Friday's wine tastings in Charlotte at Charlotte Wine and Food Weekend - Printable Version

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- wondersofwine - 04-26-2010

Lunch Friday was at M5 (I continue to marvel at the decor of this restaurant but the smokiness of the main room--from the open wood grill fire--drove me to a side room.) Others were dining on the patio but it was in the high 70's so rather warm.
I had a cheese plate of St. Andre, Manchego and Mercia with a glass of 2008 Avanti Pinot Noir (or Negro) from Delle Venezie, Italy. Mild, soft berry fruit. Not a big wine. At $8.00 a glass one of the least expensive on the list. Prices ranged from $7.00 a glass to $16 for a glass of Robert Foley Charbono.

On Friday I hit three of the meet and greets between 4:00 PM and 6:00 PM. First at Arthur's Wine Shop in Belk, SouthPark.
I concentrated on the Drouhin lineup of three whites and three reds with Laurent Drouhin, grandson of Joseph Drouhin, on hand. I turned in my order form so don't have the vintages in front of me. We had a Chablis, St. Veran and Chassagne Montrachet, a Moulin a Vent, a Chorey-les-Beaune and a Gevrey Chambertin. The Chablis was not as flinty as I like but I enjoyed the St. Veran which was a good QPR. The Chassagne Montrachet was impressive. I was saying good mouthfeel, chewy; another lady was saying flowery. Somewhat buttery but one I would like to have for lobster or crab. At about $75 I decided I didn't want it that bad. Earlier that day I had picked up some Alex Gambal wines I ordered back in January and one of his Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru wines was about the same price as the Drouhin village C-M. I did decide to order a bottle each of the Moulin a Vent and the Gevrey Chambertin. All three reds were flavorful and the Beaujolais Cru and Chorey-les-Beaune were quite inexpensive. They weren't available for pickup so will be shipped to me later.

Next I drove a few blocks to The Wine Shop at Foxcroft. David Hirsch, Ken Wright, and Kathy B., marketing director for Failla, were there. I got another taste of Ken Wright's Freedom Hill Pinot Noir, tried a Pinot Blanc, and tried 2007 Hirsch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and 2008 Bohan Dillon. The 2008 was the year of the fires and David Hirsch is frank about the smokiness of the wine. It was interesting but definitely smoky. Quite a contrast to the elegance of the 2007. I would like to have some Hirsch Pinot Noirs in my collection but they are just too pricy for me. I ended up buying two of the Failla Pinots (at $42+ ) and not the Hirsch at over $60. I liked the Hirsch Chardonnay and I think it was Failla that had a nice late harvest Chardonnay in 500 ml. bottle.

I went to Dean and Deluca in Phillips Place to spend time before dinner. I didn't realize they were also on the agenda for a meet and greet with Chuck and Anne McMinn, Mark Ray and Luc Morlet. I had not heard of the McMinns before. I was impressed with the 2007 Vineyard 29 Cru Cabernet Sauvignon (and later purchased a bottle for $61.) Their premium cab was the 2007 Vineyard 29 "Aida" at $187--way above my price range but velvety and marvelous and approachable now. Limited production from their own grapes. I meant to ask about the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the wine. The mellowness led me to think it may have a good percentage of Merlot but I don't know for sure. (Checked later and it was 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2007 Vineyard 29 Cru received a rating of 90-92 from Robert Parker.)

Mark Ray has worked with Neyers, Williams Selyem and others. He has had his own venture only a short time. I really liked the 2007 Perception Zinfandel from 92-year-old vines planted by an Italian-American. 15.1% alcohol yet nicely balanced and not tasting hot. I'm debating about whether to order a bottle at Arthur's Wine Shop or Dean and Deluca--at $55 it is probably more than I've ever paid for a Zinfandel, but it was quite delicious. I did not like the Perception Pinot Noir (at $76) as much as the Hirsch or Failla Pinots from Sonoma Coast.

I tried the Luc Morlet 2008 Coteaux Nobles Pinot Noir and the 2008 Joli Coeur P.N. Both seemed strange and smoky--probably from the same fires that affected the 2008 Bohan Dillon from Hirsch) and extremely over-priced at $90 and $113!! Who are they kidding??

Still time before my dinner reservation at 7:30 so I tried 2-oz. tastes of three wines--2008 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc ($2.50 the taste), 2007 Tantara Solomon Hills Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir ($5.50 the taste), and 2007 Steele Catfish Vineyard Zinfandel, Lake County?, CA ($2.75 the taste.) I found the Cloudy Bay to be delicious with an assertive nose--less grapefruit this vintage and more a blended citrus note with a light lemongrass component. Great summer aperitif or salad or appetizer accompaniment (depending on the appetizer.) A successful effort if not overpriced in comparison to other New Zealand S.B. such as Kim Crawford and Nobili.

The 2007 Tantara Solomon Hills Pinot Noir was a medium rose color with some transparency. It had an elegant earthiness if that is not an oxymoron. Extremely attractive. I would rate 90-92 points and recommend pairing with duck or other fowl.

The 2007 Steele Catfish Vineyard Zinfandel seems to have more body and finish than the Tantara Pinot Noir. The wines were served in the order of Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and then Pinot Noir but after a small sip, I switched the Zinfandel to follow after the Pinot. I have had Steele Catfish Zin before and it is usually a relatively light-bodied Zin (Jed compares it to a Claret) but I thought it a little heartier than the Tantara. I feel this Catfish Zin is capable of aging until 2013 or possibly longer. It seems more substantial than other Catfish I have had in the past without sacrificing balance and elegance. Delectable flaovrs, rather long finish. Strained blackberry juice?

I had the three wines with crostinis in two styles, rounds with Irish cheddar, salami and red pepper topped with water cress, and rounds with goat cheese, marinated cippolini onions topped with some green and diced red pepper or tomato? The Cloudy Bay paired well with the goat cheese crostini and the Tantara was okay with it. The salami has a smokehouse lingering flavor and the Irish cheddar-salami crostini paired better with the Tantara Pinot Noir than with the Steele Zin.

While at Bond Street Imports to pick up my Alex Gambal wines, I learned that he will be visiting NC in May. He will be at tastings in Charlotte, Durham and Greensboro. I am going to try to make the tasting at Nana's in Durham on May 11th.