Back on the Road Again
© by Linwood Slayton

It has been a good while since I attended a "big" wine tasting and had the opportunity to mix and mingle with folks in the wine and food industry and sample the latest vintages and offerings from a variety of wine producers. When I first ventured out into my wine journey, I found these events most exciting and exhilirating. Over time, however, I decided that they were mainly overwhelming. I use the term "overwhelming" positively in the sense that I always ended up with sensory overload. Too much of any good thing in intense dosages can and usually does spell overload for me.

The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance sponsored a gala tasting Feb. 1, 2006, in Atlanta at the elegant Fox Theater on Peachtree Street. There were 25 wineries present and pouring their wares for the 200 or so trade types invited for the press/media tasting. I was, as always, happy to have been invited by Maizie Hale Public Relations which handled the local public relations for this well produced event. The press kit and the setup were done well and the event was a success.

Paso Robles is a Central Coast California region in northern San Luis Obispo County, about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The Pacific Ocean is a mere six miles to the west. Admittedly, I was not too familiar with many of the wineries other than J Lohr which has had a presence here in the Atlanta area for some time. The area is characterized as enjoying hot days and cool nights which facilitates a diversity of wines depending upon their location and soil within the region.

The red wines from this area are known for the following qualities: soft tannins, deep and intense color, a scent and taste of dark chocolate, smooth velvety feel in the mouth and rich fruitiness.

Armed with the essential information provided, I waded into the tasting area and did my thing. Experience has taight me to limit myself to a small selection of wines and I opted to taste only one wine from each presenter. Given my decision last year to taste only the "best" wines at this stage of my wine journey, I found these five wines to be my "favorites" of all that I tasted:

J. Lohr 2000 Cuvee POM, Bordeaux Blend ( retail $59.99)
Jack Creek Cellars 2003 Pinot Noir Reserve (retail $42)
Midnight Cellars 2004 Estate Zinfandel (retail $28)
Nadeau Family Vintners 2003 Critical Mass Zinfandel (retail $28)
Opolo Vineyards 2004 Reserve Zinfandel (retail $38)

Each of then had a distinct uniqueness that I enjoyed. I especially enjoyed the rich and smooth texture and feel of the J. Lohr Bordeaux blend which was one of the finest Pinot Noirs I have had in a good while. The Nadeau Family Critical Mass Zinfandel was my next favorite selection as the fruit and color were powerful. I daresay that others found different favorites as each of the tasting stations were crowded and the folks in attendance were having a great time. I stayed within my predetermined parameters this time and did not overdo myself and limited my choices significantly.

As I continue with my wine journey, I have learned to do all things with considerably more moderation than I have in the past. I can recall when I used to stop at a single station and then sample each wine that a particular winery offered so that by the time that I had gone through five or six offerings, I had little or no clue as to what tasted better or worse. After about three of four stations, I was usually "out of it" in the sense that my senses were dulled and overloaded and I was merely going through the motions.

I still prefer sampling wines in the comfort of my home and not having to swill, swirl and spit the wine out for fear of getting inebriated over time. Part of the fun in drinking and enjoying wine is feeling the effect of the wine from the first sip to the last.

In this context, allow me to share some wines that I have been sampling at home. Cosentino makes some of the best wines I have tasted on a consistent bottle after bottle basis.

M. Coz Napa Valley 2002 Meritage ($120 retail)
2002 EstateMerlot ($90 retail)
2004 Cigar Zin Zinfandel ($30 retail)
The Zin 2004 Zinfandel Lodi ($30)
The Temp 2004 Tempranillo Lodi Kirshenmann Vineyards ($18 retail)
Franc 2003 California Cabernet Franc Blend ($18)
2004 Sangiovese B. Cibaretto Napa and Lodi Vineyards ($18 retail)

The thing I found impressive about the Cosentino selections I sampled and enjoyed was that the quality was evident irrespective of price. Of course, the Estate Merlot and the M. Coz Meritage were stellar wines and worth the price for those who don't mind spending from $90 to $120 per bottle. But the $18-$30 dollar bottles were equally impressive given the signficant drop in price. Clearly, one can enjoy the lower priced wines on a more frequent basis while saving the upper end wines for those special occasions that we all want to savor and enjoy.

Well, this is the end of yet another stop on my wine journey and it is my hope that you will take the time to check out some of the wines featured. We will share other significant wines with you in the near future. Until then, drink with a passion everyone.


Feb. 1, 2006

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