Tag Archives: impressions

Impressions of VinItaly NYC 2014

VinItaly Logo

I apologize in advance that this post is text-heavy, but I don’t like taking a camera to these kind of events. I want to focus on the experience, the wines I try, the personal connections I make. I find taking photos distracts me from that. For another impression check out Anatoli’s excellent post he just published.

More often than not I have these moments where I am asking myself: How did I get here? And how do I deserve this? This year’s VinItaly and Slow Food tasting in New York was definitely one of those moments that made me appreciate my blogging and all that it has brought to my life. Before we get to the tasting, I need to give credit where credit is due:

I would never have gone had it not been for my formidable partner in crime and friend Stefano, of Clicks and Corks, who sent me an email in November telling me to see whether I could make it to New York for VinItaly. This put the idea in my head, and when I found decently priced tickets Nina and I decided to go. We stayed in Connecticut with Stefano and Francesca (of the wonderful food blog Flora’s Table), who were the most hospitable hosts you can imagine. We flew in Saturday, and Sunday we had a big dinner with fellow bloggers Anatoli (the inimitable Talk-a-vino) and his wife, Suzanne (of the great food blog A Pug in the Kitchen) and Azita (of the Persian, mouthwatering food blog Fig and Quince). As you can tell, Francesca was on a suicide mission, inviting all these fellow food bloggers to her house and cooking dinner for them….just as us wine bloggers were trying to outdo each other with our wines (Nina and I had checked a bag to be able to bring some wines). It was a competition of sorts, but tampered by the mutual respect for each other and the fun we had with the meal, wines, and company. What a night it was! Francesca truly outdid herself with her apple and speck risotto, which will become a staple for me, and her veal roast which was so so so tender. Incredible! It was wonderful meeting Stefano and Francesca again, and then meeting these online friends that I now am able to count as real world friends! Thank you all, for a spectacular evening!!

Monday morning, we braved the snow and headed to downtown Manhattan for the VinItaly NYC tasting. Let me give you a tiny bit of background: VinItaly is the largest tasting of Italian wines in the world, held every year in Verona, Italy. Not long ago, the organization decided to branch out and hold tastings in New York, Moscow, Chengdu, and Hong Kong as VinItaly International. VinItaly teamed up with Slow Wine who also brought wineries to New York for what turned out to be a great tasting experience. The tasting lasted from 1pm until 5.30pm, but there were all sorts of classes in the morning as well. While I did not manage to get into any, Nina was able to snatch a place in a tasting class on Franciacorta (Italy’s Champagne, as they dub themselves) and one on Amarone (lucky her!).

If you have never been to a tasting like this, it is hard to imagine what goes on there, so let me give you an idea: You enter a hall that has rows and rows of tables, behind which winery representatives stand, three bottles of wine in front of them. If I say row upon row, I mean row upon row: Slow Wine alone had brought 70 wineries, and VinItaly another 50. You can do the math, but that is a lot of wine. And naturally, I wasn’t able to taste them all. But I tasted a fair share: I have, just to give you one example, never had that much Barolo in my life (combined), and it was a marvelous experience. The best part to me, though, is talking to the winemakers, hearing their stories (not their sales pitches necessarily)…these tastings are a great opportunity to meet these folks, while the tasting itself is completely overwhelming. You don’t have much time to fully experience the wine, and the whole spitting is also not necessarily conducive to a full wine experience….given that notes are cryptic and hardly worth sharing, let me just share a few stories with you:

Treasure trove for Wine Century Club aspirants
VinItaly is a feast for Wine Century Club aspirants. Italy, along with Portugal and Greece, is a cornucopia of indigenous grapes that only grow in minuscule quantities and still survive. Case in point: The white grape Timorasso that I tried. The winemaker told me that total production by 23 producers is 300,000 bottles. Worldwide. That’s it. How incredible is that? I am not saying there aren’t reasons why this grape is not more popular (the wine was rather bland), but the odds of ever being able to try this grape are so low, how can I not be excited about this? We added about 30 grapes to our list with this tasting alone and are halfway to Double Membership!

Re-trying rare grapes you only tried once
In that same vein, it’s also really exciting to find several wines of a particular grape that one has only tried once in the past. Case in point: Remember my post on a wine called Lacrima di Morro d’Alba? I really, really liked that wine. And there we were, towards the end, standing at a table, glancing over, and I see the words Lacrima di Morro d’Alba and almost jump!! Massimo and Pascale, the owners of Tenuta San Marcello in the Marche region, were surprised I was aware of the grape, and my ecstatic behavior paired with their gentle humor and friendly demeanor made for quite the match. Unsurprisingly, their wines were very good and since it was towards the end of VinItaly they were my last impression there…couldn’t have asked for more!

200 year old vines?
A winemaker from Mount Etna had an eye opening revelation for me: He told me that his vines are over 200 years old. 200 years, I am not kidding you! I looked at him in disbelief and then asked how low the yield was. Because in Germany, these 120 year old vines have way lower yields. Now was his turn to look at me in disbelief: NOOOOO, the yields were super high! I just stared at him. He then pulled out his phone and started showing me pictures: His vines looked like trees, seriously. The trunks were massive, like trees. And then he smiled and explained: Yes, yields go down, but it is a curve, and after 180 years or so, yields go up again….go figure. Reason to hold on to the old vines for my German winemaker friends!

Can your face muscles be sore?
After tasting dozens and dozens of wines, mostly red, mostly young, mostly quite tannic and acidic, swishing them around in my mouth, my facial muscles got so tired that it became harder and harder to muster the force to spit the wine out in style….towards the end, I had to grab the spit bucket, hold it under my mouth, and just let it run. That was embarrassing and I will need to train my muscles more!

