Though I would have preferred more diversity in the wine selections at the Mohegan Sun Wine Fest Grand Tasting, I found some very good wines and I will share a sampling of my favorites below. Obviously, I did not taste every wine at the event so there could have been other worthy wines that I simply did not get the opportunity to sample. If you attended this event, and tasted some good wines that I have not mentioned, feel free to add your thoughts to the Comments.
Wines That Rock, founded in 2009, is a collaboration between RZO Music, Inc. and the Mendocino Wine Company, and is "...all about pairing wine & music." The Mendocino Wine Co. is very environmentally friendly, with sustainable farming, green power through solar & wind, eco-friendly packaging, carbon neutrality and more.
There are currently five Wines That Rock, including wines for Woodstock, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stone, The Police and The Grateful Dead. If you check their website, you can see the inspirations for these wines, the reasons why the music and wine are supposed to work well together. I have tasted several of these wines before, which generally retail around $15 a bottle, and they are generally good wines for the money and not merely a marketing gimmick.
Their newest release, in partnership with Grateful Dead Productions and Rhino Entertainment is the 2009 Grateful Dead "Steal Your Face," a red blend. Their website states: "To capture the essence of the live energy of the Grateful Dead’s Steal Your Face, Winemaker Mark Beaman chose to meld several varieties into one. Just as the band members would segue through various musical styles, this wines far reaching flavors melt seamlessly from one to the next, blending Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel & Grenache. In honor of the band’s famous improvisational concerts that have brought joy to so many, this wine celebrates Mendocino County’s bounty of diversity and freedom of experimentation."
I enjoyed this muscular wine, with its prominent blend of black and red fruit, a spicy backbone and strong tannins. It had just enough complexity to make it interesting, especially at its price point. It is an easy drinking wine, excellent for BBQ or hearty meat dishes, or something to warm you on a chilly winter evening. As I am not a big Grateful Dead fan, I can't really say how this wine compares to their music. But maybe my friend, and devoted Deadhead, Adam of Wine Zag can comment on that.
Sella & Mosca winery in Sardinia. The winery was established in 1899 by two Piedmontese businessmen and it is currently owned by Campari. This wine is made from 100% Carignan, is aged for three years in French barriques and has an alcohol content of 13.5%. I found this to be a complex and interesting wine, a stunner at this price point. Spicy and bold, with delicious black fruit flavors, vanilla, a silky mouthfeel and hints of earthiness. I would pair this with pork, venison or lamb, or just savor on its own. This is a wine likely to end up on one of my Favorites List of 2012.
Saintsbury Vineyard has long been one of my favorite California producers of Pinot Noir. The winery founders, Dick Ward and Dave Graves, made their first Saintsbury wine in 1979 and released their first Pinot Noir in 1981. Based in the Carneros region, they currently produce about 40,000 cases annually. Over the course of the Expo weekend, they poured five different wines, including four Pinot Noirs.
The 2009 Carneros Chardonnay ($21.99) is unfiltered, spends 8 months in French oak (20% new), and undergoes malolactic fermentation. The bottle is under a screwcap, and presents a tasty white wine with restrained fruit, spice and some minerality. This is a good example of how oak can enhance a Chardonnay, rather than drown it.
Onto their more elegant offerings. The 2005 Carneros Pinot Noir, Stanley Ranch is an older vintage as the current one for this wine is 2008. This was a more elegant wine, very Burgundian in nature, which subtle red fruit flavors, plenty of spice notes and a strong backbone of earthiness. Its lingering finish was very satisfying, and this is certainly a wine to slowly savor, enjoying its complexity and style. A sublime wine evidencing the skill of Saintsbury. The 2007 Carneros Pinot Noir, Brown Ranch is equally as excellent, an elegant experience with less earthiness and spice. There is much subtlety in its complexity, reminding me in that respect of a fine Daiginjo sake. These are examples of some of the best California Pinot Noirs out there.
Shingleback Winery, located in the McLaren Vale of Australia.
Kym & John Davey chose to develop a family estate that had been established in 1957. In 1998, they released their first wine, the Shingleback Shiraz, and their stated goal was to "produce affordable, quality wines that express the true character of McLaren Vale." I tasted their 2006 Shingleback Shiraz and was impressed with what I tasted. It certainly was not a fruit bomb and was a far more elegant and restrained wine, with plenty of complexity and a pleasant taste of black cherry, blueberry and raspberry combined with vanilla, subtle spice and even hints of chocolate on the finish. Good structure, nice balance, and pure delicious. It makes me want to further explore Shingleback wines, as well as seek out more of these type of Australian wines.
With the Wine Blogger's Conference coming to Portland, Oregon in August, plenty of attention will be coming to Oregon wineries. At the Expo, I encountered Jim Bernau, the founder of Willamette Valley Vineyards, who purchased the vineyard site in 1983 and planted Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. The winery and cellar are carved into an ancient volcanic flow and the soil is red from its high iron content. It is claimed that this soil is similar to "...the red clay soil found in the Grand Cru Pinot Noir vineyards of Romaneé-st-Vivant in Burgundy,.." I cannot comment on that but I can state that their wines are impressive and I hope to visit their winery in August.
Their 2009 Pinot Gris ($17.99) was stainless steel fermented and permitted to sure-lee age for a time. It is crisp and clean with bright flavors of green apple, melon and pear with a slight herbal component. Delicious, refreshing and moderately complex. The 2009 Pinot Noir ($29.99), which undergoes about 11 months of French oak (22% new), is a delicious example of Oregon Pinot Noir. Ripe red fruit, hints of spice and orange peel, and a lengthy, satisfying finish. It is a more elegant style, offering a nice balance and good complexity.
The stunner though was their 2009 Estate Pinot Noir ($43.99), which is subtle and seductive, an elegant and complex Pinot which is sure to impress. The melange of flavors ranges from bright cherry to ripe plum, from cinnamon to black pepper. You need to slowly sip and savor this wine, to perceive all of the diverse flavors within. Well balanced, this wine provides an alluring finish that seems to caress your palate with silk, lingering long within your mouth. A killer wine, I highly recommend this one.