Micheal Hoffmann of Polaner Selections and The Wine Concierge of Allenhurst hosted a spectacular wine tasting in a gorgeous private home in West Long Branch.
The tasting of the selections began promptly at 7pm with a sparkly little number from Italy: Sorelle Bronca Prosecco. It’s interesting to note that this prosecco is made primarily of the prosecco grape with a smattering of the indigenous varieties Perera, Verdiso, and Bianchetta and all of the the grapes are certified organic. The wine is classified as a Prosecco Colli Conegliano DOCG, the region having recently achieved DOCG status as of April 2010. This wine deliciously captures all of the original aromatics and fruit flavors of the grapes, and features sweet pear, nectarine and white blossoms in perfect condition.
The Bronca family team works hard in the vineyard and in the cellar to produce this purest and outstanding Prosecco Extra Dry, and they have succeeded. It is a truly stunning example of Italy’s favorite sparkler—perfect as an aperitif, with delicate dishes and fish, and for celebrating any special occasion.
This was immediately followed by a very full racy mouthful: Domaine du Haut Bourg Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu 2009. Located in the heart of the Muscadet appellation, fourteen kilometers southeast of Nantes in the Loire Valley, the Domaine du Haut Bourg was built by four generations of winegrowers. The “Côtes de Grandlieu” AOC is formed by nineteen townships that surround the Lac de Grandlieu. Made from from sustainably farmed 45-year-old Melon de Bourgogne vines, this is classic Muscadet—bracing, salty, racy, and vibrant with delicious mature fruit flavors.
The third wine hailed from the slopes of Mount Etna in North-eastern Sicily. This white was simply called Calabretta Carricante. This is considered to be a rare white wine made from old vine Carricante, interplanted with Minella Bianca for acidity. The winemaker, Massimiliano Calabretta, is also a part-time college professor at the University of Genova, and he makes only about 2,000 bottles of this a year. This intriguing white is redolent with melony fruit and hints of straw and almonds. This medium-bodied white has a beautiful texture, lovely acidity and a lingering memory on the palate. It is a perfect wine to pair with nearly any sort of warm-weather foods or to serve as an aperitif. It was truly a unique wine.
The Calabretta Carricante was followed by a wine from one of Italy’s top “superstar” winemakers—Elisabetta Foradori’s Myrto I.G.T. Vigneti delle Dolomiti Bianco. Myrto is made from a blend of sixty percent Sauvignon Blanc and forty percent of a little-known grape, Incrocio Manzoni. It is a classy, medium-bodied and zesty dry white wine that perfectly captures the bounce and classic soil expression of the best white wines of the Trentino-Alto Adige. Myrto comes from the biodynamically farmed Foradori vineyards that lie in the side valley of Campo Rotaliano. Needless to say, Myrto is a beautifully made delicate expression of elegance that offers up outstanding value.
The next wine was a Vouvray. Chenin Blanc has been identified with Vouvray for at least 11 centuries, and many of its great vineyards were known by the 14th century for producing some of the world’s most compelling white wines. By those standards, the 80-year-old Huët estate is relatively young. Yet, Domaine Huët Vouvray Le Mont 2009 , the fifth offering of this tasting has been the standard-bearer for great, ageworthy Chenin Blanc since its founding in 1928. Domaine Huët’s founder, Victor Huët, purchased the first of his great vineyards on Vouvray’s “Première Côte”in 1928. In 1957, the estate purchased the prime Première Côte vineyards: Le Mont. Le Mont Vouvray shows a fascinating level of transparency, purity, and knife-edged balance. Presently, this young wine is full of intense minerality. With age, this wine will develop great length and finesse. This is an epic vintage, it was exciting to taste this latest offering from one of the earliest adopters of biodynamic practices in the Loire Valley.
From the Loire, the tastebuds travelled to Livermore, California’s Kalin Cellars. Kalin Cellars Chardonnay Cuvée W Livermore Valley 1994. Yes, 1994. One taste, and even the most anti-Chardonny drinker will discover a unique California wine experience. Located in Marin County, the goal of winemaker Terry Leighton is to “produce wines of enduring value with traditional European style and character.” Terry is also professor emeritus of microbiology at UC Berkeley and understands the science of winemaking. The grapes were sourced from the Wente Estate Vineyard located near Livermore. Kalin Cellars makes this an artisanal wine of substantial depth, complexity and style. The aromas are reminiscent of lime blossoms and freshly toasted bread. The flavors are rich, powerful, but counterbalanced by an extraordinary, racy mineral acid fruit structure. This singular 100% Charonnay is a wine to match with food.
After these six Beautiful whites it was time to think about sampling the magnificent reds that were featured this evening. What better way to ease the transition than with a glass of Bedrock Wine Co.’s Bedrock Rosé? Bedrock is an itsy-bitsy winery making wine in a converted chicken coop and their 2009 ‘Ode to Lulu’ Rose Sonoma Valley is a fabulous rosé. For all the point counters, last year’s vintage of “Lulu” received the highest score for rosé ever given. It received 90 points from both the Wine Spectator and Steven Tanzer. This rosé is made from Mourvedre and the vines are 120 year-old vines. The Mourvedre has bright aromatics of red currents, cherry, and hints of white pepper, bordered with the added complexity of the funky mustiness of the Mourvedre grape. The palate is clean and vibrant with dusty minerality leading to a lengthy finish. This wine paired beautifully with the offerings of cured meats, cheese, great bread, fresh tomatoes, and basil.
