my favorites from a HUGE tasting - Printable Version

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- newsguy - 04-08-2002

spent sunday afternoon at the grand tasting of bern's winefest. over 200 wines, phenomenal food from bern's (a legendary steakhouse in tampa) and it's edgier sibling sidebern's, plus seminars and a silent auction, at which i snagged a 3-liter bottle of 97 burgess merlot signed by tom himself.

tasted some 35-plus red wines (boy, i need to learn to spit at tastings this big). below are my favorite wines of the day, all of which i would rate from very good+ to outstanding. overall, i was very impressed with the quality of the wines i tasted, especially since many of them are priced in the below-$30 range.

no detailed tasting notes here or scores. wines are listed roughly in the descending order of my opinion. and keep in mind i like BIG wines.

Cabernet Sauvignon/Cab blends

2000 Henry's Drive CS ($24.95; amazing wine; HUGELY extracted fruit; drinking great now)
1999 Swanson Alexis ($39.95; all classy cab/syrah fruit & spice you expect; ready in 2 years)
1997 Kenwood Artist Series CS ($69.95; classic CA cab; surprisingly ready to drink)
1998 Penfold's 407 CS ($22.95; deep, dark brooding big wine; needs 2-3 more years)
1998 Hogue Reserve CS ($24.95; deep fruit; solid tannins)
1998 Franciscan CS ($24.95; big, deep fruit flavors; drying tannins)
1998 Beaulieu Vineyards Tapestry ($48.95; typical Tapestry: tasty, classy, silky)
1997 Rodney Strong Special Reserve ($35.95; big, yet elegant)
1997 Raymond Generations ($67.95; very nice fruit; medium tannins)
1999 Chateau St. Jean CS ($24.95 big fruit yet very tannic; needs 3+ years)
1998 Burgess CS ($29.95; tasty but tannic; needs a couple years)


1999 D'Arenberg Dead Arm ($52.95; best shiraz i've tasted, outstanding fruit and spice)
1998 Trevor Jones Dry Grown ($29.95; excellent extraction)
1998 Penfold's Kalimna 28 ($19.95; great depth of fruit; tannic)
2000 Penfold's Thomas Hyland ($13.95; big fruit and tannins)


1999 Shafer Napa ($39.95; best merlot i've tasted; remarkable depth and concentration)
1997 Firestone Reserve ($23.95; earthy, meaty, tannic, good extraction)
1999 Swanson ($28.50; tasty and surprisingly tannic)

overall, my favorite wine of the day might well have been the henry's drive cab. a blockbuster wine and an incredible bargain at $24.95. australia showed quite well on the day, with two of my top 4 cabs (henry's drive and penfold's 407), plus many very tasty shirazes.

in terms of breadth and P/Q wines, plus quality of food, i'd say this is the best tasting event i've ever attended. i would recommend it to anyone, although it was VERY crowded in the first two hours. winemakers dinners on monday and tuesday night make it a nice 4-day weekend trip.

[This message has been edited by newsguy (edited 04-09-2002).]

- RAD - 04-08-2002

Wow Newsguy,

Was this from memory or were you taking notes? That's a lot of wine! [img][/img] Where was my invitation?

I'm getting off-track here since this is the cab thread, but I'm with you on the 99 Shafer merlot--best I've had of several good 99s and one of the best overall I've had as well (I think my all-time fav merlot was the 94 Ch. St. Jean Reserve).


- newsguy - 04-08-2002


yep, made very brief notes for 30 or so wines. probably tasted about 10 more. like i said, i REALLY gotta consider spitting at tastings of this size. whew!

only been really into wine for about 3 years now, but the shafer merlot really impressed me.

as for an invite, everyone on this board should consider this an open invitation to come down to the winefest same time next year. it's a great time full of food and wine. food seminars and wine tasting on saturday, grand tasting on sunday. tickets $50 each. plus winemakers dinners on monday and tuesday night ($100 each). and i can tell you that tampa is a pretty nice place to be in early april. yesterday's event was held in air conditioned tents, while the weather outside has been sunny, highs in the low-80s, and lows in the mid-60s, plus a nice breeze.

[This message has been edited by newsguy (edited 04-08-2002).]

- Drew - 04-08-2002

Great notes, da man!!


- vinman - 04-09-2002

Wow! you done so good!
Similar experience last month with the Grand Red Tasting as part of the Twin Cities Food and Wine Experience. Your evaluations are on the dot! Especially your comments on the new Thomas Hyland label, replacing the more austere Adelaide Hills version.
Personal note. Rawsons Retreat will sell like crazy, due only to favorable pricing, but not at all what Penfolds should be proud of...for export! Crafted, no!

- winoweenie - 04-10-2002

Hi Newsguy and congrats on a smack-mouth report. I do kinda' envy the Berns' visit. We haven't decided if or when our meeting will be held. If it's in Tampa I'll let you know so we can infiltrate,reconoiter, and steal into the joint and into the cellar unnoticed and drink our bloomin' heads off. WW

- wondersofwine - 04-10-2002

Another fan for Henry's Drive Cabernet Sauvignon. They keep expanding their market.
I didn't spit out enough at my first grand tasting at the Nantucket Wine Festival (coming up in mid-May) and ended up with an upset stomach when I tried to follow up the wine tasting with a rushed hamburger before catching the ferry to Cape Cod. Learned to pace myself better by the second year. This will be my fourth visit to Nantucket Wine Festival.

- Innkeeper - 04-10-2002

Hate to tell you WW; Tampa is east of the Mississippi.