I received an invite to the Wine Warehouse LA County Spring Tasting held last Wednesday at the largest ballroom in LA’s historic Century Plaza Hotel. In case you don’t know, Wine Warehouse is one of the largest distributors (wholesalers) of alcoholic beverages in the USA, serving the California market. They offer wine, beer, spirits, non–alcoholic beverages, glassware and even some specialty food items. Their tasting events are held to enable their retail licensee customers (primarily wine shops, restaurants and grocery stores) to sample a large percentage of their wares all at once in a “wine festival” type setting. Some wine and spirits consultants, beverage service people and assorted other odd–ducks (like myself) also get to attend. By my informal count, there were over 200 domestic and foreign wineries represented at the event, pouring more than 700 wines. Add to that over 100 different spirits and more than 200 beers, ales and ciders and, well, you can see that it was a lovely afternoon.
I was invited with no pre–conditions—no request or understanding that I write about the event. In fact, I wasn’t planning to write about the event at all. I was just planning to go and see what I could find that was new or different or—what the heck—just to have a nice time. Because of the massive volume of wines on hand, I vowed to swirl, sniff, sip and spit. I kept to my vow, except for the final 30 minutes of the event when I decided to re–sample some of my favorites. I had lined up a ride home, so life was good. Being somewhat methodical by nature, I decided to start in the import section (though I didn’t get to all of it) and work my way over to the California wines, enjoying bites of food along the way. Leah couldn’t come along that day, so I was at a disadvantage in terms of photography. The lighting at the event was a subdued glow, perfect for wine tasting, but not too good for my cheapo camera to capture things (Leah has the really good equipment).
Let me first state that I didn’t come close to tasting all the wines on hand—that was not humanly possible in the time allotted. While I can’t remember tasting a wine I really didn’t like, I won’t list every wine I tasted because that would be unfair to the larger number of wines I didn’t get to taste at all that day. I, will, however, note some of the many wines that really did stand out in my mind at the event. For the record, I tasted many more reds than whites. I apologize in advance to the many wineries whose wines I didn’t get a chance to enjoy.
The Italians. A really fantastic find was Canella’s Prosecco Di Conegliano with beautiful fruit and acidity—crisp and refreshing. Santadi’s 2007 Vermentino Di Sardegna “Cala Silente” was also very good. I enjoyed some “old friends”, such as Torraccia del Piantavigna’s 2004 Ghemme and 2004 Gattinara, about which I recently glowed in a post. My favorite Barolo was Cascina Bongiovanni’s 2004 Barolo “Pernanno”—complex, velvety, really excellent. I enjoyed Matane’s 2007 Primitivo from Puglia because it was nicely balanced—not too heavy. The Terre dei Re 2004 Aglianico del Vulture “Nocte” was really good. Poggio Basso’s 2003 Chianti Classico Riserva and Toscolo’s 2004 Chianti Classico Riserva were both very good. Another “old friend”, Nottola’s 2004 Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano did not disappoint. Podere Orma from Bolgheri offered a blend, the Orma 2005 Toscana—40% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot & 20% Cabernet Sauvignon—that was very nice. “Celebrity” wines in the Italian category include the Manilow 2007 Pinot Grigio and Manilow 2007 Merlot because the wine is produced and bottled in Italy. I’ve previously written about Manilow’s Pinot Grigio, but I hadn’t tasted the Merlot, so I tried it. It was very good as well. Surprising for celebrity wines—they are good and also offer value pricing.
The French. Admittedly, I know much less about French wines than I do about Italian and California wines. I do, however, know when I really like a wine, no matter what its origin. Domaine Vincent et Francois Jouard’s 2006 Chassagne Montrachet was pure enjoyment. Chateau de Pennautier’s 2007 Cabardés was very smooth for a table wine. Chateau Rocher Corbin’s 2005 Montagne St. Emilion and Chateau La Bienfaisance’s 2005 St. Emilion Grand Cru were very good. I also enjoyed Domaine Pesquier’s 2005 “Guy Boutiere” Gigondas (Rhone Grenache) very much.
Other Imports. Some imports from other countries that I thought were quite good included Alamos’ 2008 Malbec “Mendoza” from Argentina, Belasco de Baquedano’s 2005 Malbec “Swinto” and 2006 Malbec “AR Guentota” (both from 99 year old vines on 222 acres in the Luján de Cuyo region of Mendoza) from Argentina, La Playa’s 2004 Axel Primero “Colchagua Valley”, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Carmenère and Merlot from Chile, the Martin Codax 2007 Albarino “Rias Baixas” from Spain and the 2004 Grenache “Hickinbotham Vineyard” and 2004 Syrah “Piggott Ranch” (97 year old vines) from Clarendon Hills of Australia. I recalled later that my friend, Dave, had recently recommended the 2002 Grenache from Clarendon Hills in his Aussie Update.
The Californians. I enjoyed Ampelos Cellars’ 2005 Syrache (a Syrah/Grenache blend I had tried a month ago at a wine festival), a range of Cabernet Sauvignons from Heitz Wine Cellars (I particularly liked their 2001 “Trailside” Cab), several great wines from Far Niente Winery (particularly their 2006 Oakville Cab), a range of delightful Zins from Peachy Canyon and a 2006 Malbec they call “Ms. Behave”, some dependable Cabs from Raymond Vineyards, the Surfrider 2007 Pinot Gris “Santa Barbara” from Rosenthal—The Malibu Estate, the Signorello Vineyards’ 2007 Chardonnay “Vieilles Vignes Estate”, 2007 Seta “Proprietary White”, and 2006 “Padrone” Cabernet Sauvignon, and Trefethen Vineyards’ 2005 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.
As I said, there were so many great wines that I didn’t have a chance to taste that day—some I have sampled previously and others I look forward to tasting. The event included some very good food and, while I am not a beer expert, there was an amazingly wide variety of beers from around the world. So, I finished the final half hour swallowing some great wines, beers and spirits and spending a bit of time at Mad Mike’s gourmet sausage stand. Then, it was time for my ride home. Boy, was I glad I arranged for that ride home.