Well, they did it again.
Yet another stellar event was staged by the Rotary Club of Brandon a couple of weeks back, as the Westman Wine Festival showcased a record 31 tables at its most recent incarnation.
The room was full of eager wine tasters, most of them there to discover some new-to-them wines, others to … well, let’s just say REALLY enjoy themselves!
And there were some splendid wines to be had. But I’ve decided on a new approach to this column, the idea for which came to me midway through its writing. I hope you’ll think it’s informative and somewhat amusing, and that you can forgive me for being a flawed human being.
So here’s the sitch: Rather than making notes at wine festivals the last few years, I’ve started to record my impressions of certain wines — it takes up way less tasting time at the festival. So what I thought I’d do this time, just for fun, is transcribe what I said to myself while digitally recording my assessments so you can see how the thought process works — or doesn’t work — as the clock ticks on. As the evening progresses — and I’m loathe to admit this, but it’s sometimes the truth (it was at this past festival) — so too does the level of semi-intoxication. My fellow wine writers will likely be appalled at this approach — many of them take their work far too seriously to ever suggest their palates or their dignity might be slightly compromised, even if it’s seldom or never.
And while I never get out of hand at these events, neither do I spit as often as I should. At this year’s Westman Wine Festival in particular, I asked for much smaller portions of wines than the pourers usually offer, and I dumped those I didn’t like rather than sipping them just so as not to insult the people promoting the wine.
But in a three-hour event, one at which lots of folks want to talk (and I want to talk to them, too — this is a social occasion, after all), I try to taste as many wines as I can. I initially choose only those which I think I’ll like, but often end up tasting far more, which is sometimes a good thing, since I’ve found many delightful beverages when I’ve stepped out of my usual comfort zone.
And yes, this is how I talk to myself. Heck, I talk to myself even when I’m not recording. And I, too, notice that I get more chatty, even with myself, as the night goes on.
Anyway, here goes nothing. And except for the stuff in brackets (in order to give you some information to guide future purchases), this is verbatim what I recorded:
"The Elderton Friends Shiraz from Australia ($19.99). Initially, I thought it was sweet — it’s not. It’s really a different style. Lovely!
The Palacious Remondo La Montesa from Spain ($19.99) — very nice Old World but not too barnyardy at all — just very, very nice.
It’s a red blend, the Chateau Mas Neuf Compostelle (France — $19.99). I like it. Fuller bodied, dark fruit. I get a bit of fig in there, I think. Nice and dry, but smooth, still. Aged in French oak barrels. 2009. Very nice.
Bodegas Juan Gil 12 Meses Spain ($21.99) — big and jammy, a year in oak and it’s not too sweet — I did think it was too sweet off the top but then it got better. (another sip) (then another) It actually got WAY better — there’s a chalkiness, an edge to it that I really do like.
Nuevo Mundo Viognier Reserva ($13.92) — aromatic, floral, honeyed, pear-like, but dry. I love it. I really like this Viognier very much.
Viticcio Bere, Italy — really really dry — I bet it would be great with pizza and Italian food, as well it should be. I bet it’s expensive. ($19.99)
I really, really liked the Caposaldo Prosecco ($16.99) from Italy. Almost a hint of sweetness, but it’s very, very pleasant. Very, very bubbly. And as Assunta said, it seems to bubble all the way down your throat.
Lady behind me in line said, ‘I’m gonna try that one (the Beso de Vina Garnacha from Spain) because I like the bottle.’
Antano Rioja Crianza ($11.95) — very, very, very nice — dry and fungal Spanish that would be great with pizza, I think, and mushroom ANYTHING!
Petales D’Osoyoos VQA BC red — I like it because it’s really dry — it’s light yet heavy because of the dryness, I think — very interesting. I really like that wine. Twenty-five dollars but it’s fantastic.
Gerard Bertrand Grand Terrior Tautavel ($18.99) — initial sip, didn’t like it at all, but it grew on me. Finally got to ‘there’s something appealing about this.’ France — it’s terroire-y but it’s not overtly so. Almost smooth with an edge, which makes no sense, but I really do like it.
Richard Hamilton Shiraz ($17.93) — too warm, needs to be cooler. It’s more than room temp. It’s nicely dry, I think. It doesn’t have that sweet crazy edge like some of them do. It’s got some bramble in there, but in a good way. Cedar, perhaps? Obviously the black fruit, but very nice.
La Marca Prosecco ($19.99) from Italy — very nice — as Gord said, it starts sweet but finishes with nicely balanced acid — just a refreshing, lovely thing.
Zaco Tempranillo ($14.99) from Spain — very nice! I was surprised. Not usually a Tempranillo fan, but it’s modest, it’s lovely — lots of red berry flavour. I really like this.
Nicky Hahn Pinot Noir from Monterey, Calif. Hahn pioneered (maybe Pinot-teered — ha!) Pinot Noir in Monterey back in the ’80s. Fruity, light, nice elegance. It’s $21.99, which I think is a bargain.
Fabulous! Love it! Montecillo Reserva ($20.97) from Spain — as lovely as ever.
Norton Barrel Select Malbec from Argentina — it’s VERY nice — it’s dry. Again, it’s a weird combination — it’s light but ballsy at the same time, I think Uncle Darrell would like it. I bet it’s expensive but we’ll find out. Typical sort of brambleberry thing going on. Red fruit. I don’t know — I like it a lot. It may just be the night, or the time of night, or this point in the night, because it ain’t no Zucchardi Q. But it’s gorgeous. $14.99. Trevor’s getting this one. And this Malbec has spice, too. Quite a bit. And some herbal qualities as well.
OK, so — heyyyyy! How are you?
So Lighthouse Riesling (VQA Ontario) from Table 24 is dry with a sort of sweet finish. But it’s very, very, very, very interesting. I’m curious about the price point. Oh! It’s $14.95!
So the Squealing Pig (Sauvignon Blanc - $22.99) from New Zealand is very, very pleasant but — (another guy in line says), "This is beautiful." (So I ask) Which other Sauv did you like? (He says) The Spinyback? (I say) I’ll find it. And you thought manure, hay and grass in it? OK. I’ll find it. (I never did. But it sells for $16.87.)
So the 19 Crimes (Shiraz/Durif from New Zealand - $18.99) is fantastic! Just really earthy, gutsy — fantastic.
I was skeptical about the Berginer Founders’ Estate Smooth Red (California - $18.99) because I thought, ‘Oh, it’s gonna be sweet, it’s whatever.’ But it’s not. It’s just smooth. I will check it out after the fact (meaning when my palate isn’t compromised and I’m stone cold sober), but it’s very, very nice and if the price point is comparable to the Chardonnay, we’re onto something here. It’s very, very pleasant.
So this is Tayyyyy-bullllllll ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah — 25. And this is Pio Ecologico from Spain — $14.99. It’s earthy but not crazily so. It’s almost sweet but not REALLY. It’s really something, especially for that price.
So the Balance Chenin Blanc/Colombar (South Africa - $11.18) was good, the (Block 9 Caiden’s Vineyard) Pinot Noir (California - $17.75) was great, the Pio Ecologico (Spain - $14.98) was fabulous, the ROUTE 1 CABERNET (Chile - $12.95) — HOLY HANNAH!!! Table 25. Absolutely marvelous! Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. I’m — wow. Bowled over. I’m going to just stay here for the rest of the night."
» Diane Nelson is a long-time journalist and former Sun staffer who really likes wine. A lot. Chat with her online at vinelines.ca or on twitter @vinelinesbdn