spencer Wines (Napa)
Elizabeth Spencer 2006 Mendocino Sauvignon Blanc "Special Cuvee" ($18)
Good, citric Sauvignon Blanc with an appropriate touch of "grass." Crisp, mouth-watering acidity.
Elizabeth Spencer 2005 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($30)
Appley fruit and a whiff of smoke; oak present but restrained, well balanced at 14.3% alcohol.
Elizabeth Spencer 2005 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($30)
Spicy red fruit, acidic; fresh and crisp, smooth tannins show in the finish.
Elizabeth Spencer 2005 Sonoma Coast Syrah ($30)
Full, meaty, brooding, well-balanced; more akin to a Rhone Syrah than Ozzie Shiraz.
Elizabeth Spencer 2005 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon ($35)
Ripe cassis, subtle eucalyptus and menthol notes. Chocolate and black fruit, oak present but appealing. Good now, but tannins suggest potential for aging.
Lagier Meredith (Napa)
Lagier Meredith 2004 Mount Veeder Napa Valley Syrah ($50)
Full and round, excellent fruit, body and balance. Splendid Syrah.
The Marchetti Co. (Italy)
Botter NV "Spago" Veneto Prosecco ($12)
Artisanal-looking package with cork held down by a length of twine. Earthy, foamy and crisp, near-dry and pleasantly complex; above-average Prosecco.
Villa Calcinaia 2003 Chianti Classico ($24)
Black cherries and spice, good body and acidity. I tend to avoid the overripe 2003s, but this one's a good, characteristic Chianti despite the vintage.
FIND THESE WINES ONLINE:
Check prices and find vendors by plugging in specific search terms on Wine-Searcher.com:
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