One of my favourite events of the year took place a couple of weeks ago. The Rotary Westman Wine Festival is always a delight — it’s run like a well-oiled machine, and every detail is attended to. The impeccable presentation, in addition to the chance to taste and compare dozens of wines, always makes for a memorable evening.
Then there’s the added bonus of the wine discoveries one makes while at the festival, as well as the intrigue of seeing if follow-up purchases match one’s impressions from the event. Sometimes I find I like something even more when I try it post-winefest, and other times I realize my (admittedly compromised at the time) taste has been fickle at best.
But that’s half the fun! And while, as suggested above, it’s easy to have the taste of one wine bleed into the next, then the next, and so on, thereby altering a person’s perception fairly substantially, wine festivals like the Rotary Westman event still provide a great opportunity to try a number of different wines without having to invest in a glassful or a bottle of each.
All that said, and with the whites from the festival having had their day in the Sun in last week’s Vine Lines, here are some sparklers and red wines that caught the attention of my taste buds two weeks ago.
I’ll start with the bubblies, because I’m a sucker for Champagne or sparkling wine. I thoroughly enjoyed the Cristalino Cava Brut from Spain. It was quite light but very pleasant, not quite as lemony as some Cavas, which made it really easy to take, especially at $12.99 a bottle. There was a smoothness, a creaminess about it that was an especial bonus — I’m very keen to try this one again.
Dr. Zen Zen Gold Sparkler has been around for a long time — it used to be called Gold Heaven and its big claim to fame is the actual flakes of gold leaf it contains. This is definitely a sweet German wine, which is not usually my fave thing, but there’s still something about it — it’s not at all complicated, but it is pleasant, and it looks absolutely lovely in a Champagne flute. The Gold Sparkler sells for $17.87.
The Cordorniu Pinot Noir Brut from Spain is much like a Cava, but it can’t be called Cava because of the rules governing that particular beverage. But this bubbly is an elegant, medium-toned, reddish-pink colour with very, very low residual sugar — it’s not at all sweet. It’s dry, it’s elegant, and would make an excellent aperitif or palate cleanser. It’s gutsy and was for sure one of my favourites of the night. At $17.99 , I think it’s a bargain — I went out and bought a bottle the very next day, and I can’t wait to have it again. To reiterate, it’s dry and mulit-layered — don’t let the pink fool you.
I wrote a column awhile back about the Luis Felipe Edwards (LFE) Family Selection Chardonnay from Chile — it’s my new favourite Chardonnay and I love it a lot— like the Cordorniu Pinot Noir Brut, it’s worth the $17.99 price tag.
But I was happy to discover at the wine Festival the LFE Shiraz Reserva and the LFE Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva were also delightful. These Reservas are not quite the same calibre as the Family Selection, but they were both delightful. The Shiraz was a bit sweet but quite woody, and for me, the oakiness balanced the sweetness. Fans of big fruity Shirazes with a hint of sweetness should really enjoy this one at $13.79 a bottle.
As a contrast, the LFE Cab, for the same $13.79, was very brambly and black currantish. It was quite dry — almost powdery, if you will — and had lots of wood. But I like my reds dry, especially as meal accompaniments (or following a primer wine — more on that next week), so this Cab is one I’ll explore again.
The Vineyard Pagonas Cab Sauv/Merlot blend from Greece is also the polar opposite of sweet — I had a friend describe it to me as "bone-dusty dry." I kind of liked the description, because I agreed with it, AND because I like my reds that way. A great food wine super with prime rib — for $14.80 per bottle.
The Peninsula Ridge Top Bench Red from Ontario was really light-bodied wine, but quite nice — I think it would make a good summer sipper for red wine drinkers. There was a hint of oak that took me a bit by surprise in such a light wine, but again, something a little different for $15.99.
The Cusumano Nero d’Avola from Italy was a bit contradictory, in that it was earthy, deep and ballsy, yet seemed light at the same time. I noted, "I would like to have more of this," so I’m going to try this one again — it’s $16.99 a bottle.
The Barbera de Vine was a little rough around the edges, but for the price — $12.35 — it was surprisingly good. It was earthy, and was served well chilled.
Trapiche Finca Las Palmas Cab from Argentina was beautiful — I wrote down that it was "my new fave Cab" — lots of black fruit with some red, and at $22.05, my favourite red of the night.
Well, OK, one of my four favourite reds of the night. I also loved the Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir from California which I’ve written about before and adore, even at $24.99 a bottle. I’ve also waxed poetic about Italy’s Nipozzano Chianti ($19.99) rounded, full-flavoured, medium-bodied — the best Chianti I’ve ever had.
And of course, the mighty Nugan Estates Durif — deep black fruit, a dollop of oak — I really, really like this wine — have always, and do still. Good thing, since it’s $25.95 a bottle.
Again, thanks to the Rotary Club and MLCC for another fabulous festival. I can’t wait for Westman Winefest 2013!