30 Second Wine Advisor: Trade tasting season!

Today's Sponsor

De Long's Wine Maps and Wine Varietal Table
You'll love these beautiful, informative poster-size wine maps of California and Iberia, and the popular Wine Grape Varietal Table.
De Long's Wine Maps

Trade tasting season!

As July ends and we move toward late summer and early fall, the annual pace of trade tastings begins to pick up again, as wine distributors take to the road with a few wine makers in tow, scheduling tastings for the wine trade in most larger cities.

This week, Vanguard Wines, a regional importer based in Northern Kentucky. held its annual Grand Portfolio Tasting here in Louisville at the oh-so-trendy 21c Museum Hotel. About 50 wineries presented tastes of a couple of hundred wines, and it was my pleasure to stop by for a taste.

It's a good opportunity to get a look at new wine releases that have just reached the marketplace or will do so in coming months; I'll share my brief tasting notes on a number of good ones below.

First, though, as I did on the occasion of this same tasting last year in "Tasting potpourri", The 30 Second Wine Advisor's July 30, 2008 edition, let's address an obvious question: Can you get into one of these tastings?

The answer is not so simple, and likely varies depending on the hosts and organizers and perhaps local law and custom.

Generally speaking, the purpose of a distributor portfolio tasting is to sell wine, and the primary guests are wine retailers and restaurateurs who will consider purchasing wines in quantity for their businesses. Wine writers are often invited - distributors rarely object to publicity - although it should be noted that I am under no obligation (and would not accept an obligation) to speak well of a wine I didn't enjoy.

But how about "civilians"? My best advice, if you are a regular customer and buy wine in reasonable amounts from a quality local wine shop, or if you're friendly with the sommelier or wine guy at a good restaurant that you patronize regularly and buy wines from the list, and ask if they can wangle an invitation to a tasting for you. Chances are, assuming you're a good customer, you can make it work. If you try it, good luck ... and let me know how you fare.

Here's a quick look, in short-form format, at 18 of my favorites among the many excellent wines sampled.

Au Bon Climat 2008 Santa Barbara Pinot Noir - Dark ruby. cherries and spice, fresh fruit and snappy acidity, an annual favorite, to be released in August.

Charles & Charles 2007 Columbia Valley Red - I had enjoyed a recent taste of wine maker Charles Bieler's Syrah rosé at a local restaurant recently and found it great value, and this Syrah-Cabernet blend looks like a value winner, too. Very dark, almost black, it's smooth and textured, cherry-berry fruit with sufficient acidity for structure.

Dashe Cellars 2007 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel - Beautiful, old-style Zin bramble fruit, raspberries and blackberries, juicy but no "fruit bomb." An exceptional Zin for those weary of the blockbuster style.

Lagier-Meredith 2006 Mount Veeder Syrah - Noted grape scientist Carole Meredith and her husband now make wine, and a splendid Syrah it is, a bright and floral California red that pays due homage to the Northern Rhone. Cherries and berries, textured and tannic, with good acidic balance.

Domaine Bott-Geyl 2007 Alsace Riesling "Les Elements" - Intense apple fruit framed by searing acidity, simple in its youth but showing great depth and aging potential.

Domaine Bott-Geyl 2005 Alsace Gewurztraminer Grand Cru "Sonnenglanz" - Litchees and grapefruit, subtle and complex. Sistinct sweetness nicely balanced by singing acidity, with a light, pleasant bitterness in the finish.

Mauro Veglio 2004 Barolo Castelletto - Very pretty scent, violets and red fruit, just a whiff of Nebbiolo "tar." Good, forward fruit flavor and a boatload of tannin show its youth. Enjoyable now with rare red meat, but could use cellar time.

Fattoria La Massa 2007 La Massa - A blend of 85% Sangiovese Grosso, 10% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, it's loaded with characteristic Sangiovese cherries and dried fruit, with bright acidity providing fine balance.

Fattoria La Massa 2006 Giorgio Primo - Blends 30% each of Cabernet, Merlot and Sangiovese plus a splash of Petite Verdot in an appealing, youthful Super Tuscan. Ripe cherry and kirsch are well structured with good acidic balance and firm tannins to suggest a few years' careful aging.

Selene 2008 Carneros Sauvignon Blanc - Cool climate Sauvignon, grassy and herbal, with just a touch of grapefruit. Mouth-watering acidity provides balance and food-friendliness.

Selene 2005 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon - Dark in color. Good Cabernet blackcurrant adds a whiff of black olive. Excellent balance, with significant tannins suggesting an eight-year aging window. Ten percent Cabernet Franc in the blend.

Selene 2004 Chesler Napa Red - Named after wine maker Mia Klein's grandmother, who's shown water skiing as a young woman on the label, this fine blend incorporates 60% Cabernet Franc, 22% Merlot and 18% Cabernet Sauvignon. Classic blackcurrants and plums show a hint of black coffee in the background. Deep, balanced flavor, soft tannins; outstanding.

Domaine Serene 2006 Willamette Valley Cote Sud Vineyard Chardonnay - It was a pleasure to see wine maker Michelle Farkas on her annual visit to Louisville, and a round of excellent Serene wines started with this classy Chard made from the fruit of five Dijon clones. Baked apples and spicy oak come together well in a structured wine with good, mouth-watering acidity.

Domaine Serene 2006 Willamette Valley Evanstad Reserve Pinot Noir - Spicy cherries on the nose, bright wild cherry and spice with excellent acid balance on the palate. As typical of Domaine Serene, a splendid wine at the table.

Domaine Serene 2006 Willamette Valley Winery Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir - Subtle, complex red fruit, luscious cherries. Silken texture and beautiful balance, an Oregon Pinot with a distinctly Burgundian character.

Soter Vineyards 2007 Willamette Valley North Valley Pinot Noir - Appetizing cherry aroma and clean, juicy red-fruit flavor, rounded out by fresh-fruit acidity. Well-made, appealing Pinot.

Soter Vineyards 2006 Willamette Valley Mineral Springs Vineyard Pinot Noir - Fourteen months in barrel frame complex Pinot cherries with subtle oak in balance. Excellent Pinot.

Soter Vineyards 2005 Willamette Valley Brut Rosé - Available in September, this pretty light-rose wine pours up with a gentle fizz; pretty floral and berry flavors lead into a creamy, tart and subtle red-berry flavor. First-rate bubbly.

To locate these wines and others from these producers, enter winery name and variety into the search engine at Wine-Searcher.com:

Today's Sponsor

Wine Map of California

De Long's Wine Maps and Wine Varietal Table

Wine Century Club founders Steve and Deborah De Long, who produce the popular Wine Grape Varietal Table, have now also published two beautiful, informative poster-size maps featuring the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) and the entire state of California, depicting up-to-date information about wine regions in bright colors.

Each map measures 24 x 36 inches and is printed on heavyweight acid-free archival paper." They're rolled, not folded, for shipping in sturdy tubes. The maps are $29.95 each plus shipping. To view details and purchase online, click De Long's Wine Maps, and select the map or maps of your choice.

The Wine Grape Varietal Table is a wine reference disguised as a fine art print. It presents 184 of the world's favorite grapes organized by color, body and acidity, presented in a charming format that spoofs the Periodic Table of the Elements that many of us remember from our classroom walls. To review and purchase, click The Wine Grape Varietal Table and choose the Standard Edition ($25) or Deluxe Edition ($35 with 88-page index book).

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