Highlights from Burlington, VT Wine & Food Festival 2013

Highlights from Burlington, VT Wine & Food Festival 2013

bonny-doon-vineyards-randallOn the road to producing expressive wines, producers sometimes miss the exit entirely, driving all the way past to some small and awful town in the county of Lacking Originality. Fear not, dear wine lover, a course correction is easily within your reach. You need only set your GPS to arrive in the land of @RandallGrahm (Twitter) of Bonny Doon Vineyards where you will find wines of utter originality.

I loved Grahm’s funky-in-a-good-way Albarinho 2012: lemongrass, lime, stone fruit on the nose, hint of Thai basil, edgy
and crisp on the palate. By hindsight, I am to wish for this wine with the pile of mussels I ate after the festival; in foresight, I lust for it alongside my mother-in-law’s spicy noodle dish with topped with crushed peanuts, briny fish sauce and lime spritz.

If Bonny Doon’s Contra Old Vine Carignane Blend 2010 … were … tobacco, I would smoke it, a big hand-rolled spliff of sublime, exuberant impressions of dark fruit, anise, meat, and eualyptus.

Playing counterpoint to Contra’s somewhat brooding personality is the brighter, red fruit character of Clos de Gilroy Grenache 2010 which is absolutely killer, lip-smacking tart, demonstrating the kind of spot-on balance you wish our national budget could show.

Le Cigare: captivating, a wine of spiritual positivity and complexity, neither of which I am able to completely understand in the few minutes I have at the tasting table. Cherries, dried leaves, savory herb, jam, mint, and a magical earthiness like one might expect to find in a handful of soil from the land of Oz.

Love the tannic structures of these wines, soft, supple, silky with real backbone.

My son, Jesse Mack, who has spent some time in the wine biz and certainly tasted his share of good vino, astutely notes that Grahm’s wines may reference Rhone as a touchpoint, yet one would never mistake them for Rhone.

Yes. O-R-I-G-I-N-A-L-I-T-Y 🙂

cantine-barbera-menfi-marilenaShould ever you have the pleasure to chat one-on-one with vintner @MarilenaBarbera (Twitter), if you listen, and listen deeply, you will hear it. It rolls into the conversation one wave at a time. Swells breaking onto shore. Sucking, pulling, pebble and sand backwash from beneath your feet. Wind. You are on her wavelength now. Connected to the sea. There is no other way to understand the wines, no separating one from the other.

Marilena’s Cantine Barbera Menfi Inzolia 2012 is deliciously mineral with an appealing saline carnality. If you have ever kissed your lover after a sea swim you know what I mean.

I adore Marilena’s unique Nero D’Avola rose La Bambina 2012 which charmed me to pieces with its dry spritz of sea spray, impressions of berry-scented marine air, superb focus and supple body.

The wonderfully old-school Cantine Barbera Nero D’Avola 2011 intoxicates with an arousing, light perfume like raspberry-scented rain if rain actually fell smelling of raspberries. Communicates good power derived in part from its clay origins, yet remains chewy and light on the palate.

Magnificent, distinctive, born of the rare Perricone – aka Pignatello – and blended with 10% Nerello Mascalese, Microcosmo 2010 takes my breath away with gorgeous red fruit, earth, herb, sea pine and an energetic mineral finish. Not to be missed.

Massively appealing is the clean, absolutely vibrant freshness running through each of the Cantine Barbera wines I tasted.

I would be remiss not to get on your radar the wine importer known as MATCH. I have rarely tasted so many genuine, good bottles on a single trade show table: Vigne Surrau Juannisolu, Vermentino 2012 and Cannonau 2010; Cantina Bolzano, Muller Thurgau 2011 and Santa Magdelena Classico 2011; Pierpaolo Pecorari, Friulano 2011 and Refosco 2011. Every one of these wines showed real quality at a very fair pricepoint.(MATCH is also the distributor for Cantine Barbera Menfi.)

Of note is Loosen Bros. Blue Slate Riesling 2011, stone fruit, flinty minerality, great acidity makes me feel big time love for this wine. Applause for J. Christopher Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and that label’s “Lumieres” Pinot Noir, too, both apparently part of the Loosen catologue, two massively harmonious wines with a memorable silky texture in the mouth.

Tasting Douro reds Contos da Terra and Quinta dos Pocos Colheita solidly convinces me that we are not looking closely enough at the quality and great value Portugal has to offer.

From Spain, Montebuena Rioja 2010 is an insane value at ~ $13.00 and drinks better than many at double that price tag!

A shout out to my Twitter Pal @GianPadano (left, in the photo above) for getting Burlington, VT Wine & Food Festival on my radar!!!

Tormaresca Neprica 2011

I am a cat. Stealth is my weapon. And waiting. Wait. Wait. Wait. A precautionary approach to avoid pouncing too soon at the influence of marketing. Aware of my psychology, examining my behavior, I advance. Collect enough information to make a successful purchase decision. Short, quick movements, pounce, grab the bottle and head to checkout.

tormaresca-neprica-2011On a recent evening in the wine shop, hard-wired for the hunt, I stopped to sniff the air for a bargain bottle. Thought I saw something flutter on the bottle rack: Tomaresca Neprica 2011. Eyes locked on the prey, I come in for a closer look.

Glad I did.

Tomaresca Neprica 2011 is a wine offering astonishing quality for price (I paid ~ $10.00 in Massachusetts) and great testimony that southern Italy deserves your attention when seeking out interesting, delicious, inexpensive wines of character and personality.

A project of the Antinori family begun in 1998, Tormaresca vineyards are located in Italy’s Puglia region, the “heel” of the Italian boot. (NOTE, for readers not familiar with the Antinori family wine dynasty: so important are the Antinori to Italian wine history, tradition, etc., that your Italian wine journey might well begin there with a bit of research.)

Produced from a blend of Negromaro, Primitivo and Cabernet Sauvignon (NePriCa), grapes are vinified separately in stainless steel. After malolactic fermentation, the wine is fined for eight months in steel tanks and four additional months in bottle.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:
Balanced tones of bright red fruit and dark, black cherry surrounded by violet perfume. Plump on the palate, love the somewhat viscous mouth-feel. Black cherry notes take just a bit of prominence as the wine gets air, with additional dimension gained from emerging scents of savory herb. Tannins are soft and in just the right order so as to not interrupt the great way this wine feels on the palate. Finishes with good density of flavor and generous length.

Food Pairing Suggestions:
This wine is an obvious winner served with red meat and roasts. That said, after tasting several bottles with a wide variety of foods, Tomaresca Neprica is simply a great partner to just about every kind of dish I introduce it to: all manner of pasta / sauces; grilled or roasted sausages; mashed potatoes with mascarpone, greasy olive oil roasted potatoes; risotto; grilled vegetables and assorted crostini; eggplant parmigiana; chicken with black olives served on couscous; spaghetti with langostini in spicy red sauce; grilled fish; panino of boiled meats, au jus and spicy sauce … you get the idea 🙂