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GranMonte Asoke Valley Winery – The Tasting Notes

The vineyards of GranMonte Winery

The vineyards of GranMonte Winery

Alright, as promised in my Meeting the Vintners article on GranMonte Asoke Valley Winery last week, I want to share some impressions on the wines I tried. We had the chance to try these wines with dinner, and some without, and that definitely shaped some of the impressions. All in all, I think the line up was pretty impressive. The wines expressed a ton of flavor, making them very appealing.

Let me start with a couple of whites:

The 2012 Sole Chenin blanc Viognier, which contains 93% Chenin blanc and 7% Viognier grapes, was fermented in stainless steel and French oak barrels and spent four months on the lees. It has 13% ABV, 5.4 gr of acidity/liter and 3.8 gr of residual sugar/liter, which under German wine laws puts this in solidly dry territory. The wine poured in a clear, light yellow and had an incredibly fresh nose with banana and citrus aromas. On the palate, it showed good fruit in the beginning, mostly citrus, then it became quite creamy on mid-palate to be followed by bitter orange rinds which were surprising but not unpleasant. The acidity kept the wine refreshing, which made it a great companion in the tropical heat.

The 2012 Verdelho poured in a stronger yellow color, and showed a nose full of tropical fruit: a bucket full of papaya and passion fruit. Absolutely loved it. On the palate, it was almost medium-bodied, silky and creamy, with good acidity and nicely lingering finish with some lemon pepper aromas. I enjoyed this wine for its great drinkability. I wasn’t quite sure how to pair this with food, but with a wine like this I don’t actually feel like it needs pairing. Again, very enjoyable white wine.

The 2013 Verdelho, which had just been bottled, in contrast was of very light color, almost as clear as water. The nose had mostly gooseberry aromas (which I underlined four times in my notes), papaya, some chewing gum, and just jumped at me in its fruitiness (yes, even after the previous two wines!). Again, this wine was more on the medium-bodied side, passion fruit the dominating aromas. The mid-palate seemed a bit wobbly, but that might be due to its recent filling, and the finish came through strong with a nice peppery touch. Strong showing.

I really wasn’t expecting the whites to be this fruity and light given the climate. That was a very nice surprise.

In the winery shop.

In the winery shop.

We then moved on to the reds, and we were in for some treats.

We started with the, again recently filled, 2012 Heritage Syrah. Made from only Syrah grapes, this wine ferments in stainless steel and then spends 12 months in French oak. 13% ABV, and a healthy acidity of 5.67 gr/l. It poured in a medium ruby red, and the nose showed cassis, sour cherries, some branches and slightly earth aromas which were complemented by violets. I really enjoyed the fruitiness of this wine on the palate, with raspberries and some jam. It was earthy, had great tannins, and combined subtlety with a good backbone. The finish was just beautifully long, it lasted and lasted and lasted (I wrote down 25 seconds +). The coolest thing about this wine was how it stood up to steaks paired with super spicy oils. We just couldn’t believe how this wine worked with such heat. Incredible.

We then tried the 2009 Orient Syrah, one step up from the Heritage Syrah. The grapes come from their three oldest and lowest yielding blocks in the vineyard, were fermented in stainless steel, and then moved to 83% French, and 17% American oak barrels for 12 months. The wine had 14% ABV and 5.1 gr/l acidity. The color was decidedly darker than the Heritage Syrah. The nose was very restrained, seemed much more old world in style than the previous wine. There was some leather, some prunes. On the palate, this full bodied wine showed great balance, was just the right amount of dark fruits with earthy aromas ( I really enjoyed how earthy this one was), tannins to hold it up. It also showed a long finish and was a pleasure to drink. Not as exciting as the Heritage, but definitely well made.

Probably Nina’s favorite of the night was next: The 2009 Asoke Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah, GranMonte’s flagship wine. Made with 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Syrah grapes, the must ferments in stainless steel before spending 14 months in 83% French and 17% American oak barrels. The final product has 14% ABV and 5.8 gr/l of acidity. It was pitch dark in the glass, almost black. Wow. The nose was decidedly Cabernet Sauvignon, branchy, a bit green peppers, with red berries and vanilla aromas. Very expressive nose, intense. On the palate, all I got initially was cassis, cassis, cassis, so strong. The wine had great tannins, showed some tobacco, heft and a good mouthfeel. The balance was there, the finish was good. Everything came together in this wine. As I said, Nina really really liked this wine. For me, it was too powerful, I think. I am not a fan of these big reds. Again, this was a great wine, it was just not meant for me. I am more at home with the earthier, less expressive wines.

The final wine was, how could it be otherwise with me, the just filled 2013 Bussaba Chenin blanch Semillon, a white made in the late harvest style. It contains 60% Chenin blanc, 35% Semillon, and 5% Canadian Muscat grapes. The color was very light, almost watery (not what I expected in a late harvest style white). The nose showed intense aromas of honeydew, mango, and mint. On the palate, it was most of all refreshing, again showing this great acidity that Nikki is capable of expressing in her whites, that never make this boring or feel too sweet. It retains a lightness and seems to have the right ingredients to also age well.

All in all, as you can probably tell, I was quite impressed. The wines showed finesse and craft, and most of all, were pretty tasty. I was told by the owners that some of their wines are now available in San Francisco, and when I did a quick Google search, I found the Thai restaurant Koh Samui & The Monkey at least offered some GranMonte wines in mid 2013. Might be worth checking out!

Wine and company make people happy

Wine and company make people happy

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