Wine Reels and Wine Waltzes

Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe

Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe

Attending a wine festival is a little like dancing the Virginia Reel. It’s a few quick sips, a little chatter with the wine maker and then move on. It is a great way to get a taste of many wines from many wineries in a very short period of time. That’s exactly what happened at the Alpen Wine Fest up at Lake Tahoe last week-end. I tasted a lot of wines, got some interesting information, and found a few treasures.

Some of the wines I tasted were good, and I knew that they were good in this Virginia Reel style of tasting. For example, the Frank Family Chardonnay out of Carneros tastes like a crisp apple with just a light drip of caramel and a lemon twist. And the Gundlach Bundschu Mountain Cuvée that is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Zinfandel has aromas of cherries, plums, coffee, and tea. Four Mile Creek from Novy is another blend, this one of Zinfandel and Syrah. It has a smoky bright red cherry flavor that makes for easy drinking, as does the Wrath dry Muscat. It is crisp with fresh floral aromas, but the flowers disappear in the taste. The flavor is fresh orchard fruit with no mineral aftertaste. All of these wines are easy to drink and easy to get to know in a short period of time.

But there were a couple wines that I really couldn’t evaluate with just a quick taste. There were a few last Sunday that begged for a slow waltz. Or maybe I was doing the begging. I’m not sure. I just know a couple of the wines I tasted had a lot of depth and texture and nuance. They needed more than a quick do si do.

Bardessono Wines

Bardessono Wines

Bardessano is a winery in Yountville, Napa Valley. The land has been in the Bardessono family since 1920. But for most of that time, the family grew and sold their grapes. It wasn’t until 2003 that the third generation, Tom Bardessono began making wine commercially. His pride in and passion for the wine was palpable even in the brief conversation I was able to have with him. They grow the grapes organically and use native yeasts to stay as true to the terroir as possible. I don’t know how much organic and native effect the flavor of the wine, but I do know that the Sauvignon Blanc tastes like very fresh, clean grass with crisp citrus notes. The Cabernet Sauvignon is an estate wine from a vineyard named after Tom’s mother, Maxine. The wine is elegant and beautifully balanced with aromas of blackberries and cocoa dust.

Stark Wines

Stark Wines

Stark Winery out of Healdsburg in Napa Valley was pouring a red blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan. It has aromas of strawberry, violets, and garrigue wrapped into very soft tannins. The Syrah grapes in the Syrah varietal are sourced from Mendocino. The wine has great balance with a smoky nose, crisp red berries, and a little spice on the finish.

There is so much going on with all these wines, I could have spent a lot more time with each of them, and found a lot more layers and nuance. Some wines pair well with food. Some wines pair well with reflection, lingering, and slow moving 3/4 time.

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6 comments on “Wine Reels and Wine Waltzes

  1. I always get stuck with one producer I find interesting and manage to miss the rest of the show, need to work on it!

    • foxress says:

      On the other hand, spending a lot of time with a really good producer can be just as good or better than spending a little time with a lot of mediocre producers.

  2. bronxboy55 says:

    Do you think the ability to taste the subtleties of a wine is a gift you’re born with, or can anyone learn to do it?

    • foxress says:

      The short answer is – yes! Some people are born with a keener sense of smell, but anyone can hone and develop his or her ability to perceive and identify aroma. Exercising the lexicon is a big part of developing aroma identification skills. Like anything else, it just takes practice…10,000 hours of wine tasting!

  3. I was there, too! I really enjoyed the Bardessono as well. I somehow missed Stark, but perhaps I’ll find them the next time I’m in Healdsburg.
    I do agree with your answer above. There is no better way to learn about wine than to drink it!

  4. foxress says:

    Dana, Are you going to the South Lake Tahoe Food and Wine Festival on Oct 18/19?

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