The first red of the evening was Evodia 2008 from Altovinum. Altovinum is a new project—a joint partnership between Eric Solomon, Jean Marc Lafage and Yolanda Diaz. The wine is 100% old vine Garnacha from the D.O. Calatayud’s village of Atea. This wine is fresh with pure strawberry and raspberry deepened by notes of licorice, black tea and pungent herbs on the nose. Supple in texture, this young garnacha is velvety, offering sweet red fruit flavors, hints of spicy pepper and a nice smokieness that only adds to the complexity. The wine is incredibly smooth with nicely persistent, red berry-dominated finish. It was extremely easy to drink paired beautifully with the cheeses and meats that were offered.
The second red was from Mendoza Argentina: La Posta Bonarda. Bonarda is a grape that has taken off in Argentina, and this 100% example is one of unusually high quality. This winery has been growing grapes in Mendoza since 1887, and the present Bonarda vineyard was planted in 1963. This Bonarda sports bright aromas of fresh red & black raspberries and subtle smoky oak notes. The flavors are of freshly-crushed raspberries, white pepper, dark chocolate, a touch sandalwood and mint. Though quite rich and hedonistic, the seamless structure of this wine makes it a candidate for drinking inow or over the next few years. It will pair well with just about any food with which you would drink a fruit-driven red or a Zinfandel.
The first Pinot Nor to be sampled came from Sonoma, 2008 Mary Elke Pinot Noir. The 2008 Mary Elke Pinot Noir is 100% Donnelly Creek vineyard fruit that reflects the cool climate and soils of the Anderson Valley. Elke Vineyards practices organic farming as much as possible, yet they describe their vineyard practices more accurately as “sustainable,” allowing them to use very limited chemical inputs to the vineyard and do canopy management practices that help to reduce spray applications. The Pinot exudes rich, ripe, red fruit flavors combined with a slight spice element and a slight mid-palate tannin to produce a “bigger” style Pinot Noir. This is an an elegant wine characterized by ripedark chrry fruit, a spicy backbone, and velvety texture which will continue to develop with bottle aging. Elke is a limited production Pinot Noir with 1,200 cases.
L’Angevin Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2007 is a Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. This Pinot has a traditional and refined feminine character of fresh black cherry, bergamot, mint, and tea leaves. There is an intense layered bouquet of strawberry, raspberry, orange blossom with notes of vanilla and spice. On the palate, there is a beautiful acidity, silky tannins and red fruit flavors that makes for a well balanced medium-bodied wine with a moderate finish and smooth texture. Simply put, the wine is delicately smooth and is full of beautiful cherry fruit from start to finish. This Pinot paired with the pasta, rice, cheese and meat platters offered.
The next red was the latest signature blend from winemaker extraordinaire Karen Culler, Culler Wines La Palette 2005. When Karen Culler started producing her own wines in 1997, she wanted to make wines that she liked to drink—just in case they weren’t a hit with the public. This Cabernet is a blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Petit Verdot, all from Alexander Ranch fruit. The wine is big, dense, and jammy, with gobs of black currants violet, and spice flavors of licorice and bay leaf. The nose is aromatic with roasted herbs, black currants, leather, minerals and toasty oak. The fruit-driven flavors and ripely tannic structure define this medium-bodied red, culminating in an elegant finish. Delicious!
The cab was followed by a 100% California Zinfandel: Outpost Zinfandel Howell Mountain 2006. Outpost creates world-class 100 percent varietals from their hand-cultivated, organically farmed 42-acre estate vineyard, and this Zin shows why Howell Mountain Zinfandel attracts such a devoted following. The old vines add aromatics and acid backbone while the younger vines provide mid-palate weight and rich elegance. There is a fragrant floral nose, hints of rich ripe black raspberry, black currant, and a spice-scented bouquet. Full-bodied, with espresso, mocha and chocolate, a good texture, a layered mouthfeel, and a long finish, it went very well with the chocolate dessert and oatmeal cookies.
The flagship Barbera from the Trinchero estate: Barbera d’Asti “Vigna del Noce”, was to be the last wine tasted for the evening. The vines for this Barbera were planted in the hills of Asti in 1929. This vintage was the 1999. Trinchero makes one of the longest-lived and most profound examples of Barbera to be found in all of Italy, and this wine lived up to the reputation with impressive complexity and the depth. Aromas of ripe dark cherry, figs, truffle, mushroom, prune, leather, stony minerality, and hints of smoke wafted up from the glass. The palate was earthy, juicy, with layers of cherry, truffle and fig with more smokey, earthy tones intermingled with spice accents that seem to expand in mid-palate. The long finish is dark, earthy, with dry tannins and minerals. This wine is the perfect wine to end an enjoyable evening.
All of these wines can be found at the Wine Concierge in Allenhurst and at Gerard’s Liquors in Point Pleasant.